Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court
Lipsitt v. Plaud
Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants for failing to pay compensation he alleged was owed to him under an employment contract. The complaint asserted claims for, inter alia, breach of contract and violations of the Wage Act. The superior court dismissed all but Plaintiff's claim under the Wage Act, concluding that the Wage Act was the exclusive remedy for the recovery of unpaid claims, thereby preempting Plaintiff's common-law claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the legislature did not intend the Wage Act to be the exclusive remedy for the recovery of unpaid wages, and therefore, Plaintiff's common-law claims should not have been dismissed. Remanded. View "Lipsitt v. Plaud" on Justia Law
City of Boston v. Boston Police Superior Officers Fed’n
The City of Boston transferred a Boston police sergeant who served as a union representative due to what the City said were ongoing concerns about the officer's supervisory authority. The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation (union) sought to enforce a provision of its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the City, which prohibited the involuntary transfer of certain union representatives between stations or assignments. A grievance arbitrator concluded that the City had violated the CBA and awarded the officer damages and reinstatement to his original position. The superior court confirmed the award. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's judgment and remanded the case for judgment vacating the award, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in invalidating the officer's transfer, where assignment and transfer of officers within the Boston police department are nondelegable statutory powers of the Boston police commissioner. View "City of Boston v. Boston Police Superior Officers Fed'n" on Justia Law
Flagg v. Alimed, Inc.
Employee's wife underwent surgery for removal of a brain tumor. After her tumor returned, Employer terminated Employee's employment. Employer terminated Employee because Employer was financially responsible for Employee's wife's medical condition through its health plan. Employee sued for employment discrimination, among other claims. The superior court granted Employer's motion to dismiss, finding, among other things, that Employee's claim of employment discrimination did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted, as the theory that Employer fired Employee because his wife was handicapped was not recognized in the Commonwealth. The Supreme Court reversed with respect with regard to the employment discrimination claim, holding (1) associational discrimination based on handicap is prohibited under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, 4(16); and (2) Employee alleged a plausible set of facts for relief in alleging that he was fired because of his association with his handicapped wife. View "Flagg v. Alimed, Inc." on Justia Law
Herrick v. Essex Reg’l Ret. Bd.
Plaintiff, a member of a public employee contributory retirement system, pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. Plaintiff resigned his position of twenty-seven years upon being charged. The retirement board denied Plaintiff's application for voluntary superannuation retirement based on a finding of forfeiture due to moral turpitude. The superior court reversed, and the appeals court affirmed. The board subsequently issued a check to Plaintiff representing his superannuation retirement benefits retroactive to the date of his resignation but did not include any interest. Plaintiff sought interest on the payment. The superior court concluded that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6C applied and ordered that interest be paid on the payment at a rate of twelve percent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not entitled to a twelve percent interest rate pursuant to section 6C or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6H; and (2) under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 20(5)(c)(2), where a retirement board makes a legal error in denying retirement benefits that is corrected by a court, the plaintiff is entitled to an interest rate determined by the board's actuary. View "Herrick v. Essex Reg'l Ret. Bd." on Justia Law
Mass. Cmty. Coll. Council v. Mass. Bd. of Higher Educ.
A union and college were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) containing a provision that the "granting or failure to grant tenure shall be arbitrable but any award is not binding." A professor at the college, who was a member of the union, was denied tenure and submitted a grievance to arbitration. The arbitrator found that the college violated the terms of the CBA and ordered that the professor be reinstated to his position. A superior court judge confirmed the arbitrator's award. The appeals court reversed, holding that the arbitrator's award was not binding on the college pursuant to the CBA, and therefore, the judge erred in confirming that arbitrator's award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the terms of the CBA, the college and the union did not agree to binding arbitration of a tenure denial determination and therefore did not agree to binding arbitration of the grievance in this case; and (2) because the arbitrator's award was nonbinding, the union was not entitled to have the award judicially confirmed and enforced. View "Mass. Cmty. Coll. Council v. Mass. Bd. of Higher Educ." on Justia Law
McGuiness v. Dep’t of Corr.
Plaintiffs' employment with the Department of Correction was terminated due to allegations that Plaintiffs used excessive force against an inmate. Plaintiffs appealed the termination order to the Civil Service Commission. After a single commissioner held a hearing, the Commission voted three-to-two in favor of Plaintiffs and ordered they be reinstated. The superior court reversed and remanded to the Commission with instructions that the single commissioner who conducted the hearing no longer participate in the case. After a hearing before the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA) magistrate, the magistrate recommended that the Commission affirm the Department's decision to terminate Plaintiffs' employment. Only four of the five members of the Commission voted on the magistrate's recommendation, and the vote resulted in a two-to-two tie. The Commission consequently dismissed Plaintiffs' appeal. The superior court judge also concluded the tie vote effectively dismissed Plaintiffs' appeal and upheld the Department's termination order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where a hearing officer recommends affirmance of the decision of an appointing authority and the Commission proceedings result in a tie vote, the initial decision of the hearing officer becomes the final decision of the Commission. View "McGuiness v. Dep't of Corr." on Justia Law
Zaniboni v. Mass. Trial Court
Defendant filed this action against the Massachusetts Trial Court, alleging that it violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B by not selecting Defendant for two different promotions based on her age. A jury found in Defendant's favor with respect to one of the two positions. The trial judge then denied Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict but granted its motion for a new trial. Both parties appealed. The appeals court reversed the denial of the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and vacated the order allowing the motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the superior court, holding that because the judge granted the motion for a new trial, the appeal was premature, and the case should not have proceeded to an appellate court. View "Zaniboni v. Mass. Trial Court" on Justia Law
Depianti v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int’l, Inc.
Plaintiff, a janitorial cleaning services franchisee, along with franchisees from other states, filed a putative class action in the U.S. district court against Defendant, the Massachusetts corporation that franchised Plaintiff's business, alleging that Defendant misclassified him as an independent contractor and committed various wage law violations. The district court certified several questions of law to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which answered by holding (1) a plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150 by filing a complaint with the attorney general does not deprive a court of jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's claims under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 148B, 150, and 151(1) and (1a); (2) a franchisor is vicariously liable for the conduct of its franchisee only where the franchisor controls or has a right to control the specific policy or practice resulting in harm to the franchisee; and (3) a defendant may be liable for employee misclassification where there was no contract for service between the plaintiff and the defendant. View "Depianti v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Sheriff of Suffolk County v. Jail Officers & Employees of Suffolk County
This appeal was the last chapter in a case with a "long and tortuous procedural history." The sheriff of Suffolk County brought this appeal after Plaintiff, a jail officer employed by the sheriff, filed an action to enforce an arbitrator's award of back pay to Plaintiff after a finding that Plaintiff was wrongfully discharged. The sheriff appealed from the superior court ruling that Plaintiff had no duty to mitigate his damages by seeking comparable employment. The union for the jail officers and employees of the county, on behalf of Plaintiff, cross appealed from the judge's decision not to assess statutory postjudgment interest on the arbitrator's award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff had a duty to mitigate his damages, but the sheriff waived this issue by failing to raise it earlier in the proceedings; and (2) the superior court judge did not err in deciding not to assess postjudgment interest on sovereign immunity grounds. View "Sheriff of Suffolk County v. Jail Officers & Employees of Suffolk County" on Justia Law
Cook v. Patient Edu, LLC
Employee filed suit against Employer, a limited liability company (LLC), and two of its managers under the Massachusetts Wage Act for failing to pay compensation that was allegedly owed to him under an employment contract. The superior court granted the managers' motion to dismiss, concluding that the Wage Act does not, by its plain language, impose individual liability on the managers of an LLC. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of dismissal, holding that a manager who "controls, directs, and participates to a substantial degree in formulating and determining" the financial policy of the business entity may be a person having "employees in his service" under the Wage Act, and thus may be civilly or criminally liable for violations of the Act. Remanded. View "Cook v. Patient Edu, LLC" on Justia Law