Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that Defendant committed a breach of an "anti-raiding" restrictive covenant entered into between between the parties but held that the equitable remedy fashioned by the trial judge, which expanded the restrictive covenant beyond its plain terms, constituted an abuse of discretion. The restrictive covenant in this case prohibited Defendant from soliciting or hiring employees from Plaintiff, his former company, for a defined period of time. Defendant, however, hired employees from his former company in breach of the restrictive covenant. The superior court judge concluded that the restrictive covenant was enforceable and that Defendant had committed a breach of the covenant. The judge issued injunctive relief extending the length of the restrictive covenant for an additional year beyond the date provided for in the contract. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the restrictive covenant was necessary to protect a legitimate business interest; (2) Defendant committed a breach of the anti-raiding provision; but (3) the use of an equitable remedy to extend the restriction beyond the plain terms of the contract was not warranted without a finding that damages would be inadequate. View "Automile Holdings, LLC v. McGovern" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying without a hearing Plaintiff's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of alternative remedial routes. Plaintiff referenced Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 when seeking relief from an order of the single justice of the Appeals Court denying Plaintiff leave to file a late notice of appeal more than one year after the Department of Industrial Accidents approved a lump sum agreement in Plaintiff's workers' compensation case. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Plaintiff had an alternative remedy by way of an appeal, the single justice did not err in denying relief. View "Greci v. Travelers Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that Congress intended the Federal Volunteer Protection Act (VPA), 42 U.S.C. 14503(a), to provide qualified immunity from suit for officers in nonprofit organizations who receive no compensation, that the state charitable immunity statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 85W, may only expand the scope of that immunity and that Defendant, as a volunteer for a nonprofit organization, was entitled to interlocutory review of the denial of his motion for summary judgment. After a company was dissolved, Plaintiffs, former employees of Company, brought suit against Defendant, alleging that, as the company's president, he was among the employers who had violated the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, by failing to pay them the wages they were due. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that even if he were the company's president, he served without compensation and was thus immune from suit under the VPA and section 85W. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether Defendant was placed outside of the immunity otherwise provided by section 85W. View "Lynch v. Crawford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the superior court concluding that a police officer who is a member of a municipal retirement system need not remit payments under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 4(2) to obtain creditable service for prior work conducted as a permanent-intermittent police officer (PIPO), holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b) mandates remittance payments by member police officers for past intermittent work. Specifically, the superior court judge ruled that the Plymouth Retirement Board did not have to collect remittance payments from such members because chapter 32, 4(2)(b), which expressly discusses PIPO creditable service, does not mention a payment requirement. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court and vacated the judgment, holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b), when considered in the context of the whole statute, supported the conclusion of the Contributory Retirement Appeals Board that member police officers must remit payments for creditable service for previous intermittent work. View "Plymouth Retirement Board v. Contributory Retirement Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Civil Service Commission concluding that the Boston police department had not demonstrated reasonable justification for bypassing Michael Gannon for employment in 2013 because his hair sample tested positive for cocaine use in 2010, holding that that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence and contained no error of law. Specifically, the Commission determined that the department had not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Gannon in fact had used illegal narcotics. The department sought review of the Commission's decision, and the superior court judge overturned the decision and entered judgment for the department. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judge's order allowing the department's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the Commission employed the correct standard and its decision contained no error of law and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Boston Police Department v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board upholding a certain provision in a collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Higher Education (BHE) and the Massachusetts State College Association, holding that the provision was a proper subject of collective bargaining. The provision at issue placed a cap on the percentage of courses taught by part-time faculty at the Commonwealth's State colleges. On appeal, the BHE argued that although it bargained for this provision, the provision was not enforceable because it impermissibly intruded on the nondelegable managerial prerogatives of the State college boards of trustees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the provision was valid and enforceable. View "Board of Higher Education v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial judge finding the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) liable for a retaliatory termination and awarding a total damages of $1,332,271, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. The jury found the MWRA terminated Plaintiff in retaliation for his taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2615, and expressing his intention to take FMLA leave in the future. The jury awarded back pay damages for Plaintiff's lost wages, made an advisory award of damages for the future loss of Plaintiff's pension benefits, and awarded damages for emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial judge further awarded liquidated damages and attorney's fees and costs. The MWRA appealed, primarily challenging the jury instructions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not commit prejudicial error in instructing the jury; and (2) there was no abuse if discretion in calculating and awarding damages. View "DaPrato v. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning whether retail salespeople who are paid entirely in commissions or draws are entitled to additional overtime or Sunday pay, the Supreme Judicial Court held that such employees are entitled to overtime or Sunday pay with separate and additional payments of one and one-half times the minimum wage for every hour the employees worked over forty hours or on Sunday. At issue before the Court was whether the defendant employers in this case satisfied their obligations under the overtime statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 1A, and the Sunday pay statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 136, 6, when they paid draws or commissions that equaled or exceeded the minimum wage for the plaintiff employees' first forty hours of work and one and one-half times the minimum wage for all hours worked over forty hours or on Sunday. The Supreme Judicial Court held that draws and commissions cannot be allocated retroactively as hourly and overtime wages and Sunday pay even where the draws and commissions equal or exceed the minimum wage for the employees' first forty hours of work and one and one-half times the minimum wage for all hours worked over forty hours or on Sunday. View "Sullivan v. Sleepy's LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case brought under the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 150, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the denial of Plaintiff's motion for class certification, holding that Mass. R. Civ. P. 23, as amended, provides the correct standard for determining class certification in a claim under the wage laws and that Plaintiff met his burden of demonstrating numerosity under that rule. Plaintiff alleged on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated employees that Defendant had a practice of violating the "reporting pay" or "three hour" requirement of 454 Code Mass. Regs. 27.04(1). At issue was whether either the Wage Act or the minimum fair wage law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 20, specify a different standard for class certification from that set forth in Rule 23 and whether the numerosity requirement was satisfied in this case. The motion judge denied Plaintiff's motion for class certification, concluding that the class was insufficiently numerous to satisfy the certification requirements of Rule 23. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the motion judge correctly used the Rule 23 factors to analyze Plaintiff's claim but that the judge abused his discretion in denying class certification. View "Gammella v. P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the decision of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board upholding the Department of Labor Relations' (DLR) dismissal of Employees' challenges under the First Amendment to the exclusive representation and the mandatory agency fee provisions of the collective bargaining statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E, holding that Employees' constitutional challenge to the agency fee provision was moot and that the First Amendment challenge to the exclusive representation provisions of the statute was foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent. While this case was on appeal, the United States Supreme Court held, in Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) that all State agency fee laws violate the First Amendment by compelling nonmembers of public sector unions to support their unions' speech. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) because the unions voluntarily stopped collecting agency fees to comply with Janus, Employees' agency fee provision challenge was moot; and (2) because the Supreme Court has deemed exclusive representation to be constitutional, Employees' challenge to the exclusive representation provisions of the statute were without merit. View "Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law