Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order granting judgment to Plaintiffs on their claims under the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 150, and the Prevailing Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 26-27H, on the ground that by violating the Prevailing Wage Act, Defendants violated the Wage Act as well, holding that Plaintiffs may not avoid the limitations that the Prevailing Wage Act places on their recovery by pursuing an otherwise duplicative claim under the Wage Act.Plaintiffs asserted that for several years they were paid less than the wages required by the Prevailing Wage Act. The motion judge granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs, concluding that Defendants' "chronic underpayment" of Plaintiffs constituted a plain violation of the Prevailing Wage Act and that Defendants' failure to pay Plaintiffs at the prescribed wage rates also constituted a violation of the Wage Act. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order allowing Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, holding that, whereas the Prevailing Wage Act and the Wage Act provide conflicting mechanisms to recover the same underpayment of wages, Plaintiffs may, in this instance, recover solely under the Prevailing Wage Act. View "Donis v. American Waste Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner sought interlocutory review of an order of the district court denying her motion for summary judgment in an action for damages under the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 150, arguing that relief was warranted because the motion judgment violated Mass. R. Civ. P. 56 in denying her summary judgment motion and in failing to comply with Mass. R. Civ. P. 56(d). The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, Petitioner did not meet the requirement of S.J.C. Rule 2:21(2). View "Lavoie v. Justice of the District Court Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Susan Boss on her complaint seeking a declaration that the Town of Leveret was obligated to pay fifty percent of the full premium cost for health insurance for retired town employees and their dependent spouses, holding that by adopting Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32B, 9A, the Town was required to cover fifty percent of the premiums for both retirees and the retirees' dependents.Boss was a retired Town employee. Since her retirement, the Town had paid fifty percent of her premium contribution based only on the premium cost for individual coverage. Consequently, Boss had been responsible for covering the balance of the plan premium in order to continue coverage for her spouse. Since become Medicare eligible, Boss continued to pay the full premium for her husband's individual plan. After Boss brought this action the superior court granted summary judgment in her favor. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Town's adoption of section 9A obligated it to contribute toward the premiums associated with retirees' dependents; and (2) section 9A was successfully adopted at the Town meeting on April 24, 2004. View "Boss v. Town of Leverett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the jury's verdict awarding Plaintiff damages after finding that Defendants violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 148A & 150 (the Wage Act) but vacated portions of the trial judge's final judgment, holding that the judge erred in his determination of the portion of the award subject to trebling under the Wage Act.Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendants, argued that Defendants failed to pay her the full amount of a commission that she had earned and by terminating her when she complained about it, resulting in her losing an additional commission. The jury found that Defendants violated the Wage Act and awarded Plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the jury's verdict was supported by the evidence, and therefore, the trial court properly denied Defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict; but (2) the full amount of the commission that would have been due to Plaintiff had she not been terminated is a "lost wage" that must be trebled pursuant to the Wage Act. View "Parker v. EnerNOC, Inc." on Justia Law

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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