Massachusetts Developments and Authorized Traits in Work Regulation

In an work to continue to keep our audience abreast of modern developments and legal traits, we summarize under what is new in the regulation (equally in legislation and in the scenarios) and provide a “heads up” regarding what to assume in the coming months.  We hope you locate this beneficial.

What is New

Motion to Compel Arbitration Denied Around Disregard of the Personnel File Regulation

Disputes about the enforceability of arbitration agreements have led to quite a few hotly contested authorized battles covering a wide array of authorized theories, e.g., waiver, lack of consideration, unconscionability, violation of public plan, and many others.  In a modern victory for personnel, an employer’s lax reaction to a statutory ask for for a personnel history led to a getting of waiver by the employer, and the denial of a motion to compel arbitration.

Underneath the Massachusetts Personnel File Legislation, M.G.L. c. 149, § 52C, an staff shall be supplied a copy of his or her Staff History within just 5 company times of a prepared request.  In Hernandez v. Universal Defense Support, LLC, No. 2181cv00335 (Middlesex Super. Ct. Aug. 23, 2021) (Frison, J.), the employer unsuccessful to supply the employee with a duplicate of the arbitration arrangement in reaction to her Staff Document ask for.  Additionally, the employer did not disclose its intent to request enforcement of the arbitration arrangement at any time right up until the matter was submitted in court docket.  Presented the instances, the courtroom held the employer’s failure to disclose the arbitration agreement acted to waive the employer’s legal rights thereunder, and the employer’s motion to compel arbitration was denied.

And Talking of the Personnel Documents Law… 

Massachusetts’s highest court docket, the Supreme Judicial Court docket (“SJC”), not too long ago ruled in Meehan v. Health care Data Technologies, Inc., 177 N.E.3d 917 (Mass. 2021), that an worker who was terminated for exercising his statutory rights underneath the Personnel Report Legislation to file a composed rebuttal may well, certainly, pursue a assert for wrongful termination in violation of general public coverage, reversing the dismissal of plaintiff’s assert by the lessen courts.

In the context of an at-will work romance, the foundation of a “wrongful termination” claim is normally misunderstood.  In short, there is no generalized declare for wrongful termination.  The source of legal legal rights and protections for an at-will employee could be rooted in statute (e.g., our point out and federal anti-discrimination, payment of wages and whistleblowing legal guidelines) or less than the common law (e.g., in violation of the covenant of good faith and good working or of general public coverage).

Courts in Massachusetts have extensive regarded a typical-regulation exception to the at-will doctrine that permits personnel to find redress for asserting a legally confirmed correct, refusing to do what the regulation forbids, performing what the regulation necessitates, and other crucial general public deeds.  Even though the SJC’s holding in Meehan is crucial from a broader public policy standpoint, clarifying that an employer might not merely terminate an personnel for exercising a lawful right, and that general public coverage exemption extends to the training of rights below the Staff Document Law, it is well worth noting the abnormal procedural posture of this circumstance.

In Meehan, at the very least for functions of the Defendant’s Movement to Dismiss, there was no dispute at to the cause for the termination selection (i.e., the act of submitting a created rebuttal to a efficiency assessment), and the articles of composed rebuttal was not at problem.  This is atypical.  It is far extra prevalent that the two the reasons for the termination and the written content and material of the rebuttal are central problems in the litigation.

Accordingly, as fulfilling a victory this may well be workers, to make use of it, staff members have to have to move forward cautiously and strategically.

Retaliatory Investigations:  When the Accuser Results in being the Accused

As we have discussed previously in our newsletters, what constitutes an “adverse work action” in discrimination and retaliation cases is not confined to discrete functions producing immediate economic harm, this sort of as termination or demotion.  Alternatively, the protections from illegal discrimination also encompass employment steps that adversely affect “terms, ailments and privileges of employment.” Yee v. Mass. Point out Law enforcement, 481 Mass. 290, 295 (2019) see also Higher Courtroom Reinforces Discrimination is About Additional Than Cash.

In the context of retaliation circumstances, the U.S. Supreme Court docket has designed it very clear that an adverse act may include things like any conduct that “could effectively dissuade a affordable worker from” engaging in the safeguarded exercise, this sort of as the filing of a discrimination claim.  See Burlington North & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 57 (2006).

However, as illustrated a current case from the U.S. District Courtroom of Massachusetts, Stuart v. City of Gloucester, 2021 WL 4477476 (D. Mass, Sep. 30, 2021), workforce who occur ahead with very good faith inner issues can often discover them selves the issue of retaliatory investigations.  Even though the plaintiff in Stuart was ultimately unsuccessful on quite a few of his authorized promises, the Court docket did conveniently accept that an inner investigation released on the heels of the plaintiff’s safeguarded activity (listed here the physical exercise of his 1st Modification legal rights) may well represent an adverse employment action, noting that an “internal investigation into Plaintiff’s conduct can also qualify as an adverse work action simply because even the danger of an investigation by one’s employer could discourage an ordinary staff from building grievances or otherwise working out their [legal] rights.”

Investigating whistleblowers and those people who increase issues is an more and more typical site out of management-counsel’s playbook, and navigating this sort of investigations is treacherous—having the advantage of expert counsel to aid could verify significant.

Joint Employer Evaluation less than Massachusetts Wage and Hour Regulations

Under Massachusetts wage and hour guidelines, companies are matter to rigorous liability and there are sturdy cures out there for workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors, or or else deprived of acquired wages, together with necessary treble damages and attorneys’ charges.  For prosperous employees, possessing a “million-dollar” judgment in hand for wages owed is of very little solace when the business is bankrupt and/or there is no normally viable path to collection.  Accordingly, 1 strategic concern, especially in situations in which there are concerns about employer solvency, is no matter whether a lot more than one entity can be held liable as the “employer” less than a joint employer evaluation.

In Jinks v. Credico (United states) LLC, 177 N.E.3d 509 (Mass. 2021), the SJC recently addressed the good regular for figuring out joint employer status below Massachusetts wage and hour legislation.  In small, the SJC adopted the “totality of the circumstances” typical used less than Federal wage and hour regulation, guided by a valuable framework of 4 things.  These variables consist of no matter whether the alleged employer (1) had the ability to employ and fireplace the staff (2) supervised and managed employee work schedules or circumstances of employment (3) decided the fee and process of payment and (4) managed work information.

Be mindful, however, that the SJC cautioned that these four elements are not “etched in stone and will not be blindly utilized,” and that no just one aspect is dispositive.

What’s Coming

The Timing and Scope of Required Treble Injury Awards under the Massachusetts Wage Act

The Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, § 148, calls for prompt, full payment of all acquired wages.  Staff deprived of well timed payment of this sort of wages are entitled to a obligatory award of treble damages, moreover attorney’s expenses. Id., § 150.  Now pending in advance of the SJC are two conditions that will further more explain the timing and scope of injury awards below the Wage Act.

Reuter v. City of Methuen, SJC-13121

In Reuter, the SJC will determine whether—when wages are paid out late but just before the personnel documents suit—an worker is entitled to trebling of the full amount of untimely paid out wages or is confined to recovering treble the interest accrued from the delay in payment.

Devaney v. Zucchini Gold, SJC-13176

The Massachusetts Wage Act and the Federal Honest Labor Requirements Act (“FLSA”) are related but not equivalent, e.g., the FLSA does not present for required trebling of damages. The problem for the SJC in Devaney is irrespective of whether, when an employer violates the FLSA but not the Wage Act, the Wage Act’s required treble damages utilize. Several decreased courts have answered certainly, and Devaney provides an chance for Massachusetts’ best court docket to respond to this dilemma definitively.