Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that a new test applies for pregnancy discrimination. In Young v. UPS, the Supremes decided that in pregnancy discrimination actions under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), the long-standing McDonnell-Douglas burden shifting test does not apply. Employers should ensure their policies, especially any light duty policies, comply with the Young decision.… Keep reading
For years, the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MMLA”), M.G.L. c. 149, §105D, only applied to female employees by its literal terms. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), the agency tasked with enforcing the MMLA, has taken the position that if the MMLA was applied literally, it would be unconstitutional, as it would give female employees greater employment rights than men. Although initially intended to protect women who were giving birth to children, since the MMLA also protects women who adopt children, it is not about the physical “disability” associated with giving birth to a child. Thus, the argument goes, men should also be covered by its protections. The conflict between the literal terms of the MMLA and the MCAD’s guidelines for interpreting the MMLA created difficulty for employers who were not subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (which entitles eligible employees, regardless of gender, to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child).
On his last day in office, Governor Deval Patrick settled the matter once and for all, by signing into law a bill that expressly expands the protections of the MMLA to all employees, regardless of gender.… Keep reading
As indicated in a recent blog post in the Harvard Business Review, entitled “Who Has Paid Sick Leave, Who Doesn’t, and What’s Changing,” paid sick leave traditionally was a benefit that only some employers provided, and in some cases only to certain employees. In recent years, however, increasing numbers of cities and states have begun mandating that employers provide this traditionally voluntary benefit. In fact, if President Obama makes good on his promise from his State of the Union address, there will be a national standard for mandatory paid sick leave. With the fast-changing landscape of rules and regulations related to paid sick leave, in-house counsel and employers need to keep alert. In Massachusetts, for instance, voters approved a ballot measure which goes into effect on July 15, 2015.… Keep reading
Many companies try not only to be profitable, but also to be good employers. Some employers still fear, however, that praising employees too much for good work may create some workplace liability. Fortunately, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts clarified just before the Thanksgiving holiday in Cagnina v. Philadelphia Insurance Companies, that it is, in fact, okay for employers to give thanks (and even unabashed praise) to their employees.… Keep reading
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray MacDonald all have something in common (and it’s not just that they are incredibly talented professional football players): They have all been indicted for engaging in conduct that constitutes domestic violence. In Hardy’s case, he has been convicted for domestic abuse. And just a few days ago, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for abusing his son and is now under investigation for abusing another son.
The National Football League’s travails with perpetrators of domestic violence have been numerous and storied, and after years of dealing with player domestic abuse instances, the NFL finally instituted a Domestic Violence Policy. While the NFL’s policy is directed towards perpetrators of domestic violence, Massachusetts employers now are required to protect employee victims of domestic violence.… Keep reading
In Part 1 I shared with you five commonly overlooked terms in executive separation agreements. Here are five more.
6. Release Timing. If the executive is excused from performing work or coming to the office well before her last day of employment, the company may want to have the executive sign an agreement close to the day the executive is notified about her separation because the company will remain exposed to liability for the period of time between the executive’s signing the separation agreement and her actual last day. In addition, I recommend having the executive sign a second release on her actual last day of employment – and make signing that second release contingent upon receiving any post-termination severance benefits.
7. Post-Termination Restrictive Covenants and the Integration Clause. Many agreements contain a boilerplate integration provision, reciting that the agreement is the entire agreement between the parties and that the executive is not relying on anything not contained in the written document. If the executive has signed a prior agreement containing restrictive covenants which are intended to survive termination of the executive’s employment, such a general integration clause could void the prior post-termination restrictive covenants. An alternative … Keep reading
Executives in this market are moving in and out of companies with greater frequency. With the myriad legal claims that an executive could assert against an employer, whether meritorious or not, more companies are opting to give executives some compensation or other benefits on the way out the door in exchange for a release and other post-employment obligations to ensure that the executive will be a “good leaver.” While the concept of a separation agreement is pretty straightforward, multiple devils can lurk in the details. Here are the first five of my top 10 often overlooked terms in executive separation agreements.… Keep reading
Under the Massachusetts Weekly Payment of Wages Act (“Wage Act”), the President, Treasurer and “any officers or agents having the management of such corporation” are considered to be employers and are subject to individual liability for failing to comply with its requirement. In a previous blog post, Managers of LLCs Can Be Personally Liable Under the Massachusetts Wage Act, I had written about Cook v. Patient Edu, LLC, where the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court clarified that managers of limited liability companies (not just the officers of a corporation) could be held individually liable under the Wage Act. In Cook, the SJC concluded that it did not matter whether the entity was a limited liability company or corporation, and determined that “individuals with the authority to shape the employment and financial policies of an entity [were] liable for the obligations of that entity to its employees.”
In a recent unpublished decision, Segal v. Genitrix, LLC, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, relying on Cook, appears to have expanded the scope of individual liability under the Wage Act to certain equity holders of limited liability companies.
As the debate continues in Massachusetts as to whether or not to ban noncompetition agreements, a related question remains: Is there really any value in having employees sign noncompetition provisions? As a recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper in Boston Scientific Corp. v. Dongchul Lee confirms, if an employer has valuable trade secrets and wishes to prevent employees from potentially sharing them with a competitor, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
In Boston Scientific, the defendant, Dongchul Lee, was a former Boston Scientific employee who had worked on a number of its projects, including Mechanism of Action (“MOA”) research related to spinal cord stimulation (“SCS”). While Dr. Lee had signed an employment agreement containing a non-disclosure provision and requiring him to return all Boston Scientific property upon termination of his employment, the agreement did not include a noncompetition provision (presumably because Dr. Lee worked in Boston Scientific’s Valencia, California office and noncompetition provisions are unlawful in California).
In November 2013, Dr. Lee resigned from Boston Scientific and went to work for Nevro, a competitor of Boston Scientific. Further, Dr. Lee’s work for Nevro included engaging in MOA research related to SCS that was extremely similar … Keep reading
Historically, Massachusetts courts routinely ruled that it was a violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act to fail to pay an employee who had been promised payment for her work only after the employer received sufficient funding. For example, in Stanton v. Lighthouse Financial Services, Inc., U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner found not only once, but twice, that John Stanton was an employee under the Wage Act, was entitled to payment of deferred compensation under his employment contract and confirmed that there was no carve out from the Wage Act’s requirements for startups. In reaching her decision, Judge Gertner reasoned that a deferred compensation agreement where the compensation was forfeited violated the Wage Act provision prohibiting the entering into of a special contract to avoid Wage Act obligations. Since Stanton, a number of Massachusetts state and federal court cases have ruled that compensation contingent upon a company’s receiving certain levels of funding were wages that were required to be paid in accordance with the Wage Act and required such wages to be paid promptly and upon termination of employment – even if funding had not then occurred.
In what could be viewed as a new twist, Superior … Keep reading