Archives for September 2009

Misclassifying Workers Can Mean Big, Big Damages

Employers who misclassify their workers as independent contractors now have even more to worry about. In August, the state’s highest court made clear they could pay huge damages for this transgression of the law, even if they merely made an honest mistake.

In a majority opinion, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that employers can’t defend an independent contractor classification lawsuit by claiming a worker would have made less money if he/she had been properly classified as an employee. Damages are not measured by the difference between what a worker received and what he would have received as an employee.  Instead,  under the independent contractor provisions of the state’s Wage Act, damages equal the value of “wages and benefits [a worker] should have received as an employee, but did not,” the court wrote. [Read more…]

Court Rulings Pose Risks For Employers

Massachusetts courts have been busy in the employment arena lately. In Summer 2009, they issued at least three substantive decisions that may force employers to take quick action on policy manuals, arbitration agreements and wage payment policies.

Though none of the decisions change the law outright, each is employee friendly and stretches employer duties to new lengths. The cases make it easer for workers to use employment manuals as binding contracts, harder for employers to force arbitration in discrimination cases, and more likely that employees will win big damage awards plus legal fees in disputed wage cases.

Employment Manuals In a June 2009 opinion, the district court’s appellate decision affirmed a $42,000 jury verdict for a worker who claimed his company’s employment manual was breached when he was fired. The court relied heavily on the worker’s testimony that he regarded the manual as binding and honored a non-compete clause contained within it. The court also cited to the employer’s request that the employee acknowledge receiving it. [Read more…]