Archives for June 2013

Defense against Lawsuit Claiming Discriminatory Firing Decision

We represented a 75-employee public service organization on the North Shore that was sued after it terminated a female employee for poor performance and bad workplace behaviors. The woman had taken a maternity leave about six months before she was fired. She claimed she was fired for taking the leave and because she required break time to pump milk for her child during the work day. In fact, the employee’s performance had been poor long before her maternity leave. After she returned, she made numerous errors and was highly defensive when confronted. After the employee tried surreptitiously to document allegedly bad behaviors by others, she was fired. The employer acted after warning and counseling the employee in accordance with its policies, which were previously reviewed and revised by our office.

Result:  The case was successfully defended by our office. The MCAD dismissed it for lack of probable cause. The Complainant’s subsequent appeal was rejected and the case was resolved favorably for our client.

SJC Settles Wage Act Question: LLC Managers are Liable just like Anyone Else

In a decision that many employment lawyers saw coming, the Supreme Judicial Court declared on June 13 that managers of  limited liability companies are personally liable under the Massachusetts Wage Act if they substantially participate in formulating financial policies. The ruling puts to rest any doubts on this issue that arose after a justice of the superior court ruled in 2011 that, because the Wage Act does not specifically mention LLC managers but does say that corporate presidents and treasures can be held personally liable, the managers are exempt.

The lower court decision had already been contradicted by at least two other superior court judges, who read the Act’s broad liability language to cover LLC managers despite the reference to corporate officers, a reference that was added to the law in 1932 at a time when LLCs did not even exist. Noting this point and other liability referneces in Chaper 149, Sections 148-150, the SJC made relatively short work of the issue. It seemed to consider the point that LLC managers are liable if they make decisions that violate the Wage Act to be a rather obvious one. To rule otherwise, it seems, would irrationally create an easy route to avoid the law’s requirement that employees be paid the wages they earn on the job.

“We do not read these provisions of G.L. c. 149, § 148, as a legislative effort to single out for individual liability only the officers or managers of the specific types of entities mentioned in the statute. Rather, the inclusion of the provisions on corporate officer liability and public officer liability serves to illustrate the circumstances in which an individual may be deemed a ‘person having employees in his service’ under G.L. c. 149, § 148,” the court held. The case is Cook v. Patient EDU, LLC.