Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP

Providing our clients with state of the art legal service while maintaining an emphasis on personalized attention, accessibility and efficiency

One of the 50 largest firms in Massachusetts, our years of experience and resources offer clients throughout New England and nationally a wide range of legal services while maintaining a “hands-on touch” that is important in Client-Attorney relationships. To provide this kind of service, we established a multi-service firm comprised of skilled practitioners from a variety of fields. This enables us to bring to our clients the breadth of experience and depth of knowledge required for complex cases. Our broad resources and technology enable us to represent clients in a comprehensive and cost efficient manner.

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Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce: Labor & Law Employment Update

MHTL attorneys Katherine Hesse and Kier Wachterhauser will be presenting information regarding important legal issues and developments in the Labor & Employment field at a Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce (NVCC) event on Thursday, November 15th.  These presentations will include a comprehensive overview of major legislative/regulatory/case law developments, as well as best practices in navigating issues such as marijuana in the workplace and sexual harassment.

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Legal Updates

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  • Legislature Passes Sweeping Non-Compete Reform; Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

    On July 31, 2018, the Massachusetts Legislature passed long-debated legislation aimed at reforming the law surrounding non-competition agreements.  Non-competition agreements are commonly used to restrict competition following the ending of the employment relationship.  If signed by the Governor in its present form, the law would go into effect October 1, 2018 and significantly alter the landscape related to non-compete agreements for employers and employees in Massachusetts.

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  • Governor Baker Signs “Grand Bargain” Bill

    On June 28, 2018, Governor Baker signed the “Grand Bargain” bill advanced by the Legislature to address issues relating to minimum wage, Sunday overtime pay, an annual Sales Tax Holiday, and, perhaps most important, establishing paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts. Below is a brief summary of this new legislation.  This law will go into effect in stages and has a number of aspects that will be clarified through regulations and guidance from the state agencies tasked with interpreting and enforcing these new laws. Overall, this bill was touted as a “compromise” between business and labor groups in order to keep corresponding ballot questions off the November 2018 ballot.

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  • CRA Proceedings: When Does a Child "Willfully" Fail to Attend School?

    Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court clarified when a child failing to attend school qualifies as a “Child Requiring Assistance” under the truancy provisions of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 119, sections 21 and 39E-39I.  The underlying case, Millis Public Schools v. M.P., et al., Docket No. SJC-12384 (2018), involved a fifteen year old girl, M.P., who continuously failed to attend school due to a combination of physical and mental disabilities, including a severe bladder condition and autism. After M.P. was absent from school for approximately two months, the Millis Public Schools (Millis) filed a CRA Petition alleging that M.P. was habitually truant, which is a category under the CRA law defined as applying to “a school-aged child, not excused from attendance under the lawful and reasonable regulations of such child’s school, who willfully fails to attend school for more than [eight] school days in a quarter.”

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  • U.S. Supreme Court Rules Compulsory Agency Fees Unconstitutional

    On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. In a landmark 5-4 ruling, the Court, in a decision authored by Justice Alito, held that public employers may no longer deduct an “agency fee” or any other payment to a union from a nonmember’s wages without the employee’s affirmative consent. Justice Elena Kagan penned the dissent, accusing the majority of inappropriately weaponizing the First Amendment.

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  • Massachusetts Pay Equity Act Becomes Effective July 1, 2018

    Signed by Governor Baker on August 1, 2016, the MAssachusetts Pay Equity Act ("MEPA") is scheduled to become effective on MAssachusets employers on July 1, 2018.  This new law amends Chapter 149, s. 105A of the Genearl Laws, which already prohibits discimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex for "like or comparable" work."  Although federal and state law already prohibits disciminatory pay practices on the basis of sex/gender, MEPA clarifies certain definitions and includes additional restrictions and protections.  MEPA applies to nearly all employers in MAssachusetts, including private employers (regardless of size), and state and municpal employers (MEPA does not apply to the federal government).

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  • DOJ Announces Initiative to Fight Workplace Sexual Harassment

    On February 28, 2018, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced an initiative to eradicate sexual harassment in the public sector workplace: the Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative (SHWI).  The U.S. DOJ enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against state and local government employers.  Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion; sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. 

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  • Are Surveillance Videos Student/Education Records?

    With the proliferation of surveillance cameras in schools and on school buses, video footage is increasingly being used by school districts in support of investigations into student disciplinary matters. In that context, school districts occasionally receive requests for a copy of surveillance tapes.  According to the Family Policy Compliance Office (“FPCO”), which has jurisdiction over the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (“FERPA”), surveillance tapes are not typically education records because they record an entire scene and are not intended to focus on any particular student.  As a result, they are generally not protected from disclosure as student records.  Depending on the circumstances, they may be protected from disclosure for other reasons under the Public Records Law.

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  • DESE Clarifies Unresolved Issues for Foster Care Students

    On January 18, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) issued guidance which clarifies the obligations of school districts for foster care students under the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”).  The guidance can be found here:  http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=24765[On%20January 18, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) issued guidance which clarifies the obligations of school districts for foster care students under the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”). The guidance can be found here: http:/www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=24765. The guidance generally places significant burdens on school districts, although it did provide some helpful clarifications.].  The guidance generally places significant burdens on school districts, although it did provide some helpful clarifications. 

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  • SJC Holds Public School Districts are Not Liable in Tort For Negligence Relating to Bullying

    On February 27, 2018, the SJC held in Cormier, et al. v. City of Lynn, et al., SJC-12323 (2018), that defendants the City of Lynn, the Lynn Public Schools, and several public employees were not liable under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, G. L. c. 258, for claims arising from one public elementary school student being pushed down the stairs by another, resulting in his permanent paralysis. The student’s parents argued that the school district was negligent because staff had been informed about the bullying on multiple occasions but did nothing to stop it, eventually resulting in their son’s injuries. They also claimed that the school district had failed to implement its own anti-bullying policies. 

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  • How to Address Student Walk-Outs on March 14th

    On March 14, 2018, at 10 a.m., students across Massachusetts are planning to walk out of school for seventeen minutes to support stricter gun-control laws and mental health resources for troubled peers. 

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  • The Cannabis Control Commission Speaks

    The Cannabis Control Commission Speaks - Regulating The High: Select Provisions of the Draft Regulations for Adult Use of Marijuana Impacting Cities and Towns in Massachusetts

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  • Hazy Guidance for Employers: Attorney General Sessions Issues Marijuana Enforcement Memorandum to Federal Prosecutors

    On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions issued a memorandum rescinding several Obama-era policies that discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana possession and distribution cases in marijuana legalization states like Massachusetts. The Obama-era policies were backed by a Congressional budget rider that bars the Department of Justice from spending its money prosecuting state backed medical marijuana operations. The amendment will expire later this month, and it is unclear whether Congress will renew it given the Trump administration’s current priorities.

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  • National Labor Relations Board Overturns Key Prior Rulings on Employee Handbooks and Joint Employer Liability

    The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) has been active recently, reaching decisions on two important issues: employee handbooks and joint-employer liability. These decisions directly affect most private employers, and the impact of these decisions will be felt across multiple areas of law, and in both the public and private sectors.

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  • National Labor Relations Board Overturns Important Decisions Related to Bargaining and Union Organization

    The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) has overturned two important decisions from the prior administration affecting bargaining obligations and bargaining unit composition under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). These decisions, issued on the eve of the Board Chairman’s term expiring, are significant for employers with a unionized work force or in the context of union organizing campaigns.

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  • United States Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights Changes Guidance For Title IX

    On September 22, 2017, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued a Dear Colleague Letter and Question and Answer document on complaints of sexual misconduct and violence. 

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  • Massachusetts Enacts the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

    Last month, we alerted you to the legislature’s passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”). On July 27, 2017, Governor Charlie Baker signed the PWFA into law. It takes effect April 1, 2018.

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  • Students Kneeling During Patriotic Activities

    Given professional athletes’ recent protests, kneeling and/or linking arms during the National Anthem, the question has arisen about students’ right to kneel and/or link arms during patriotic activities, such as the National Anthem or pledge of allegiance. 

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  • Program On Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) Rescinded

    On September 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum announcing the rescission of the June 15, 2012 Memorandum entitled Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children, which had established the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as “DACA.” This may have a significant impact on employers who rely on individuals in their workforce with lawful immigration status through DACA.

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  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Issues Landmark Ruling on Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

    In a much anticipated ruling,the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision recognizing a potential claim for disability discrimination if an employer terminates or otherwise takes an adverse employment action against an employee who uses lawfully prescribed medicinal marijuana while off-duty.   In short, this decision prohibits blanket restrictions on the off-duty use of marijuana and requires employers to engage in an interactive process to determine whether the off-duty use of lawfully prescribed medical marijuana may be a reasonable accommodation under Massachusetts anti-discrimination law, M.G.L. c. 151B.

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  • United States Department Of Education’s Office For Civil Rights Changes Investigation Procedures

    On June 8, 2017, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) purportedly sent to the agency’s regional directors a memorandum that changes the practices used to investigate civil rights violations. 

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  • Massachusetts Legislature Unanimously Passes The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

    On June 29, 2017, the Senate unanimously voted to pass the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S.2093).  This bill will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker to be signed after being reconciled with the House version of the bill (H.3680) that passed in May 2017.

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  • Supreme Court Rules On FAPE Standard — No Changes In Massachusetts Based On Decision

    On March 22, 2017, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, addressing the meaning of a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”) for the first time since Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982).

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  • A Synopsis: Evolving Changes in Immigration Law and Its Impact on Your Employees/Students

    The federal government has released a number of Executive Orders ("Orders") that are directly affecting immigration policies, procedures and practice in the United States. Some of these Orders may have a direct impact on employers, especially employers who employ foreign nationals and conduct business abroad that requires foreign travel. Here is a brief synopsis on the state of these Orders as of now.

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  • Major Changes to Public Records Law for Municipalities

    This client alert details the changes to the Massachusetts Municipal Public Records Law.

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  • A Call to Action: The Municipal Modernization Act

    The Municipal Modernization Act (“Act”) created a number of changes to various municipal laws – including finance, procurement, retirement, and public safety laws. However, the Act requires local action before certain provisions can take effect.

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  • The Smoky Impact from Massachusetts Voting to Regulate “Recreational” Marijuana

    At the 2016 state election, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, which regulates marijuana for recreational (i.e., non-medical) purposes.  A consequence of Question 4 is that the production, possession, sale and consumption of marijuana – in certain amounts and under certain circumstances, for persons aged 21 years and over – will become legal under Massachusetts law.

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  • Governor Baker Signs Municipal Modernization Act

    Governor Baker recently signed House Bill 4565, “An Act modernizing municipal finance and government” (the “Act”).  This Act made changes in many areas of law affecting cities and towns, including procurement, insurance, local taxation, municipal finance, and employee benefits, among others.  The Act amends provisions of more than 250 different sections of the Massachusetts General Laws and represents a major overhaul of municipal-related laws in Massachusetts.

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  • Final Rule Changing Overtime Regulations Published By DOL

    Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its final regulations making changes to the overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  We have been watching these regulations for many months now, wondering when they will be released and if the final regulations would respond to the opposition and opinions of the many who see these regulations, and particularly the new salary threshold, as too steep and a hardship.

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  • Governor Baker Signs Pay Equity Legislation

    On August 1, 2016, Governor Baker signed Senate Bill 2119, “An Act to Establish Pay Equity into law (the “Act”). This Act amends Chapter 149, s. 105A of the General Laws, which currently prohibits discrimination in payment of wages on the basis of sex for “comparable” work.” Although federal and state law already proscribes discriminatory pay practices on the basis of sex/gender, the Act clarifies certain definitions and includes additional restrictions and protections. The Act goes into effect July 1, 2018.

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  • Federal Judges Issues Preliminary Injunction Blocking the Implementation of New FLSA Overtime Regulations

    Late yesterday, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations from going into effect on December 1, 2016.  What this means for employers in the short term is that the new overtime regulations – which, among other things, more than doubled the salary threshold for exempt employees to $913 per week – are on hold for now, pending final resolution from the court. 

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