Supreme Judicial Court Issues Important Decision Protecting Employers – Back Pay Awards Do Not Constitute “Wages” Under the Wage Act and Thus Are Not Subject To Trebling

Back Pay Awards Do Not Constitute “Wages” Under the Wage Act and Thus Are Not Subject To Trebling

In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC” or “Court”) declined to classify a court-ordered “back pay” award as “wages” under the Massachusetts Wage Act (“Wage Act”).   In response to a request for briefs from the Court, Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP (MHTL), on behalf of its public and private clients, submitted an amicus brief, supporting the defendant employer’s position.   The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the New England Legal Foundation also submitted amici briefs.  This decision – a significant victory for employers – has far-reaching consequences and helps to protect employers from punitive and excessive penalties in many employment contexts.  Had the case been decided for the plaintiffs, it could have had significant ramifications for employers, extending the punitive damage scheme under the Wage Act (strict liability, treble damages, attorneys’ fees, individual liability, etc.) to a myriad of different employment contexts.

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2019 Annual Labor Employment Law Update

In our 35th year with the South Shore Chamber of Commerce

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Supreme Judicial Court – Refusing to Grant a Lateral Transfer to a Preferred Position May Constitute an Adverse Employment Action

In a recent decision, Yee v. Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held for the first time that denying an employee’s request for a lateral transfer can constitute an adverse employment action under the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 151B which prohibits discrimination in the workplace.  The Court’s decision addresses the scope of employment actions on which an aggrieved employee may base a discrimination claim, going beyond commonly-challenged actions such as a refusal to hire, a promotional bypass, or discipline.

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