News

Murphy Hesse Toomey & Lehane Attorney Featured in Lawyers Weekly SJC Review

 

In Hovagimian et al. v. Concert Blue Hill, LLC, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is reviewing under further appellate review a decision by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in favor of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Attorney Paul King’s client, which affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss a putative class action brought by service employees against their employer under the Tips Act. At issue was whether the so-called “safe harbor” provision in § 152A(d) applied in the circumstance where the employer properly delineates in writing which portion of the payment made by the patron goes to the service employees as a gratuity and which is retained by the house, but subsequently uses different and potentially confusing language in characterizing those charges on invoices. MHTL attorneys prevailed on cross motions for judgment on the pleadings in Superior Court, and again on appeal before the Appeals Court involving a de novo review of the statutory interpretation question at the heart the case. This case was featured on the front page of Lawyers Weekly on March 8, 2021.

 

Under the Tips Act, service employees are entitled to receive all proceeds derived from a “service charge or tip” assessed to a patron. Generally, the safe harbor provision permits an employer to assess a supplemental charge to a patron (typically a “house” or “administrative” fee) that the employer retains in full, so long as it provides a “designation or written description” informing the patron that the fee is not a gratuity for the service employees. In this case, the employer sufficiently informed the country club patrons in the event contracts they signed that a 10% administrative fee for the house and a 10% gratuity for the service staff would be assessed. But on invoices that followed, it used headings including “Service Charges & Gratuities” and “Service & Tax Charges” with respect to both fees. The Appeals Court majority rejected the service employees’ argument that the employer’s choice of wording on the invoices subjected it to automatic liability. On these facts, ignoring the clear and contrary language in the event contract would contravene the legislative intent of the statute, which is that service employees receive those monies that the customers intend them to receive.

 

The SJC is set to weigh in on this issue of statutory interpretation, following oral arguments on March 1, 2021.

 

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane LLP is also known throughout New England for its labor and employment practice as well as its extensive business litigation and advising employers on internal reviews and strategic legal approaches when dealing with the government. The firm also has an extensive education law practice representing public, private, and nonprofit educational institutions from pre-K through the college and university level.

Latest News

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Partner Presents “Recent Developments in ERISA”

  Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, Partner Katherine Hesse gave a plenary presentation on Recent Developments in ERISA on Friday September 16 to members of the Group Legal Services Association (“GLSA”) at its annual meeting in New Orleans.  Among the topics she emphasized were what employers/plan sponsors need to know in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and lessons from the Court’s decision in Hughes and other class action litigation as to factors to consider Read More

Legal Updates

MARIJUANA REFORM BILL BECOMES LAW

On August 12, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker signed S. 3096, “An act relative to equity in the cannabis industry,” (“Act”) into law. The Act reforms Massachusetts’s existing marijuana laws, particularly with respect to host community agreements (“HCAs”), community impact fees (“CIFs”), and social consumption sites (e.g. marijuana cafes). The Act empowers the Cannabis Control Commission (“Commission”), the state regulatory agency, to exert greater control over HCAs and their CIFs. Municipalities levy CIFs on cannabis businesses to account for the costs they impose on the municipality as a result of their operations. Additionally, the Act allows municipalities to permit on-premises social consumption of marijuana at designated sites. Other notable provisions of the Act include the new Social Equity Trust Fund (“Trust Fund”), changes to the tax law regarding cannabis businesses, and various provisions concerning those persons and communities most impacted by the prior illegality of marijuana usage and sale. Governor Baker vetoed only one section of the final bill: the provision calling on the state to conduct a study of medical marijuana usage in schools.

Quincy, MA

Crown Colony Plaza
300 Crown Colony Drive, Suite 410
P.O. Box 9126
Quincy, MA 02169-9126

Boston, MA

75-101 Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110

Tel: (617) 479-5000
Tel: (888) 841-4850
Fax: (617) 479-6469

Springfield, MA

One Monarch Place, Suite 1310R
Springfield, MA 01144

© 2022 Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP. All Rights Reserved. Website by Interactive Palette