COVID-19 Alerts


The option for public bodies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to hold public meetings remotely or in a hybrid fashion, which came into play at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended by the General Court for another two years, until March 31, 2025. The Governor signed the legislation, which will be codified at Chapter 2 of the Acts of 2023, on March 29, 2023. Because of the inclusion of an emergency preamble, the law goes into effect immediately.


On February 12, 2022, the Governor signed Chapter 22 of the Acts of 2022, which extends the authority for remote participation for all public bodies through July 14, 2022. This session law also extends the authority for representative town meetings to meet by remote means, through July 14, 2022. These temporary measures provide public bodies and representative town meetings the ability to choose to continue the now well-established remote meeting protocols, first established back in March of 2020. In response to public demand and interest from cities and towns, the General Court will take the additional time to evaluate long-term action, to decide if remote participation for public bodies and representative town meetings is here to stay. The extended authorization keeps all of the same procedural requirements and safeguards in place from the original authorizations and extensions.

OSHA Withdraws Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard

OSHA has just announced that it is withdrawing this ETS effective immediately. Although OSHA is withdrawing the ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, OSHA is not withdrawing the ETS to the extent that it serves as a “proposed” rule; instead OSHA has indicated that it will prioritize its resources to focus on a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard. Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the ETS for large employers, OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.

The Supreme Court Blocks OSHA Vaccination and Testing Requirements but Upholds HHS Vaccination Requirements

On January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a “stay” that prevents OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) from taking effect for the time being. On the same day, the Supreme Court also issued a “stay” that allows the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) mandatory COVID-19 vaccination rule for all Medicare and Medicaid funded facilities to go into effect. Given that both of these rulings involved applications for preliminary or emergency relief, neither of them represents the final word on the enforceability of the vaccine and/or testing mandates, and additional litigation is a certainty as the lower courts further evaluate the legality of the mandates.

New Technical Assistance Updates from the EEOC

In October, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 Technical Assistance, providing additional guidance for employers on the interaction between COVID-19 vaccine workplace policies and federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. Here are key updates to the Technical Assistance:


OSHA issued its much-anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) late last week on Thursday, November 4, 2021. In general, the ETS requires employers to establish, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. The ETS provides a limited exemption from the vaccine mandate which permits an employer to establish a policy which allows employees to choose either vaccination or regular weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering in the workplace as an alternative to vaccination.

Understanding the Privacy Rule Under HIPAA as an Employer Requiring Proof of Vaccination

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently published a new guidance on disclosures and requests for information regarding a person’s receipt of the COVID-19 vaccination in relation to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (more commonly known as HIPAA). As employers continue to develop COVID-19 vaccination policies in the workplace, this guidance may be important.


On September 29, 2021, the day before it was set to expire, the Massachusetts legislature amended the COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (MA EPSL), extending it until April 1, 2022 or the exhaustion of $75 million in program funds, whichever is earlier. Additionally, the amended MA EPSL expanded the reasons for which employees can use sick leave to include “to care for a family member who needs to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 immunization.”

A Toolkit of Federal Guidance for Developing a Workplace COVID-19 Vaccination Program

In recent weeks, a growing conversation has unfolded about COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the workplace. This conversation was further thrust into the spotlight last night, on September 9, 2021, when President Biden outlined a far-reaching COVID-19 Action Plan, which particularly seeks vast vaccine mandates in the workplace.

For employers, implementing a vaccine policy can be intimidating given the variety of state and federal regulators who have issued guidance on the subject. Additionally, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate may carry an extra threat of workplace polarization of which many employers are understandably wary. The purpose of this Client Alert is to summarily outline a toolkit of federal guidance, including President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, that an employer may consult, in part, when considering whether to implement a COVID-19 vaccine program in their workplace. Please note, all numbered headings below are hyperlinked.

OSHA’s Issues New COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards for Healthcare Industry and Additional COVID-19 Guidance for Other Industries

On June 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) unveiled its long-awaited emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) for curbing health and safety risks associated with COVID-19. Significantly, the ETS has a limited reach as it is required for only the healthcare industry with some exceptions. Unlike previous OSHA guidance, the ETS is a mandatory rule for covered employers.


Today the Governor signed Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021, which authorizes remote participation for all public bodies until April 1, 2022. This temporary measure provides public bodies with the time needed to orderly transition from fully remote meetings to in-person meetings. In response to public demand and interest from cities and towns, the General Court will take this time to determine whether remote participation is here to stay.


Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021, the Senate, acting at warp speed, voted on amendments to S. 2467, the municipal relief legislation which includes provisions continuing the authority for remote meetings for all public bodies. The Senate passed several amendments, and then passed the bill to be engrossed, with an Emergency Preamble, so it could be effective immediately if passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor. The engrossed bill, reprinted as S. 2472, was sent over to the House later on Thursday afternoon.


On May 17, 2021, Governor Baker announced that the State of Emergency in Massachusetts will end on June 15, 2021. With this announcement comes the end of the authority allowing a quorum of any public body to meet remotely, unless the Massachusetts General Court takes timely action to amend the Open Meeting Law. Legislation extending this temporary authority beyond the June 15, 2021 deadline is pending in the Senate, and could be through to the Governor for signature by the end of the week.

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave

On May 28, 2021, Governor Baker signed into law an Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave, the text of which can be found at This law took effect immediately on May 28, 2021. The law directs federal funds received by the Commonwealth in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency into the new COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund. A website has been established regarding this new leave, which can be found here –

EEOC Announced Opening of EEO-1 Data Collection Period for 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Data Collection to begin on Monday, April 26, 2021

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that the EEO-1 Component 1 data collection for 2019 and 2020 will open on Monday, April 26, 2021. Private-sector employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with fifty (50) or more employees are legally obligated to file EEO-1 reports that consist of data regarding the demographic representation of their workforce. In 2020, the EEOC delayed the opening of the 2019 EEO-1 Component data collection due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, employers may begin filing their EEO-1 data beginning on Monday, April 26, 2021.

The American Rescue Plan Act’s Aid Allocations to State, Local Governments, and Schools

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) which provides for a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package. State and local governments, and also many educational entities, will receive substantial funding. Having endured the last year of the global COVID-19 pandemic, both states and local governments, as well as schools, have experienced unexpected expenses, losses in revenues, and budgetary burdens. The purpose of this Client Alert is to explain generally how funds from the ARPA relief aid have been designated to alleviate those COVID-19-related challenges.

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “Act” or “ARPA”), which is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package. A stimulus package of this size will undoubtedly have economic ripple effects in every corner of American society. This Client Alert highlights the support ARPA provides for individuals and workers as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Baker Issues Three New COVID-19 Orders

On Monday, November 2, 2020, Governor Baker issued three new COVID-19 Orders, all of which are effective Friday, November 6, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.

COVID-19 Order No. 53 ( imposes a Mandatory Night-Time Closing Period for Certain Businesses and Activities from 9:30 p.m. each day until 5:00 a.m. the following day. This Mandatory Closing Period Order prohibits certain businesses, facilities, and activities from admitting customers, patrons, or members of the public to their premises or otherwise offering, providing, or permitting in-person, on-premises services or activities, during the closed period.

Department of Labor Issues Revised Temporary Rule on Families First Coronavirus Response Act Including New Guidance Relating to Intermittent Leave

On Friday, September 11, 2020, the Department of Labor issued revisions to the temporary rule regarding the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). Those revisions can be found here – The revisions take effect on September 16, 2020.

Governor Baker Issues Guidance on the Enforcement Mechanism for COVID-19 Executive Orders

On August 18th, Governor Baker issued an executive order providing guidance to municipalities regarding how to enforce the numerous executive orders in effect in response to COVID-19. Many of the Governor’s prior orders provided municipalities with the authority to enforce the executive orders. For example, the Governor’s recent order mandating quarantine for travelers entering the Commonwealth from out of state provides local boards of health and their authorized agents as well as municipal police with powers to enforce the order. The Governor’s August 7th executive order limiting the size of in-person gatherings also allowed for enforcement by local boards of health and municipal police departments.


In recent months, some private approved special education schools have insisted that school districts utilize the private school’s monitoring contract or agree to an addendum to the school district’s monitoring contracts. Some private schools have suggested problematic terms, such as:

National Labor Relations Board Changes Legal Approach to Employee’s Use of Profane, Racist, and Sexually Harassing Speech in Protected Activity

On July 21, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”) changed its analysis towards an employee’s use of verbally offensive behavior in the context of protected activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“the Act” or “NLRA”) in the following decision: General Motors, LLC, No. 14-CA-197985, 369 NLRB No. 127 (2020).

Guidance on Expanded Mixed Drink Take-out/Delivery Options in Response to COVID-19

On July 20, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Expand Take-out/Delivery Options in Response to COVID-19 (“Act”)” into law. The Act is an emergency measure intended to address significant disruptions to the restaurant industry in the Commonwealth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act temporarily allows establishments that are currently licensed by Massachusetts law to sell all alcoholic beverages to be consumed on-premises to sell mixed drinks for off-premises consumption, subject to restrictions, effective July 20, 2020. The Act will remain in effect until the Governor’s state of emergency is lifted or on February 28, 2021, whichever occurs earliest. An all alcohol license is required; this temporary authorization does not extend to establishments with only wine and malt beverages licenses.

Bill No. 4820 to Expand Vote by Mail and Early Voting:

On July 6, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19 (“Act”)” into law. The Act contains several important amendments to the Massachusetts Elections Law, M.G.L. c. 54 and applies to all federal, state and local elections through the end of 2020. The Act, designed to make voting more convenient and reduce crowding at the polls, affords all Massachusetts voters the option to vote by mail and extends the time allowed for early in-person voting.

Third COVID-19 Municipal Relief Law Part II:

On June 5, 2020, “An Act Relative to Municipal Governance During the COVID-19 Emergency” was signed into law. This bill is the third law passed in response to COVID-19, which largely targets the challenges faced by municipalities due to the ongoing pandemic. Part I of this client alert located here addressed the legislation’s provisions regarding municipal elections and town meetings. This client alert focuses on the remaining provisions of the legislation, including municipal finance provisions, school vendor contracts, and educators’ licenses.

Third COVID-19 Municipal Relief Law Part I:

On June 4, 2020, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted “An Act Relative to Municipal Governance During the COVID-19 Emergency.” The Governor signed the bill into law on June 5, 2020. This bill is the third in a series of legislation designed to mitigate the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has created for municipal operations, budgets, and governance. The legislation largely addresses municipal elections, town meetings, and municipal finance questions. This client alert summarizes the legislation’s increased flexibility regarding town meetings and elections. A second client alert will address the law’s provisions regarding municipal finance.

Expansion of Federal Protections for LGBT Workers

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a historic 6-3 decision authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, in which the Court held that employers cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of the individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This case, Bostock v. Clayton County, was a consolidation of three cases, involving two gay men, who were terminated based on their sexual orientation, and one transgender woman, who was terminated based on her gender identity.

President Signs Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020

Last Friday, June 5, 2020, President Trump signed H. R. 7010 (“HR 7010”), the “Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020”, a bill meant to modify certain provisions related to the forgiveness of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). Following criticism regarding how the forgiveness rules were not feasible for many small businesses, HR 7010 was passed by the House and the Senate with broad bipartisan support. In general, the changes allow businesses more time to bring employees back to work and to use the PPP funds without jeopardizing loan forgiveness.

Governor Baker Announces Four-Phase Approach to Reopen the Massachusetts Economy

On Monday, May 18th, Governor Baker unveiled his four-phase approach to reopen the economy in Massachusetts, a summary of which can be found at Phase 1 of the plan began on May 18th allowing manufacturing and construction businesses to begin operations as well as worship services. More businesses will be permitted to open on May 25th, including lab and office spaces, barbershops and hair salons, pet grooming, car washes, curbside retail services, and certain recreation and outdoor activities.


On May 6, 2020, the United States Department of Education (“DOE”) issued final regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The new regulations go into effect on August 14, 2020, so school districts are encouraged to review their policies and procedures and provide staff training on these new regulations as soon as possible. The final regulations list specific elements that must be included in any policy, such as range of disciplinary actions, standards of evidence, and procedures.


On May 1, 2020, DESE held a special education leadership meeting led by Russell Johnston to discuss the April 27, 2020 Department of Education (“DOE”) recommendations to Congress (these recommendations are detailed in a separate client alert). Many stakeholders, including DESE, were surprised to learn that Secretary DeVos did not recommend that Congress amend IDEA’s timelines during this period of school closures. DESE further advised districts during the call that remote learning days count as “school working days” for purposes of the IDEA. Mr. Johnston confirmed that DESE’s prior proposal that school districts act in good faith and do their best to comply with timelines to the extent possible is now rendered moot by DOE’s recommendations.


On April 27, 2020, the United States Department of Education (“DOE”) submitted recommendations to Congress regarding provisions of the law that it believes that states should have the authority to waive.

Laws addressed in the report include the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the IDEA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Workers’ Compensation Claims and COVID-19

The coronavirus and its effects are likely to have an impact on workers’ compensation claims. Two of the most common questions that have been raised regarding COVID-19 and workers’ compensation are addressed below, including compensation for employees who contract COVID-19 at work and employees who are injured while working from home.

Bargaining and Protected Concerted Activities in the Time of COVID-19: Guidance and Lessons for Employers

The recent need to make difficult and sometimes time-sensitive decisions during the pandemic has raised the question of bargaining and other obligations under federal and state labor law. Whether or not you have a unionized workforce, the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or the “Act”) for covered private sector employers and Massachusetts state law, M.G.L. c. 150E, for public sector employers in Massachusetts, protects employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activities. Moreover, for those employers with organized workforces, employers are generally obligated to bargain before making changes to employees’ wages, hours, working conditions, or other mandatory subjects of bargaining. Failure to do so may constitute an unlawful unilateral change and result in a finding that the employer committed an unfair labor practice.

This client alert highlights the law’s provisions addressing permits, permit applications, and public hearings. The law defines “permit” broadly to include permits, variances, special permits, licenses, amendments, extensions, and other approvals by a permit granting authority. A “permit granting authority” is also defined broadly to include any local, district, county, or regional official or multi-member body authorized to issue a permit.

Employer Tax Credits for Retention and Leave Payments under the FFCRA and CARES Act

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) as well as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) have delivered some much needed relief to employers hit hard by the COVID-19 virus and associated work stoppages. These Acts allow employers to obtain relief from wage payments against the payroll taxes they otherwise owe.

Omnibus Municipal Relief Law – Part II: Permits, Applications, and Public Hearings

On Friday, April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19, which was codified at Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 (the “Act”). The Act addresses a number of issues faced by municipalities resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including the implications for town meetings, town budgets, taxes, sale of alcoholic beverages, and multi-member body permits.

This client alert highlights the law’s provisions addressing permits, permit applications, and public hearings. The law defines “permit” broadly to include permits, variances, special permits, licenses, amendments, extensions, and other approvals by a permit granting authority. A “permit granting authority” is also defined broadly to include any local, district, county, or regional official or multi-member body authorized to issue a permit.

Omnibus Municipal Relief Law – Part I: Changes to Off Premises Service of Beer and Wine; Advice on Administration and Enforcement

On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 (the “Law”), a multidimensional municipal relief bill affecting a broad range of municipal concerns arising from the present COVID pandemic, and Governor Baker’s emergency orders. The legislation addresses multiple varied municipal issues ranging from postponement of Town Meetings, recalibration of the municipal budget process, and tolling of permit timelines. Among the provisions of the new law is Section 13 which significantly alters the licensing landscape for the sales and service of alcoholic beverages. As with many sections of the law, this alteration is limited to the duration of Governor Baker’s March 10, 2020 Declaration of Emergency.

CARES ACT – $2 Trillion in Coronavirus Relief Including Expanded Unemployment Insurance

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. The massive bill provides economic relief for both workers who are laid off and businesses which have shut down or curtailed business operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The scope of the CARES Act, also known as the stimulus bill, goes far beyond worker benefits and also provides loans for small and large companies as well as multi-faceted support for America’s health care system. This client alert summarizes the expanded unemployment insurance provisions of the CARES Act which provide financial assistance to workers unable to work due to COVID-19.

Guidance for Municipalities on Conducting Remote Public Meetings Under the Open Meeting Law and the Relaxed Remote Participation Standards

On March 12, 2020, the Governor issued an Executive Order (“Order”) suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law (“OML”), to allow expanded remote participation and alternative access to all public meetings conducted under the OML ( this excludes Town Meetings). No public body in Massachusetts has ever been authorized to conduct all remote public meetings prior to the Order, and many cities and towns shut down meetings for much of the rest of March. In the coming weeks, as local governments begin moving forward to conduct the public business, select boards, school committees, planning boards, boards of health, and all public board and commissions, will be faced with this new experience.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Post Your Notice And April 1, 2020 Effective Date

April 1, 2020 Effective Date

On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is April 1, 2020. This means that the paid leave provisions contained in both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance on COVID-19 and the FLSA

In addition to issuing guidance on OSHA and COVID-19, which we covered in our Labor & Employment Alert issued on March 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor also issued Questions and Answers on COVID-19 and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and COVID-19 and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This edition of the Client Alert will highlight the Questions and Answers provided by the DOL regarding the FLSA.

Sweeping Federal Legislation Passed Related to COVID-19 –

Significant Changes Made to Workplace Leave Laws and Benefits

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Act (the “Act”). President Trump signed the Act into law the same day. Among other provisions, the Act expands food assistance and unemployment programs, provides free coronavirus testing, expands the federal Family and Medical and Leave Act to cover employees unable to work due to childcare obligations created by school closures, establishes paid leave for such absences, and provides a new paid sick leave benefit related to COVID-19. The text of the new Act can be found here:

This Alert will summarize some of the major provisions affecting most public and private employers. We will be supplementing this Alert with additional information as information becomes available.

MA Legislature Passes Relief Bill Waiving the One Week Waiting Period for

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Massachusetts Legislature passed significant legislation directing the Director of Unemployment Assistance to waive the one-week waiting period for any person making a claim for unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 circumstances. It was promptly signed by the Governor, thereby providing significant relief for workers affected by the current situation.

Corporate and Business Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is increasing concern about possible widespread business interruptions and the need to adapt to the changing behaviors of the consumer made necessary by the virus’s spread.

OSHA Strategies for Dealing with COVID-19 in the Workplace

Last week, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was designated as a global pandemic. It continues to disrupt our workplace communities and our community at large. To assist employers in continuing to plan for and respond to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance on COVID-19 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This edition of the Client Alert will focus on the OSHA guidance. We will issue subsequent Client Alerts which will cover the FLSA and the FMLA guidance.


On March 12, 2020, as part of his authority under the State of Emergency declaration, and in response to multiple recommendations to keep distance between individuals in order to protect public health due to the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order (”Order”) suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law, to allow expanded remote participation and alternative access to all public meetings. The Order provides swift and much needed clarification for select boards, school committees and all other “public bodies” subject to the Open Meeting Law.

Strategies for Dealing with COVID-19 in the Workplace Installment 1 of the MHTL COVID-19 Client Alert

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is creating increasing concern in workplace communities and in our community at large. Each day infections spread to new parts of the world and the U.S. The number of cases and deaths continues to rise in the U.S. Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the number of cases and deaths globally, reports that the virus is in over half of the U.S. states, with 755 cases and 26 deaths.


On February 1, 2020, a university student from Boston became the eighth person in the United States to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, and the first on the East Coast. This student had recently returned from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic. Since then, scarcely a day has passed without additional coverage of the coronavirus, which has been declared a global public health emergency.

Latest News

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Partner Prevails in U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

  Attorney Felicia Vasudevan, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, received a favorable decision on behalf of her client, Marshfield Public Schools. The Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgement that upheld a decision of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”). However, as the notice was filed more than 30 days after entry, the First Circuit ultimately dismissed the appeal for being untimely. The Plaintiff also appealed the district court’s order, denying her motion to vacate. Read More

Legal Updates

New Features of Public Participation at School Committee Meetings

Following our Alert from March 16, 2023, Civility is Dead – The Supreme Court Rules Municipal Control of Public Speak Limited to Reasonable Time/Place/Manner Restrictions, which discussed the holding to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Barron v. Kolenda and the Town of Southborough (SJC-13284), we promised to bring you more detailed guidance on developing a Public Speak policy for your public body or municipality. The Barron case involved a constitutional challenge to the Town of Southborough’s public comment policy, which attempted to impose a code of civility on members of the public who participated in public comment before public bodies. In Barron, the court interpreted the state constitution to mean that public bodies may request, but not require, that public commentators be respectful and courteous. Instead, a public body may set restrictions on reasonable time, place, and manner comments to ensure that the meeting retains an orderly and peaceable manner.

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