In a brief opinion, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the right of the joint labor management committee (JLMC), the state agency that resolves bargaining disputes involving police or fire unions, to issue an award including a type of shift, such as 24-hour shifts for firefighters. This decision in Local 2071, Int’l Assn of Firefighters v. Town of Bellingham (Dec. 7, 2007) affirms the well-established notion that public safety employers generally do not have a managerial right to change shifts. Sandulli Grace, PC filed friend-of-the-court arguments on behalf of Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, Inc. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, AFL-CIO in support of the firefighter local.
In this case, an arbitration panel convened by the JLMC awarded 24-hour shifts as the firefighters’ local requested. This award did not change the number of hours worked by firefighters or the number of firefighters per shift. Nonetheless, the Town appealed, claiming that the award infringed upon its inherent managerial rights. After losing at Superior Court, the Town again appealed. The Town did the same after the Appeals Court eventually agreed with the Union.
Although the case dealt exclusively with firefighter shifts, the stakes were significant. If the SJC upheld the Town’s basis for appeal, then Fire and Police Chiefs could change standard hours of work, including the “4&2,” whenever the Chief saw fit and without having to negotiate changes with the Union.
Read the decision
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is re-opening its Central Massachusetts office in January 2008. MCAD, the state agency that enforces state law prohibiting many forms of discrimination in employment, housing, lending, education, and public places, returns to Worcester City Hall, located at 455 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608 for the first time in 16 years. [The MCAD web site lists (508) 799-1871 as the office’s contact number].
This news is significant because MCAD requires all relevant claims of discrimination – including on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, and criminal record – to be filed in person. Currently, persons in Central Massachusetts must trek to Springfield or Boston to seek a vindication of rights protected by MCAD. If nothing else, this revived office provides one more option for claimants. For more information about your rights to be protected against discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity and MCAD’s involvement in these investigating and enforcing the law, go to www.mass.gov/mcad.
The State Appeals Court ruled that a county laboratory director is exempt from the protections of state wage and hour law embodied in General Laws chapters 149 and 151. Like its federal counterpart (the Federal Labor Standards Act), the state overtime law requires that employees receive time-and-a-half of their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 in one week. The state and federal wage and hour laws exempt bona fide “executive, or administrative or professional” employees from this guarantee of overtime.
In Ahadul Quazi v. Barnstable County, #06-P-486 (Dec. 3, 2007) [http://socialaw.org/slip.htm?cid=17661&sid=119], the Court ruled that the phrase bona fide executive, or administrative or professional person under the state law is interpreted consistently with federal law. Applying federal precedent to the case, the Court ruled that the plaintiff, a laboratory director, was exempt. His job qualified as professional because the water analysis job required that plaintiff possess advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Further, the responsibilities of the plaintiff’s job, which involved problemsolving, policymaking and directing the work of other employees, also qualified under the “executive” (a.k.a. managerial) exemption. Because of these facts, the Court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to any overtime under state law.
The Appeals Court also ruled that the plaintiff could maintain a claim against his employer under the state whistleblower act, G.L. c. 149, §185. The Act generally protects public employees against retaliation for reporting of misdeeds or illegal behavior by their employer. To obtain protections under the Act, employees must notify superiors of the misconduct allegations in order to provide employers with an opportunity to correct behavior. The Appeals Court ruled that the notice requirement does not apply when, as here, the employee claims that the retaliation arose as a result of the employee’s refusal to participate in misconduct, as opposed to the employee’s threat to publicize said misconduct.