Category Archives: Labor In The News

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police Present the next 2019 Training on December 4, 2019

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police are proud to announce our third 2019 police union training. Sandulli Grace and MassCOP believe in empowering MassCOP’s local unions through education, to create a stronger, safer environment for members. Our 2019 training sessions will give you tools to enforce your rights and improve your members’ working conditions.

Basics Trainings

In the past two years, MassCOP and Sandulli Grace have presented multiple “basics” trainings to our police unions. We believe there is a continued need for these trainings, as unions continue to elect new leaders, and new legal challenges present themselves every day. Topics include:

  • Grievance Processing
  • Discipline
  • Bargaining
  • Stress in the Workplace

Whether you are newly elected, or a seasoned union leader looking for ideas on how to make your job easier and more effective, these basics trainings can give you helpful information about issues that local unions face every day.

Bring Your Contract!

We intend this training to be interactive and practical, so we ask each person to please bring a copy of your collective bargaining agreement so that we can discuss real situations. PARTICIPATION IS NOT NECESSARY, BUT IT ADDS TO EVERYONE’S EXPERIENCE! WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE IT! We will help you interpret your contract’s provisions on grievance processing and appealing discipline, and we will discuss what proposals you might want to make in your next round of bargaining.

How to Register

Our next 2019 training will be held on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 199 Federal Furnace Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360. Please see the attached flyer. The cost is $55 per person. Payment can be by check mailed to Gia Capozzi at Sandulli Grace, P.C., 44 School Street, Suite 1100, Boston, MA 02018, or by credit card at this link:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/basics-training-2019-tickets-74856835811.

We welcome your feedback regarding the location and content of these training sessions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions at gcapozzi@sandulligrace.com.

Download the event flyer

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police Present the next 2019 Training

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police are proud to announce our third 2019 police union training. Sandulli Grace and MassCOP believe in empowering MassCOP’s local unions through education, to create a stronger, safer environment for members. Our 2019 training sessions will give you tools to enforce your rights and improve your members’ working conditions.

Basics Trainings

In the past two years, MassCOP and Sandulli Grace have presented multiple “basics” trainings to our police unions. We believe there is a continued need for these trainings, as unions continue to elect new leaders, and new legal challenges present themselves every day. Topics include:

  • Grievance Processing
  • Discipline
  • Bargaining
  • Stress in the Workplace

Whether you are newly elected, or a seasoned union leader looking for ideas on how to make your job easier and more effective, these basics trainings can give you helpful information about issues that local unions face every day.

Bring Your Contract!

We intend this training to be interactive and practical, so we ask each person to please bring a copy of your collective bargaining agreement so that we can discuss real situations. PARTICIPATION IS NOT NECESSARY, BUT IT ADDS TO EVERYONE’S EXPERIENCE! WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE IT! We will help you interpret your contract’s provisions on grievance processing and appealing discipline, and we will discuss what proposals you might want to make in your next round of bargaining.

How to Register

Our next 2019 training will be held on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 199 Federal Furnace Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360. Please see the attached flyer. The cost is $55 per person. Payment can be by check mailed to Gia Capozzi at Sandulli Grace, P.C., 44 School Street, Suite 1100, Boston, MA 02018, or by credit card at this link:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/basics-training-2019-tickets-74856835811.

We welcome your feedback regarding the location and content of these training sessions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions at gcapozzi@sandulligrace.com.

Download the event flyer

Civil Service Commission Upholds Termination Of African American Boston Firefighter For Social Media Posts But Also Orders Investigation Into Boston Fire Department

In Rowe v. Boston Fire Department (D1-18-074), issued on August 29, 2019, the Civil Service Commission upheld the discharge of Boston Firefighter Octavius Rowe for the content of his social media posts and podcasts. The Commission’s summary of its decision states:

Firefighter Rowe maintained a presence on social media and participated in various podcasts inwhich he regularly identified himself as a Boston firefighter. As part of those same public forums, he repeatedly spoke, wrote and/or posted bigoted comments that violate the norms of decency and various rules and regulations of the Boston Fire Department, including conduct unbecoming a firefighter, justifying his termination. Firefighter Rowe’s public posts and statements included: referring to the long-time head of the Boston Urban League as a “shoe-shine Negro”; referring to the then-Boston Police Superintendent (now Commissioner) as a “feckless, jolly black face”; a statement that black men should not share their “genetic material” with a “filthy, filthy white woman” and that “laying with white women is like spitting in your mother’s womb”; a post listing the date, time and location (including the name of the school and a map) where Firefighter Rowe objects to young boys and girls holding hands with members of the same sex; multiple references to gay men as “homophiles”; a reference to so-called “homophiles” seeking to “normalize homophilia particularly among children in order to GAIN and EASE sexual access to them”; references to lesbians as “lez-beasts”; a reply to a person online stating: “You’re QUEER. You’re not significant enough for me to troll”; another online reply stating: “Why haven’t any homophiles been killed by Police?”; a picture of Firefighter Rowe, with a clenched fist, wearing a t-shirt with a stick figure with Pan-African colors kicking in the groin a stick figure with LGBTQ colors; a reference to the head of the Boston Chapter of Black Lives Matter, a Boston resident, as a person with: “Homophile/Trans/Femm Interests”; a reference to Black Lives Matter as “HOMOPHILES LIVES MATTER”; a reference to the leaders of Black Lives Matter as “slowwitted, uniformed agents of sexuality confusion/cooning” who “cannot have access to our children.”; a reference to a black entertainer as a “COM-PLETE bitch”; and a reference to “SmallHats (So-called Jews)”.

As if upholding of the termination were not controversial enough, the Commission went on to take the extraordinary step of initiating its own inquiry into how the Boston Fire Department (BFD) handled the investigation of a white firefighter accused of using “the n-word in a social media posting that has come to the Commission’s attention in the course of the present appeal.”

Firefighter Rowe mounted three challenges to his termination: (1) no nexus between his conduct and his job; (2) First Amendment protected speech; and (3) disparate treatment1 . The Commision analyzed the First Amendment defense under federal precedents adopted by Mass. courts. The decision rejected the nexus argument because firefighters enter the homes of people, some of whom belong to races/genders/sexual identities Rowe disparaged in his postings. It analyzed the First Amendment argument under traditional caselaw and ultimately agreed with BFD that “there is no basis for concluding that Firefighter’s Rowe’s interest in free speech outweighed BFD’s interest in providing efficient and effective public safety services.”

The disparate treatment contention – that white firefighters’ repugnant social media posts were treated more leniently than Rowe’s – caused the Commission more difficulty. One white firefighter who “posted vile comments regarding Rachel Maddow and Senator Elizabeth Warren” had been forced to resign. Another was also forced to resign, rather than contest his termination, whose “hateful, bigoted postings” included one stating “I Never Ever Trust a Dirty Fucking Muslim.” As part of Rowe’s defense at his hearing, he produced evidence that another white firefighter had also made racist social media posts but had only received a warning from BFD. The Commission rejected the disparate treatment argument, concluding that, regardless of how others may have been treated, Rowe’s conduct was so unacceptable that termination was warranted.

Normally, that would be the end of the case, but the Commission then took the extraordinary step of conducting its own inquiry:

to ascertain what further action should be recommended by the Commission or taken by the BFD to further investigate the allegation that a BFD firefighter has allegedly used the n-word in a social media posting that has come to the Commission’s attention in the course of the present appeal.

As authority for this highly unusual investigation, the Commission’s relied on Section 72 of Chapter 31 (the civil service statute), which states:

The commission or administrator [HRD], upon the request of an appointing authority, shall inquire into the efficiency and conduct of any employee in a civil service position who was appointed by such appointing authority. The commission or the administrator may also conduct such an inquiry at any time without such request by an appointing authority. After conducting an inquiry pursuant to this paragraph, the commission or administrator may recommend to the appointing authority that such employee be removed or may make other appropriate recommendations.” (emphasis added by Commission)

The Commission then ordered BFD within 30 days “to file a written response to this inquiry which should include recommended steps for conducting a further investigation of the above-referenced allegation.”

The lesson from all of this, besides a basic suggestion that employees refrain from categorically criticizing or disparaging any group of people, is to simply stay off of all forms of social media. As this blog has pointed out several times, most recently earlier this month, employees have little to gain and a lot to lose through participation in social media.

1 Disparate treatment occurs when one employee or group of employees is treated differently from another employee or group of employees for the same or similar conduct.

Social Media Will Ruin Your Whole Life, Again

More than four years ago, my colleague Jennifer Smith wrote a blog entry entitled “Social Media Will Ruin Your Whole Life.” The blog detailed how one corporate executive lost her job over one “stupid tweet.” Atty. Smith’s advice to police officers, teachers, and firefighters was “delete your social media accounts now, if you haven’t already.” That advice is even more critical today.

A group called “The Plain View Project” has compiled a database of “public Facebook posts and comments made by current and former police officers” from eight cities around the country. An article disseminated today by LRIS (Labor Relations Information System) explains that, in June, 72 Philadelphia police officers were placed on administrative leave after the department began investigating allegations of racist and offensive Facebook posts by these officers. Since then, 13 of those officers have been notified that the department intends to terminate them; 7 of those 13 have just resigned. Four other officers were suspended for 30 days, three face no discipline, and the remaining face disciplinary action ranging between reprimand and five-day suspension.

Whether you like groups like Plain View Project prying into your Facebook posts or not, it is a reality that these groups exist. In addition, any FB post you’ve ever made is potentially something that could be used to make you look bad by jealous colleagues, spiteful relatives, or anybody else who has an ax to grind with you. The same must be said about all social media, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Imgur, Yelp, and the many others I’ve never heard of.

As a public employee, and particularly one who daily deals directly with the public, you are called upon to evenhandedly and judiciously ply your trade. Whether intended or not, any action you take which in any way calls into question your evenhandedness can potentially get you into trouble.

And, you may ask, what about my First Amendment rights? In 1892, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes tersely articulated a police officer’s First Amendment rights: he “may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.” While there certainly are lines that can be drawn to distinguish public employees’ protected from unprotected speech, do you really want to be a constitutional test case? Are you sufficiently knowledgeable about the intricacies of free speech rights of public employees to be sure that what you post on social media can’t get you in trouble? I would strongly suggest that rather than play Russian Roulette with your career, you stay off social media. Whatever you might gain from participating in social media is dwarfed by what you might lose.

Sandulli Grace Welcomes Former Labor Board Attorney James Racine

Sandulli Grace is excited to announce the hiring of our newest attorney, James Racine. James brings a wealth of experience in labor issues to the firm from his time working as a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Region 31, in Los Angeles. As a field attorney, James acted on behalf of the General Counsel by investigating charges of unfair labor practices and resolving and litigating cases before administrative law judges. James also helped conduct elections to determine union representation preferences and drafted decisions for the Regional Director in contested representation matters.

Prior to working for the NLRB, James served as a law clerk to administrative law judges at the United States Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. and Boston. He also represented clients at administrative hearings before the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance as an attorney in the employment law unit of the Central West Justice Center in Worcester, MA.

James received his Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School, and a bachelor’s in history from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. During law school, James represented an asylum seeker before the Boston Immigration Court as a student attorney in the Boston College Law School Immigration and Asylum Clinic and completed internships at the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor, the Medical-Legal Partnership, and the International Legal Foundation in Nepal and New York.

James currently lives in Norton, MA with his wife and two children. He enjoys traveling, reading, and following the Red Sox. Please join us in welcoming James to Sandulli Grace.

MASSACHUSETTS COALITION OF POLICE ADVANCED TRAINING TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2019

Sponsored and run by MassCOP officials and attorneys from Sandulli Grace, P.C.

This training will go beyond MassCOP’s “basics” trainings to explore in depth the process of bargaining your next contract, including:

Identifying comparable communities
Analyzing comparable benefits
The municipality’s ability to pay
Drafting proposals
Ground rules
Negotiating tactics
Health insurance
Ratification of the MOA
Getting the contract funded
The JLMC process

This advanced training session will be held on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 5400 Computer Dr., Westborough, MA from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with reception to follow

Cost is $85 per person INCLUDES Continental Breakfast, Lunch, a Cocktail Reception & Materials

Please pay by check or credit card at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/advanced-training-tickets-58452715646
Seating is limited so registration is final.

For more information, please visit our web sites: www.sandulligrace.com or www.masscop.org

Massachusetts Law Review Publishes Article on Labor Arbitration by Sandulli Grace Attorney

The most recent edition of the Massachusetts Law Review features an article by Sandulli Grace attorney John M. Becker entitled, “The Role of Public Policy in Judicial Review of Massachusetts Public Sector Labor Arbitration Awards.” The article reviews the decision by the Supreme Judicial Court in City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, 477 Mass. 434 (2017) in light of the history of court review of labor arbitration in Massachusetts, with a particular focus on public policy. The article discusses three ways in which public policy plays a role in judicial review of arbitration:

  1. the policy in favor of resolving labor disputes through arbitration, and against judicial interference in such disputes;
  2. the public policy exception to labor arbitration awards, a court-created doctrine used to overturn certain decisions by arbitrators that violate public policy; and
  3. the nondelegability doctrine, pursuant to which the courts have found that some arbitration awards (and the collective bargaining agreements they are enforcing) are unenforceable because they impinge on the management rights of the public employer.

In addition to tracing the history of public sector labor arbitration and public policy, Attorney Becker provides his opinions on certain key legal questions, including:

  1. expressing a concern that after a court finds certain CBA language is unenforceable under the nondelegability doctrine, the Union has no opportunity to go back to the bargaining table to obtain a replacement benefit for the one that was lost;
  2. opining that, in cases involving awards reinstating discharged employees, the public policy exception should be restricted to cases in which a specific law requires termination – and only termination – as a punishment for the named offense; and
  3. advocating that the contours of the nondelegablility doctrine should be consistent with cases under G.L. c. 150E defining mandatory and permissive subjects of bargaining.

Many of the cases discussed in the article were litigated by Attorney Becker or other Sandulli Grace attorneys, including: City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 477 Mass. 434 (2017); Adams v. City of Boston, 461 Mass. 602 (2012); City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 443 Mass. 813 (2005); School Comm. of Marshfield v. Marshfield Educ. Ass’n, 84 Mass. App. Ct. 743 (2014); City of Boston v. Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 74 Mass. App. Ct. 379 (2009); Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n v. City of Boston, 60 Mass. App. Ct. 672 (2004); and City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 41 Mass. App. Ct. 269 (1996).

Attorney Becker’s article can be found in Massachusetts Law Review Volume 100, No. 2 (March 2019). You can see the full article here. https://www.massbar.org/docs/default-source/publications-document-library/massachusetts-law-review/2018/mlrvol100no2.pdf?sfvrsn=4. The Massachusetts Law Review is published by the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Massachusetts Public Safety Unions Succeed In Passing New Law Protecting Confidentiality Of Stress Counseling For First Responders In Critical Incidents

At the end of December 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a new bill that provides important protections for first responders in critical incidents. The signing was the culmination of six years of work by the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group, which includes the major public safety unions in the Commonwealth. This year’s effort was spearheaded by the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (MassCOP), the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA), and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Association as part of a coalition of many different groups and interested individuals all pursuing the goal of providing protection to individuals involved in stressful critical incidents.

The law, which is entitled “An Act Relative to Critical Incident Intervention by Emergency Service Providers”, makes communications between emergency service providers, such as police officers, firefighters and EMTs, with crisis intervention personnel confidential and privileged (with certain exceptions). The purpose of the law is to allow first responders at critical incidents to obtain needed counseling and crisis intervention services without having to worry about whether conversations that occur in that context will later be disclosed. Without this law, a stress counselor or other crisis intervention specialist could be forced to testify in court about what a first responder said as part of counseling and treatment. The privilege created by this law is similar to the laws protecting confidentiality of conversations with psychotherapists. These laws recognize that the mental health of these individuals is a priority, and keeping the communications confidential will allow the individuals to participate fully in the counseling without having to worry about whether these conversations will be disclosed in future proceedings.

The law recognizes that stress and trauma experienced by police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders when responding to critical incidents can cause serious long term psychological harm and, in the worst cases, lead to PTSD, substance abuse, and even suicide. Getting stress counselors and other crisis intervention personnel to the scenes of critical incidents to provide assistance to these first responders is crucial in preventing long-term harm, but such intervention will be more effective if all parties know that the communications made in the course of such intervention will be kept confidential.

The new law recognizes that in certain situations, the privilege will not apply. These include situations in which a crisis intervention specialist reasonably believes that the first responder: (1) is an imminent threat of harming himself or others; (2) has engaged in child abuse; or (3) has admitted to committing a crime or violating a law normally enforced by the public safety agency that employs him. The privilege would also not apply to crisis intervention specialists who were themselves first responders or witnesses to the critical incident, or to situations in which the first responder has disclosed the information to a third party (other than his attorney, spouse or psychotherapist).

Third time was a charm for this bill, as this was the third consecutive legislative session in which it was filed. Rep. Edward Coppinger of West Roxbury guided the bill through the committee process in the House, and Sen. Michael Moore carried it through the Senate. Also crucial to the process on the House side were Reps. Hank Naughton, Ted Speliotis, Dan Cahill, Tim Whelan, Tom Walsh and John Lawn. Leaders of the legislative effort, including Larry Calderone of the BPPA, John Nelson of MassCOP and Michael Muse of the Boston Detectives, met with the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House DeLeo and Senate President Spilka, among others, to shepherd this bill to success this December.

The text of the law, which is now Chapter 329 of the Acts of 2018, can be found here.

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police Present our 2019 Training Series

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police are proud to announce our 2019 police union training series.

Sandulli Grace and MassCOP believe in empowering MassCOP’s local unions through education, to create a stronger, safer environment for members. Our 2019 training sessions will give you tools to enforce your rights and improve your members’ working conditions.

Basics Trainings

In the past two years, MassCOP and Sandulli Grace have presented multiple “basics” trainings to our police unions. We believe there is a continued need for these trainings, as unions continue to elect new leaders, and new legal challenges present themselves every day. Topics include:

• Grievance Processing
• Discipline
• Bargaining
• Stress in the Workplace

Whether you are newly elected, or a seasoned union leader looking for ideas on how to make your job easier and more effective, these basics trainings can give you helpful information about issues that local unions face every day.

Our first basics training of 2019 will be held on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at the Acton, Massachusetts Police Department. Please see the attached flyer for registration details. The cost is $55 per person. Payment can be by check mailed to Gia Capozzi at Sandulli Grace, P.C., 44 School Street, Suite 1100, Boston, MA 02018, or by credit card at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/sandulli-grace-18167930473.

The second basics training of 2019 will be held in the fall at a location to be announced. We hold these trainings in difference regions of the state each time, to make it easier for all of our members to attend. Previous trainings have been held in Southbridge, Foxborough, Wakefield and Stockbridge.

Advanced Trainings

We presented an “advanced” training in October 2018, offering in-depth discussions of issues such as discharge, unfair labor practices, retirement, injury leave and health insurance. This training was extremely well-attended, and we decided to make it an annual event. Our 2019 advanced training will focus on bargaining your next contract – for example, gathering and identifying comparables, drafting proposals, negotiating at the table, analyzing ability to pay, getting the contract funded, and navigating the JLMC process. The 2019 advanced training will take place in the spring of 2019 (date and location to be announced).

We welcome your feedback regarding the location and content of these training sessions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions at gcapozzi@sandulligrace.com.

Download the Flyer for Jan. 30 2019 Acton Training

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police Present our 2019 Training Series

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police are proud to announce our 2019 police union training series.

Sandulli Grace and MassCOP believe in empowering MassCOP’s local unions through education, to create a stronger, safer environment for members. Our 2019 training sessions will give you tools to enforce your rights and improve your members’ working conditions.

Basics Trainings

In the past two years, MassCOP and Sandulli Grace have presented multiple “basics” trainings to our police unions. We believe there is a continued need for these trainings, as unions continue to elect new leaders, and new legal challenges present themselves every day. Topics include:

• Grievance Processing
• Discipline
• Bargaining
• Stress in the Workplace

Whether you are newly elected, or a seasoned union leader looking for ideas on how to make your job easier and more effective, these basics trainings can give you helpful information about issues that local unions face every day.

Our first basics training of 2019 will be held on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at the Acton, Massachusetts Police Department. Please see the attached flyer for registration details. The cost is $55 per person. Payment can be by check mailed to Gia Capozzi at Sandulli Grace, P.C., 44 School Street, Suite 1100, Boston, MA 02018, or by credit card at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/sandulli-grace-18167930473.

The second basics training of 2019 will be held in the fall at a location to be announced. We hold these trainings in difference regions of the state each time, to make it easier for all of our members to attend. Previous trainings have been held in Southbridge, Foxborough, Wakefield and Stockbridge.

Advanced Trainings

We presented an “advanced” training in October 2018, offering in-depth discussions of issues such as discharge, unfair labor practices, retirement, injury leave and health insurance. This training was extremely well-attended, and we decided to make it an annual event. Our 2019 advanced training will focus on bargaining your next contract – for example, gathering and identifying comparables, drafting proposals, negotiating at the table, analyzing ability to pay, getting the contract funded, and navigating the JLMC process. The 2019 advanced training will take place in the spring of 2019 (date and location to be announced).

We welcome your feedback regarding the location and content of these training sessions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions at gcapozzi@sandulligrace.com.

Download the Flyer for Jan. 30 2019 Acton Training