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Legal Obligations of Businesses Relative to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Legal Obligations of Businesses Relative to the COVID-19 Pandemic

As of March 16, 2020 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has cancelled public and private schools for three (3) weeks, various colleges and universities have moved entirely online and required students to move out, and gatherings of 25 or more individuals have been prohibited. There is a civic responsibility for business to take action to help ensure the safety of its employees.  While employee safety is paramount, businesses face several additional business and legal challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some of the challenges that may be faced by businesses are outlined below, as well as measures that may be taken to address these challenges.
Gather Information and Stay Informed
Businesses should identify and follow authoritative sources of public health guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to officially recommended and mandated actions in their relevant jurisdictions.  Helpful resources include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The World Health Organization, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Businesses should utilize the above-named sources to serve as the basis for all organizational decisions relative to both health and legal-risk mitigation.  A decision made by a business relative to COVID-19 response that is in alignment with official recommendations from any of the above-named resources would be an important legal safeguard should a business’s infection-control methods be challenged.
Communicate with Employees
Businesses should be able to demonstrate that they have provided employees with accurate information on how to minimize the spread of COVID-19 for both legal and practical reasons.  Businesses may accomplish this by educating employees regarding COVID-19 symptoms, precautionary measures, and official sources of information that employees may rely on for current COVID-19 information.
Maintain a Sanitary and Disinfected Work Environment
Businesses should take reasonable precautions […]

Who Let the Dogs Out: Massachusetts Dog Owner Liability and Dog Bite Injury Laws

Who Let the Dogs Out: Massachusetts Dog Owner Liability and Dog Bite Injury Laws
Injuries from Dog Bites are Common and Often Serious
Every year, approximately 4.7 million Americans are victims of a dog bite attack.  About 60% of all dog bite victims are children and 77% of all dog bite injuries to children under 10 tend to be facial.  Around 12 individuals die from dog bite incidents annually.  In 2019, 14 year old Ryan Hazel from Dighton, Massachusetts, was tragically killed on May 9, 2019 after being attacked by a number of dogs, and in April 2019, a Taunton woman and her dog were attacked by six pitbulls—resulting in severe injuries to the woman and the death of the woman’s dog.  In 2012, dog bites accounted for about one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims with a total cost of $489 million.  So what should the public be aware of—both as dog owners and as individuals who may simply come into contact with a dog—regarding Massachusetts Dog Owner Liability and Dog Bite Injury Laws?  We have outlined below a brief synopsis of what you should be informed and provide answers to some frequently asked questions:
Massachusetts Law on Dog Bites
Massachusetts has its own statute covering dog bites, M.G.L. c. 140, Section 155.  This statute states “If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or […]

Major Changes to Massachusetts Law on Non-Compete Agreements

Major Changes to Massachusetts Law on Non-Compete Agreements

Non-Compete Agreements are contracts entered into by both employer and employee regarding post-employment activities. The Agreement is used to limit an employee in their future employment options. These limitations may include whether you can leave your current position and immediately work in a competing field or by prohibiting you from taking other employees/customers with you when you leave, all for an agreed upon amount of time.

In October 2018, the newly enacted reform to the Massachusetts Non—Compete law took effect, extending wide benefits to those employees subject to a non-compete, while eliminating non-competes for certain types of employees. First, the law only affects those contracts that were entered into AFTER October 1, 2018 and only affects non-competition agreements and not other forms of restrictive covenants. Additionally, a non-compete that is in effect DURING employment is likewise not affected.

There were several major changes to the law which will affect both business and employees equally. The new law includes the elimination of non-competes for non-exempt hourly employees, thus establishing that qualified salaried employees are the only employees that may be subject to a non-compete. Additionally, a non-compete for a salaried employee cannot extend longer than one year (with a few exceptions) and will not be enforceable if the employee is terminated without cause or is laid off. A new employee must be presented with a non-compete agreement at least ten (10) days prior to their start date or when a formal offer is presented and must be signed by both the employer and employee and contain a clause providing the employee with the right to have counsel review. The last major change and perhaps the most substantial is the inclusion of a “garden leave” provision in […]

By |November 14th, 2019|Employment law|0 Comments|

Guardian Ad Litem v. ARC Attorney

 

In Massachusetts, the standard set by the legislature regarding custody (legal and physical) of minor children is what is in the children’s “best interest”. In highly contested custody cases, it is sometimes necessary to involve additional professionals to assist the Court in making this determination.  Two types of professionals are Guardian Ad Litems and ARC attorneys.
Guardian Ad Litem
Guardian Ad Litems (GALs) are typically either mental health professionals who specialize in working with separating families or family law attorneys who have taken additional required training in order to act in this capacity.  The appointment of a GAL can be requested by one or both of the parties or appointed by the Judge in her/her discretion. The role of the GAL is to determine what is in the best interests of the children and to provide the Court with a report regarding their investigation and their conclusion. The GAL speaks with the parties, the children and other collaterals (family members, friends, teachers, etc.).  If a GAL wants to speak with the children’s therapist then a special GAL has to be appointed to determine whether or not the children’s therapist-patient privilege should be waived. The GAL’s report is available for the parties and attorneys to review at the courthouse. The GAL can be called to testify in court. Judges often given great deference to the GAL report.

The cost of the GAL is expensive and may range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the nature of the case.  If the parties have assets or access to funds, the Court will often order the parties to share the cost equally.  In some cases, the Court will designate that one party pay for the GAL in full or the parties […]

Is Shared Physical Custody Possible?

There has been a growing trend in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts in the philosophy that parents should, barring certain circumstances, have shared physical custody of their minor children.  In this firm, we have seen a trend of parents who ask for what’s “fair” or “half of the time”.  However, a parenting plan is dynamic and may not always appear to be equal.  Custody is possible to share but whether it’s in the best interest of the child(ren) is determined by the parties or ultimately the Court.

Physical custody is defined by where the children reside and who is responsible for making the day-to-day decisions regarding the children. Traditionally in a divorce, it was automatically presumed the mother was the primary caretaker of the children during the relationship/marriage and therefore, she was awarded primary physical custody of the children.  In Paternity cases, (where the parties are unmarried) under the law, it still is presumed to be the Mother.

With that said, times are changing.  Women are working and becoming more and more financially independent.  With that, father’s rights have come to the forefront and courts have started to analyze the question, “why not?”.  If we have two working, capable, and loving parents – who both work, rely on others for various caretaking tasks and chores, what’s the tie breaker?  We see that there are more dual-income families, there has been a real shift in a shared parenting plans.  Children perform better when parents can continue their relationship post-divorce.  Clearly, this is not the same husband/wife relationship but the relationship should evolve to a co-parenting relationship.  This is what is required to have a successful shared physical custody plan.  The Courts have seen an increase in shared […]

Minimum Wage Increase/ Retail Sunday Pay

In addition to Paid Family and Medical Leave, the act signed by Governor Baker on June 28, 2018, the act also increases the minimum wage in Massachusetts and eliminates the Premium Pay for retail establishments on Sundays.

By the year 2023 the basic Massachusetts minimum wage will be $15.00 an hour and the tipped minimum wage will be $6.75 per hour, a dramatic increase from the current amounts of $11.00 an hour and $4.35 per hours. These amounts will not increase over night but will rather gradually increase beginning in January 2020.

January 1, 2020 = $12.75 per hour; $4.95 per hour (tipped);
January 1, 2021 = $13.50 per hour; $5.55 per hour (tipped);
January 1, 2022 = $14.25 per hour; $6.15 per hour (tipped); and
January 1, 2023 = $15.00 per hours; $6.75 per hour (tipped)

As a form of compromise for the increase in minimum wage and paid family medical leave, the act also will affect employees of retail establishments by gradually eliminating the “time and half” payment of wages on Sundays.

January 1, 2019 = 1.4 x the employee’s regular rate of pay;
January 1, 2020 = 1.3 times the employee’s regular rate of pay;
January 1, 2021 = 1.2 times the employee’s regular rate of pay;
January 1, 2022 = 1.1 times the employee’s regular rate of pay; and
January 1, 2023 = Employees regular rate of pay

The new changes to law will not affect an employee’s ability to refuse to work on Sundays as previously allowed. The prohibitions against discrimination and retaliation regarding an employee’s right to refuse to work on Sundays will remain in full force and effect.

Authored by Eric B. Langfield, Esq.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a new comprehensive law that will require that employees in Massachusetts receive paid family and medical leave. Previously, Massachusetts employees were only afforded unpaid leave for family and medical issues, usually stemming from either the MPLA, the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (formerly the MMLA, Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act) or from the Federal FMLA, Family Medical Leave Act.

The new act will allow for employees to receive a portion of their pay for up to twelve (12) weeks of paid leave to care for an ill family member or for the birth (or adoption) of a child. The act will also allow for up to twenty (20) weeks of paid leave to care for their own serious medical issues. The benefit amount will be determined based upon a percentage of the employee’s weekly income, but will not exceed $850.00 per week.

While the law has been signed into law the formalities of the new act have yet to implemented. On March 31, 2019 the first set of proposed regulations will be published which will allow for more guidance on how the new law will affect employers. On or about July 1, 2019, the Commonwealth will begin collecting a new payroll tax of 0.63% to help pay for this very generous benefit. Employees will be able to utilize this new benefit beginning January 1, 2021.

In addition to creating paid family and medical leave, the act also places a strong retaliation provision for employers who unfairly retaliate against an employee for engaging in this new program.

By |April 24th, 2019|Employment law|0 Comments|

Does a spouse have to pay for nursing home care?

 

There is a long-established principal of law that holds that spouses are jointly and severally liable for debts incurred to third-parties for “necessities” (i.e., common-law doctrine of necessaries). Essentially, under the doctrine of necessities, a spouse is equally responsible for payment of a debt incurred for the provision of life’s essentials. For example, a husband is equally responsible for a debt incurred exclusively by his wife (i.e., husband was not a party to the transaction) for groceries or housing.

The Massachusetts legislature has enacted a law codifying this common-law doctrine, Mass. Gen. Laws. ch 209, § 1 (“G.L. ch. 209”). Under G.L. ch. 209, “spouses shall be liable jointly or severally for debts incurred on account of necessaries furnished to either spouse or to a member of their family.” While the G.L. ch. 209 does not define “necessities”, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court has stated, when discussing the common-law doctrine, that the term is “not confined to articles of food or clothing required to sustain life, but has a much broader meaning and includes such articles for use by a wife as are suitable to maintain her according to the property and condition in life of her husband.” Jordan Marsh Co. v. Cohen, 242 Mass. 245, 249 (1922).

Consequently, the Courts have found that necessities include nursing home care. See Mediplex of Mass., Inc. v. Donovan, 1994 Mass.App.Div. 123, 1994 WL 361967 (1994) and Emerson Vill., LLC v. Jode, No. MICV201201736F, 2012 WL 6928123 (Mass. Super. Dec. 15, 2012). In Emerson, husband and wife (“Husband” and “Wife”) were a long-married couple. In April 2010, Husband was admitted to skilled nursing facility (“Nursing Home”) for long term care. Husband applied for MassHealth long term care benefits (“Benefits”) to […]

#MeToo Movement in Massachusetts

#MeToo Movement in Massachusetts
In October 2017 the nation was hit with a movement that was drastically overdue, the #MeToo movement. The movement was a viral sensation in which victims of sexual harassment came forward in droves to proclaim that they too have been victims, many of whom shared their stories in hopes that it would bring attention to sexual harassment and would likewise encourage others who have not reported their sexual harassment to come forward.

One of the most important aspects to the #MeToo movement is letting victims of sexual harassment to know that they are not alone. Too often victims feel as though they will be ostracized and retaliated against for coming forward. The #MeToo movement has brought this issue to the forefront of discrimination and has empowered victims to no longer remain silent.

In Massachusetts, M.G.L. c. 151B operates to make sexual harassment in the workplace unlawful. In general, there are two main areas of sexual harassment, Quid Pro Quo (this for that), and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Quid Pro Quo consists of a person with authority over another using that authority to force the victim into committing sexual acts that they otherwise would not have performed. For example, conditioning a raise or promotion upon the acceptance of sexual advances. Hostile work environment sexual harassment exists when unwanted comments, action and sexual advances exist and cause an interference with one’s ability to perform their job. Both are unlawful and can subject the perpetrators and their employers to various forms of damages.

If you believe that you have been a victim of unlawful sexual harassment it is important that you make a complaint right away. In addition to providing your employer with important information that […]

Criminal Defense Attorney is Now in Quincy

Your Criminal Defense Attorney is Now in Quincy!
Cohen Cleary, P.C. has added a new criminal defense location to southeastern Massachusetts. We now offers our legal experience to Quincy, MA along with the surrounding communities from our office at:

21 Franklin St., 3rd Fl, Quincy, MA.

With a comprehensive law enforcement background, we pride ourselves with our criminal defense experience that allows us to defend your rights zealously.

Out of the vast areas of criminal charges we handle, some of the primary practice areas our Trial Lawyers focus on include:

Operating Under the Influence/Drunk Driving
Drug Crimes
Restraining Orders
Domestic Assault and Battery.
Probation Violation

For any of these issues, we can be reached day or night at cell# (508) 269-3051 or during business hours you can call our main office line at (508) 880-6677.

If you or someone you know requires a defense attorney at our new location in Quincy, or at any of our other locations in Raynham and Plymouth, please contact us to discuss the possibility of retaining our firm to assist in your criminal defense.

With an emphasis on honest representation, knowledge of the law and trial advocacy, this practice is committed to understanding each client’s unique circumstances, setting a plan of action, and getting results. Call us today!

By |December 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments|