June 28, 2017

Client Updates

Back to School: Essential Estate Planning for College-Age Students

For many, starting college often marks the entry into young adult hood. For many students, this will be the first time that they are living away from home.   For those young adults who are over the age of eighteen, this is also the perfect time to execute advance directives and a financial power of attorney to ensure that their affairs may be taken care of in the event of disability, illness or accident. Here are three documents to put on your “back to school” list:

Health Care Proxy: A health care proxy grants an agent to make healthcare or medical decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them yourself. A health care proxy is often referred to as a “springing” document because it takes effect only after your doctor declares you incapable of making health care decisions. Until such time, you make your own healthcare decisions. Without a health care proxy there is no certainty that another individual, such as a parent, will have the legal authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so and may even be limited in the kind of information they may receive from medical professionals. [Read more…]

Attorney General Offers Safe Harbor For Certain Massachusetts Businesses

The July 1, 2015 effective date for the new Sick Leave law is rapidly approaching. Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office held the first in a series of public hearing sessions concerning the new law. Among other things, the Attorney General’s office confirmed that the law would go into effect on July 1, 2015, as planned, and that the proposed Regulations issued earlier this month were on track to be finalized by June 19, 2015.

Additionally, the Attorney General’s office also announced a “Safe Harbor” period which would delay full implementation of the law for certain employers. The “Safe Harbor” provision allows certain businesses with existing paid time off policies to be deemed in compliance with the new law while those businesses work toward fully integrating the new law’s provisions into their own existing leave policies. The “Safe Harbor” will be in effect from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. During that period, an employer will be deemed in compliance with the new law if: [Read more…]

Regulations Clarifying the New Earned Sick Time Law in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Attorney General has issued regulations clarifying the new Earned Sick Time law. Please click here to view the CODE OF MASSACHUSETTS REGULATIONS TITLE 940.

The Attorney General has also scheduled hearings for all interested persons to present data, views, or arguments regarding the establishment and enforcement of the Earned Sick Time law. Please click here to view a list of EARNED SICK TIME HEARING LOCATIONS throughout the Commonwealth.

Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C. is comitted to providing our business clients comprehensive coverage and information regarding this new law and how it may affect their business. Please check our Business Blog in the coming weeks for more information.

Part V: Suggestions for Complying with the New “Sick Time” Law

On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ballot Question 4, approving a new law that imposes significant obligations on employers to provide earned sick time to employees. Last week, we examined some common misconceptions employers have about the new sick time law.

As we noted in prior articles, the new sick time law goes into effect on July 1, 2015. Employers should begin taking measures to ensure they are ready to comply with the law when it becomes effective. Employers who fail to comply with the law will be subject to significant penalties and liability.

First, employers should review their existing sick time and leave policies to determine what changes, if any, they will be required to make. Notably, not all existing sick time policies will have to be changed. Some existing plans may already offer benefits at a level that complies with the statute. Employers should speak to their legal counsel to determine whether existing plans already comply with the new law.

Also, employers should consider developing procedures for tracking employee sick time accrual and use, as well as a system for processing sick time pay (if applicable). As we described in prior articles, the new law provides numerous acceptable uses for sick time. Consequently, employers may find it difficult to accurately track what time an employee has used for “sick time” purposes and what time was used for other purposes such as vacation leave. Existing practices simply may not be sufficient. [Read more…]

Part IV: Misconceptions Regarding the New “Sick Time” Law

On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ballot Question 4, approving a new law that imposes significant obligations on employers to provide earned sick time to employees. In our prior blog, we examined potential pitfalls and penalties that employers may face when dealing with employee sick time issues. This week’s article explores common misconceptions regarding the law.

Employers have numerous misconceptions regarding the new “sick time” law. Below, we have addressed three of the most common misconceptions.

One mistaken view that was reported in the media (and is widely believed by employers) is that the law does not apply to employers with less than 11 employees. This is incorrect. The law applies to nearly all employers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, excluding the United States government and certain Massachusetts cities and towns. The key difference is that employers with less than 11 employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to employees, while employers with 11 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to employees to be paid at the employee’s normal hourly pay rate. We addressed this issue in detail in our first blog article on the new sick time law[Read more…]

Part III: Traps for Unwary Employers

On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ballot Question 4, approving a new law that imposes significant obligations on employers to provide earned sick time to employees. In our last installment, Part II: Use of Sick Time under the New Law, we examined the circumstances under which an employee may use sick time under the new law . This week’s article highlights some of the potential pitfalls for employers that come with the new sick time law.

This week our focus shifts to some of the numerous ways employers may unwittingly violate the broad, employee-friendly provisions of the new law and the potential penalties, fines and lawsuits such violations may foster.

Although the new law requires employees to make a “good faith effort” to give advanced notice that sick time will be used and to provide certification of the need for sick time when an earned sick time period covers more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours, employers seeking to enforce these provisions may unwittingly violate the new law. Employers may not require that the certification explain the nature of the illness or the details of any domestic violence that gave rise to the use of sick time. Also, employers cannot condition payment for paid sick time (or delay approval of sick leave) upon receipt of such certification. The provisions of the new law call into question if an employer should request a certification ( i.e. a note from a doctor) to confirm that an employee was actually receiving medical care, particularly since the new sick time law allows employees to take “sick time” when they are not the ones who are sick. See the last blog post on the numerous and broad allowed uses of “sick time”. [Read more…]

Part II: Use of Sick Time under the New Law

On November 4, 2014 Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ballot Question 4, approving a new law granting employees significant rights to earn and take sick time and imposing new burdens on employers. Last week, we examined the issue of how the new law applies to various Massachusetts employers. This week’s article explores the circumstances under which employees may use their earned sick time under the new law.

Question 4 creates new obligations for employers to provide employees with leave for sick time. Under the new law, employees can use sick time to cover a wide variety of events and circumstances. Employees will be allowed to use sick time in many situations where employers may not have allowed it in the past and which do not actually involve the employee being sick.

Specifically, the new law requires employers to provide sick time for employees to:

(1) care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care; or

(2) care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care; or

(3) attend the employee’s routine medical appointment or a routine medical appointment for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse; or

(4) address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence.

Employees are, to the extent possible, required to make a “good faith effort” to give advance notice that sick time will be used. Employers may require certification of the need for sick time when an earned sick time period covers more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. However, employers cannot condition payment for paid sick time, or delay approval of sick time, upon receipt of such certification, and may not require that the certification explain the nature of the illness or the details of any domestic violence. There are severe penalties for violation of the sick time law such that we encourage employers to avoid asking prying questions or conditioning approval of sick time requests upon obtaining a doctor’s note. We will address potential penalties in our third article next week.

The new statute appears to overlap with certain portions of the Commonwealth’s domestic violence leave law passed in August 2014, which requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least 15 days of leave to employees for addressing the impacts of domestic violence. Under that law, the employer is free to determine whether the leave will be paid or unpaid. Notably, the domestic violence leave law requires an employee to first exhaust all annual or vacation leave, personal leave and sick leave unless the employer allows otherwise

Please read Part III: Traps for Unwary Employers concerning the new sick time law and its effect on Massachusetts businesses. If you have questions about Question 4, changes to employee sick time laws, or about any other employment law issues, please contact Attorney Michael P. Doherty, Andrew M. Kepple or one of our other employment attorneys at 508 541-3000.

New Massachusetts Law Granting Employees Earned Sick Time

On November 4, 2014 Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ballot Question 4, approving a new law granting employees significant rights to earn and take sick time. The article below, the first in our series of articles examining the new law, addresses the applicability of the law to various businesses in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts General Law c. 149 §148C, which becomes effective on July 1, 2015, will require employers to provide up to 40 hours of earned sick time to employees each calendar year. Employees will earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Earned sick time will start to accrue on the date of hire or July 1, 2015 (whichever is later).

Of note, the statute has different sick time requirements depending on the size of an employer. Businesses with less than 11 employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to employees. Businesses with 11 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to employees, to be paid at the employee’s normal hourly pay rate. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Voters Approve Ballot Question Regarding Sick Time

Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 4 during the election earlier this month. Question 4 creates new obligations for employers to provide employees leave for “sick time”, which is broadly defined in the new statute to include events that you may not at first consider “sick time”, such as:

(1) care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care; or

(2) care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care; or

(3) attend the employee’s routine medical appointment or a routine medical appointment for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse; or

(4) address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence.

The new law will take effect on July 1, 2015, which will allow you time to review and, if needed, revise your policies and procedures for leave. We believe that the details of the sick time law will force many employers to change some of their policies and add record keeping obligations. [Read more…]

Properly Classifying Workers in Massachusetts

Massachusetts law (as well as Federal law) draws a distinction between “employees” of a business and “independent contractors” who perform work benefiting a business. A worker’s classification has a significant impact on the employer and the employee, including the way workers are paid, availability of benefits, the ability to collect unemployment and workers compensation payments. Massachusetts laws impose harsh penalties on businesses that improperly classify employees as independent contractors. Business organizations that improperly classify employees as independent contractors could be subject to tax penalties, civil lawsuits, and potential criminal penalties. The first step in avoiding such penalties is to better understand the distinction between employees and independent contractors.

Massachusetts General Law c. 149 § 148B sets forth three criteria that must be satisfied in order to properly classify a worker as an independent contractor (the “Three Prong Test”). Notably, all three of these criteria must be satisfied before a worker can be classified as an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee. The criteria applied under Massachusetts law as follows:

(1) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service;

(2) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and

(3) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed. [Read more…]

Recent SJC Decision Expands Strict Liability for Some Commercial Property Owners

In most personal injury cases, the injured must show that the damage she suffered was due to some intentional or negligent act by another party.  However, in certain situations, the law may impose “strict liability”, which allows liability against a party without evidence of fault.  Traditionally, strict liability has been limited to a small number of situations, such as injuries caused by hazardous activities (such as blasting), harm caused by livestock, and on-the-job injuries that fall within workers’ compensation laws.   Under the doctrine of strict liability, a defendant is liable for all harm that occurs, even where the injured party caused or contributed to the harm occurring.

In April 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision in the case of Sheehan v. Weaver, 467 Mass. 734 (2014), which expanded the application of strict liability against certain commercial property owners.  The Sheehan case dealt with an injury that occurred at a mixed-use residential/commercial property.  Notably, the plaintiff sued the property owner under Massachusetts General Law c. 143 § 51, which imposes strict liability on owners of “a place of assembly, theatre, special hall, public hall….manufacturing establishment or building” for any damage caused by a violation of the state building code.    The SJC determined that Section 51 applies strict liability for harm caused by any violation of the state building code.  This decision overruled longstanding precedent which limited strict liability to only certain violations of the state building code relating to fire safety. [Read more…]

Financing for Franchise Restaurant

Attorney Craig A. Ciechanowski successfully completed a complex financing transaction for a client involving a number of quick-serve franchise restaurants in multiple states.

Parameters of “Health Care Decisions” Under the Health Care Proxy Statute

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided two cases which touched upon an issue that many medical facilities and health care providers encounter on a regular basis.  Specifically, the SJC addressed the issue of what constitutes a health care decision that can be made on a patient’s behalf by a party acting under a health care proxy.

In the Johnson v. Kindred Healthcare and Licata v. GGNSC Malden Dexter LLC cases, the Supreme Judicial Court decided whether a health care agent’s actions could bind a patient to an arbitration agreement with a medical facility.  In both cases, the health care agent signed an arbitration agreement on behalf of an elderly relative.  The SJC held that signing an arbitration agreement was not a “health care decision” as the term is defined in the Health Care Proxy Statute.  Notably, the SJC explained that health care decisions are limited to those decisions that “directly involve the provision of responsible medical services, procedures, or treatment of the principal’s physical or mental condition.”

[Read more…]

Legal Protection for “Whistleblower” Employees in Massachusetts

The term “whistleblower” usually refers to an employee who reports an employer’s wrongdoing to a government agency or law enforcement organization.  In some cases, employers may attempt to take retaliatory action by discharging, suspending, or demoting a whistleblower.  However, there are a variety of state and federal laws which protect whistleblowing employees from employer retaliation.

At the state level, Massachusetts G.L. c. 149 § 185 protects public employees who engage in whistleblowing activity.  Section 185 states that a public employer may not retaliate against an employee who discloses (or threatens to disclose) practices which the employee reasonably believes are in violation of certain laws, rules, or regulations.  Employees who are subject to wrongful retaliation may be awarded reinstatement of employment, benefits, attorneys’ fees, and up to three times the amount of wages that were lost due to the retaliation.

[Read more…]

Employment Discrimination Claims in the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (“MCAD”)

The Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (MCAD) is the administrative agency that enforces the Commonwealth’s anti-discrimination laws.  It handles a wide range of employment discrimination claims, including cases where individuals allege discrimination by an employer on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or handicap.  Although the MCAD resolves disputes and may award monetary damages, it is not part of the court system and has many policies and procedures which can be unfamiliar and confusing to employees and employers alike.

An MCAD action usually begins when an individual files a complaint.  If the MCAD has jurisdiction, it will send a formal written complaint to the person or organization against whom the complaint has been filed.  At that time, the employer is allowed to submit a position statement and an investigative conference involving the parties occurs.

[Read more…]

How the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Statute Can Protect Homeowners

Every year countless home improvement projects result in disputes between homeowners and the contractors they hire to perform work.  Fortunately, the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Act, M.G.L. c. 142A (the “HICA”) was enacted in 1992 to protect homeowners in their dealings with home improvement contractors.  The HICA created a guaranty fund which can be used to reimburse homeowners for certain losses caused by contractors who go bankrupt or cannot be located to collect a judgment.  Also, the HICA establishes a program which allows homeowners to participate in arbitration to resolve disputes with their contractors. [Read more…]

Water, Water Everywhere…Massachusetts ‘Common Enemy Rule’ to ‘Reasonable Use Doctrine’

It’s a fact of life that surface water such as rain and snowmelt tends to move from higher elevations to lower elevations. Construction often changes the flow of surface water on a property, causing an increase in runoff which may affect neighboring lots.  Disputes often arise between property owners when excessive runoff flows from one lot onto another.  Do you know what rights you may have if a neighbor’s actions have caused increased surface water to flow onto your property?

For over 100 years, Massachusetts Courts followed the colorfully-named “Common Enemy Rule”, which protected property owners who attempted to remove or divert surface water from their land.  The Common Enemy Doctrine held that, with few exceptions, a property owner would not be liable for damages to adjoining property resulting from activities taken on his own property which affected the flow of surface water.   [Read more…]

Relocating an Easement under Massachusetts Law

An easement is a legal right allowing one party to use and enjoy a portion of a second party’s property for a certain purpose without actually owning it.  Easements are common in residential situations.  For example, you may hold an easement allowing you to cross a portion of your neighbor’s property to access the street.  Also, you may have a neighbor who holds an easement allowing her to cross your property to gain access to a public park or pathway.  [Read more…]

What’s in your Employee Handbook?

By Craig A. Ciechanowski, Esq.

A recent Federal District Court decision has sent a strong reminder to employers that crucial employment policies need to be standalone policies and not simply included in an employee handbook which the employer reserves the right to change.

In Domenichetti v. The Salter School, LLC, a former employee brought a claim for retaliation she claimed to have suffered after requesting maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The employer sought to enforce an arbitration provision included in its employee handbook to block the suit.  The Court refused to enforce the provision, finding that the employer retained the unilateral right to modify the handbook without notice.

Crucial employment policies should be in standalone, separate, mutually binding agreements, which the employee must acknowledge, sign and return to the employer.

For questions about any business matters, contact Craig A. Ciechanowski, Esq. at cac@dcdclaw.com or one of the business attorneys at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C.

It Depends Upon What the Meaning of “Permanent” Is

By Attorney Jennifer Taddeo

Throughout this year, many estate planning meetings have been kicked off by clients telling me that since Congress permanently set the federal estate tax exemption at $5 million, indexed for inflation ($5.25 million in 2013), there was no need to talk about estate taxes.

I always point out, first, that the Massachusetts estate tax exemption remains at $1 million with no anticipated change. Then I explain that, while I don’t expect it to change, “permanent” in this case does not mean that it can’t change. What Congress did in early 2013 was to remove any expiration date from the estate tax laws. For the first time in over 10 years, we had no concerns about “sunsetting” provisions or countdowns. However, Congress has the power to change the laws that it makes.

Earlier this month, President Obama presented his 2014 budget . In this budget, there is a proposal that, beginning in 2018, the federal estate tax exemption drop to $3.5 million, only $1 million of which could be used during lifetime, and neither figure would be indexed to inflation. Further, the proposal calls for an increase in the estate tax rates, with the top rate rising from 40% to 45%. A number of estate tax planning and minimization tools are targeted in the proposal as well.

A proposal is a long way from a law, however, the existence of a proposal to change a law passed only 4 months ago is a reminder that estate planning must be revisited regularly to insure that your plan remains appropriate based upon changing laws and changing circumstances.

Employers and New Form I-9

By law, all employers (public and private), must obtain from each employee a completed Form 1-9 no later than the first day of employment.  The employer is required to physically examine documentation provided by the employee which establishes the employee’s identity and employment authorization.  The employer must complete the employer’s portion of Form 1-9 no later than the third day after employment commences.

A new Form I-9 has been issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services be used by May 7, 2013.  A copy of the new form could be found at www.uscis.gov.  The new form need only be used for new employees; if the employer has a properly completed Form I-9 on file, a new form is not required.

For questions about any business matters, contact Craig A. Ciechanowski, Esq. or one of the business attorneys at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C.

How To Sign On Behalf Of A Corporation Or LLC

One of the reasons most business owners form a corporation or limited liability company is to avoid personal liability for the liabilities of the business.  Unfortunately, many business owners expose themselves to personal liability by not properly identifying the business when they sign agreements.  It defeats the purpose of forming the business entity if Joe Smith forms his business as XYZ, Inc. but then signs a contract with a supplier as simply “Joe Smith”. In order to maintain the benefit of the separate entity and avoid personal liability, the business owner should sign contracts, proposals, agreements and any other documents for a business as follows:

[Read more…]

Congress Rings in 2013 With Gift and Estate Tax Changes

By Attorney Jennifer Taddeo

After sessions lasting late into the night on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Congress has passed a tax bill that, among other things, resolves the past few years of uncertainty for gift and estate tax planning. Just before the ball dropped on 2012, we had a $5.12 million federal gift and estate tax exemption and a tax rate of 35% on each dollar over the exemption. Until this agreement is signed into law, which President Obama is expected to do in the coming days, we actually have a $1 million federal gift and estate tax exemption and a tax rate of 55% on each dollar over the exemption.

The bill being signed into law is retroactive to January 1st and keeps the federal gift and estate tax exemption amount at $5.12million, while bringing the tax rate for every dollar above that to 40%. The exemption amount is tied to inflation and will increase automatically in future years. Unlike the last few changes to the gift and estate tax laws, this change is permanent – meaning there is no scheduled end to this exemption amount or this tax rate. However, Congress could revisit this issue at any time and make changes. [Read more…]

Trusts and property transactions for minors and incapacitated adults

By Attorney John Dugan

Until recently, a family member or friend had to be appointed conservator to protect or manage property for a minor child or mentally incapacitated adult. This required expensive and time-consuming court filings, appointment of a guardian ad litem, annual accounts, filings, audits and court expenses, and public disclosure of values and finances.

Courts can now approve protective arrangements or single transactions for property of a minor child or incapacitated adult without a conservatorship. The new law can be found at Mass. General Laws, Chapter 190B, Section 5-408.

This law can be very helpful where:

  • a minor or incapacitated adult recovers funds for a claim or lawsuit
  • a minor or incapacitated adult inherits money or real estate
  • real is to be bought, sold or mortgaged for a minor or incapacitated adult
  • Money belonging to a minor or incapacitated person is to be put into a trust

Some people have powers of attorney that designated a trusted agent to manage money and property if the principal becomes senile or mentally incapacitated. However, situations often occur where the power of attorney does not allow the agent to create a new trust, or take out a reverse mortgage, or buy or sell real estate. The new law can expand the power of attorney, or give a family member or friend authority to conduct business for a minor or incapacitated adult without a conservatorship. [Read more…]

MA Permit Act Extended

As part of the Economic Development Act of 2012 (Chapter 238 of the Acts of 2012), signed by Governor Patrick on August 7, 2012, the legislature adopted a number of measures to support economic development.

Of particular interest is the provision which provides that applicable permits have been extended for an additional two (2) years.  Any state or local permit (other than Chapter 40B Comprehensive Permits) which was in effect at any time between August 15, 2008 and August 15, 2012 has now automatically been extended for four (4) years.  For example, a permit that expired on October 1, 2010 is now revived and expires on October 1, 2014.  The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development has issued an updated FAQ sheet, which can be found at this Mass.gov website.

For questions about any real estate development matters, contact Craig A. Ciechanowski, Esq. or one of the real estate or business attorneys at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C.

Employee Rights Under the NLRA

New National Labor Relations Board Rule Requires Employers to Post Notice Regarding Employee Rights Under the NLRA

On August 25, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) published a final rule which requires most private employers to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  Employers covered by the new rule must post the notice in a conspicuous place and provide basic NLRB contact information.

In addition to these basic provisions, the notice also informs employees of their rights to:

  • Organize a union and negotiate wages, work hours, benefits, and other similar benefits;
  • Discuss wages, and working conditions with co-workers or a union;
  • Join or form a union;
  • Bargain collectively;
  • Strike or picket under certain circumstances;
  • Raise work related complaints directly with the employer, a government agency, or a union; and
  • Elect not to join a union.

This posting requirement applies to almost all employers covered by the NLRA, which excludes agricultural, railroad and airline employers.  The posting requirements also do not apply to the United States Postal Service.  Certain limited exceptions exist for small businesses that do not meet certain minimum revenue guidelines, but these exclusions are very narrow and generally only apply to employer with less than fifty thousand ($50,000.00) dollars a year in revenue.

[Read more…]

Passage of the New Massachusetts Alimony Reform Bill

August 2011

Recently, the Massachusetts legislature passed the long awaited Alimony Reform Bill which is now awaiting signature by Governor Patrick.  Once Governor Patrick signs the bill into law, it will have significant impact on currently pending divorce cases and outstanding alimony orders in specific circumstances. Divorced couples will want to pull out their agreements with one question in mind – How does this law affect my alimony payment?   The bill  outlines the duration of alimony awards, prohibits the use of a second spouse’s income or assets in assessing an alimony award, sets a presumption that alimony will terminate upon attaining full retirement age, terminates alimony upon remarriage and certain cohabitation and considers child support in the determination of the amount of alimony.  The length of a couple’s marriage will now determine the length of time alimony is paid.  For marriages lasting more than twenty years, the courts may still have the ability to issue lifetime alimony awards but the courts are no longer required to issue lifetime alimony awards.

[Read more…]

New EEOC Regulations Substantially Expand Disability Impairments

May 15, 2011 | by Attorney Michael Doherty

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has recently released new regulations that provide guidance for interpreting which impairments qualify as a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (the “Act”).  Most importantly, the EEOC’s regulations create a new category of disabilities that will “virtually always” qualify as a disability.  According to the new regulations, the following impairments will “virtually always” be recognized as a disability:

[Read more…]

Massachusetts Homesteads – Getting to the answers

March 15, 2011 | by Attorney Jennifer Taddeo

For years, many Massachusetts homeowners have unknowingly let a valuable benefit go unclaimed — homestead protection. In Massachusetts, any homeowner could record a single-page document, pay a $35-36 county recording fee, and protect up to $500,000 of equity in their home. However, a homeowner who did not know about this law, or who failed to record such a document, had no protection.

On March 16, 2011, a new law will take effect, updating our homestead law and providing many needed improvements. Beginning that day, every homeowner in Massachusetts will automatically have protection of up to $125,000 of the equity in their home — the “automatic homestead exemption.” By filing a homestead, they can increase their protection to $500,000 — the “declared homestead exemption.” Those who already have a homestead in place do not need to record a new one.

Either type of homestead protects equity in a principal residence from any debt that was incurred after the date the homestead is recorded with the Registry of Deeds. Because the protection is tied to the date the homestead is recorded, it is generally best to keep an existing homestead with its earlier date of recording. If you refinance the mortgage on a principal residence, the law allows the existing homestead to remain in place, although it will not protect you from the claim the new mortgage company has on your home. The law also provides you with a limited time during which proceeds from the sale of your primary residence or insurance proceeds paid as a result of the destruction of a primary residence are protected as well.

[Read more…]

Criminal Offender Record Information Administrative Procedure Reforms

November 17, 2010 | by Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Criminal Offender Record Information Administrative Procedure Reforms (PDF Version)

On August 6, 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Chapter 256 of the Acts of 2010, “An Act Reforming the Administrative Procedures Relative to Criminal Offender Record Information and Pre- and Post-Trial Supervised Release” (“CORI Reform”). Effective November 4, 2010, the Act prevents employers from seeking disclosure of job applicants’ criminal record information prior to the interview stage of the hiring process.1 This law is subject to two limited exceptions discussed below. The law, codified at G.L. c. 151B, § 4(9½) (www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter256), is enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

[Read more…]