April 22, 2018

Employment Law

The Massachusetts employment law attorneys at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon  have experience representing both employers and employees in a variety of Massachusetts employment law related matters.  Many of our business clients seek our advice regarding employment contracts, non-compete agreements, confidentiality agreements, severance agreements, termination of employment and related issues.

Our employment lawyers represent clients before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Frequently, we are retained to represent clients relating to claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, wage and hour violations, employment agreements and unemployment compensation benefits.   In addition, the firm provides advice to Massachusetts businesses and employees regarding rights and obligations under COBRA, FMLA, ADA, ADEA, M.G.L. c. 151B, and other state and federal regulations.  The firm’s employment law attorneys have experience representing clients before state and federal courts, as well as, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Our employment law services include:

Our employment law practice group has also developed cost effective solutions for small Massachusetts businesses facing employment issues, and works closely with our clients to learn their business model and support their employment needs.  Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience drafting employment and severance agreements, non-competition agreements, independent contractor agreements, employee handbooks, and consulting agreements.  Our firm is known for developing practical solutions to everyday employment problems faced by Massachusetts businesses both large and small.

Employment Agreements

Decisions regarding employment are often some of the most complex and difficult decisions an individual or a business must make.  We understand the important rights and obligations employment relationships create and the legal complexities involved.  Our attorneys can advise you about which terms and conditions of your employment relationship are appropriate and in your best interests.

Employment relationships may be created through an employment agreement, which outlines the rolls and responsibilities of the position, compensation, and any benefits associated with the position.  These agreements provide the framework for the employment relationship and define the rights and responsibilities of the parties.  Often times, employment agreements may have non-competition and non-disclosure agreements that can materially limit an employee’s ability to obtain different employment when the employment relationship ends.  Our employment lawyers have experience drafting and negotiating employment agreements and can help insure the employment agreement reflects the intentions and understanding of the parties.

If an individual does not have an express and written employment agreement, the individual is most likely considered an “at-will” employee.  Generally, in Massachusetts, “at-will” employees can leave their employment at any time, and can be terminated at any time for any lawful reason.  However, even “at-will” employees retain important rights and are entitled to certain protections under federal and state law.

Confidentiality Agreements

Confidentiality agreements can be contained in an employment agreement or can be a separate, free-standing agreement.  Protecting certain confidential information is vital to protecting an employer’s business and must be drafted carefully to protect the employer.   Employees must understand the limits that such agreements put on their future employment.

Non-Competition Agreements

Non-competition agreements are enforceable in Massachusetts if properly prepared and judiciously enforced.  These agreements are closely scrutinized by the Courts and have generated many lawsuits with varying results as to enforcement based on numerous factors, including the circumstances when signed, the interests to be protected, the past conduct of the parties and the nature of subsequent employment of employee.  Our non-compete attorneys strive to understand the important factors when both drafting Non- Competition Agreements and litigating their enforcement in Massachusetts so that we can maximize our clients’ rights.

Independent Contractor Agreements

Our employment attorneys also have experience dealing with independent contractor employment relationships.  Independent contractors are typically individuals hired for a limited period of time to perform a specific task.  Although the independent contractor is paid directly by the employer, the independent contractor remains a separate and distinct entity from the employer and is not considered a direct employee of the employer.  Our attorneys are experienced in dealing with the important tax and liability issues associated with drafting independent contractor agreements and have experience drafting these agreements for both employers and independent contractors.

Unemployment Compensation

When an employment relationship ends and it can be a frightening and difficult time for the employer and the employee.  Often even though the employment relationship has ended, the previous employer and employee still have obligations to each other.

Frequently, individuals assume they are not eligible for unemployment compensation because they were terminated.  However, under Massachusetts law, most individuals who are terminated as a result of a layoff or termination are eligible for unemployment compensation.  Generally, you are not entitled to unemployment compensation only if you leave voluntarily or if you are terminated for willful misconduct.  In Massachusetts, willful misconduct is reserved for only the most serious of terminations and typically applies to employee termination for insubordination, committing crimes at work, or continuously violating the employer’s rules.

Our lawyers have represented both employees and employers of Massachusetts before the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  If you are an employee and anticipate your employer will contest your eligibility for unemployment benefits, or if you are an employer and do not believe you are required to pay for unemployment benefits, it is very important that you are represented by an employment law attorney at all stages of the unemployment claim process.

Employee Manuals

We help clients prepare or modify employee manuals.  Massachusetts law requires that employers have certain written policies.  Other written policies are not mandate, but should be in place to protect the employer.  Our employment lawyers help Massachusetts employers carefully draft employee manuals to avoid certain pitfalls.

Wrongful Termination Claims

Under Massachusetts law, employment relationships are categorized as “at-will” unless there is an agreement to the contrary.  This means that either the employer or the employee is generally free to end the employment relationship at any time for almost any reason.  However, under certain limited circumstances an “at-will” employee may have claim for wrongful termination.

These circumstances include:

  • Employees terminated for asserting a legally protected right against their employer, such as, filing a workers’ compensation claim;
  • If an employer breaches the terms of an employment contract;
  • If an employee is terminated for complaining about a protected legal right, such as, religion, race, sex, national origin, or a disability;
  • If an employee is terminated for complaining about the safety or sanitary nature of workplace conditions; and
  • If an employee is terminated for complaining about sexual harassment.

In the event you believe you have been terminated for an improper reason, or are an employer and have been charged with wrongful termination, our attorneys have experience asserting and defending these claims and can advise you about your rights or possible defenses.

Discrimination Claims

All employees have the right to be free from discrimination based upon gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, sexual harassment, and age.  Under Massachusetts and federal law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees with regard to decisions about:

  • Hiring and Firing
  • Compensation and Salary
  • Promotion, Demotion, or Layoff
  • Employee Classification
  • Disability Leave

Our attorneys help Massachusetts employers and employees during the hiring and termination stages to avoid lawsuits where possible, to protect their rights and to properly document employment statutes. Often times, victims of discrimination are confused, frustrated, and unsure of their rights.  Our attorneys are familiar with the contours of Massachusetts and federal statutes and have represented and defended both employees and employers from in claims regarding unlawful discrimination.

Severance Agreements

Severance Agreements in Massachusetts are vital to the interests of both the employer and employee.  A thoughtfully negotiated and thoroughly draft Severance Agreement can limit the potential damages that can occur as a result of the end of the employment relationship.  Employers want to protect their intellectual and other property, and protect their good will and reputation.  Employees want to place themselves in the best situation to gain future employment and income.  Our lawyers help guide clients through this difficult process in a timely and cost efficient manner.  Our goal is a Severance Agreement that all parties can accept and to avoid the cost of litigation for our clients.