Annual Labor & Employment Law Spring Conference focuses on case updates, workplace violence and whistleblower protections

Thursday, Jun. 13, 2013
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Top: 34th Annual Labor & Employment Spring Conference Keynote Speaker Jonathan B. Kreisberg, regional director for Region 1 of the NLRB, and MBA Labor & Employment Section Council Past Chair Rosemary Pye. Middle: MBA Labor & Employment Section Council Chair Sheryl D. Eisenberg; 34th Annual Labor & Employment Spring Conference Co-Chair Meghan H. Slack, Esq. and 34th Annual Labor & Employment Spring Conference Co-Chair Angela L. Rapko, Esq. Bottom: Panelists update attendees on recent developments in labor and employment law. Photos by John Pregmon.

The Massachusetts Bar Association held the 34th Annual Labor & Employment Spring Conference June 5 at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

The day kicked-off with the annual employment and labor case updates. An expert panel of labor lawyers gave attendees an in-depth overview of the year's major decisions including the "Noel Canning" decision where the Supreme Court ruled that appointments made by President Obama to the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012 were not valid because the Senate was in recess at the time of the appointments. As a result, the board lacked the required quorum needed to conduct its business. Employers in over 70 appeals nationally argue that the board has lacked a quorum to hear and issue decisions since January 4, 2012.

The employment panel followed and discussed several decisions that have been issued in recent months. The panel discussed cases in the disability area that showed a shift in judicial attitudes towards disability insurance and qualifications in accommodations.

Jonathan B. Kreisberg, regional director for Region 1 of the NLRB delivered this year's keynote address. Serving areas in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island, Kreisberg proclaimed the Region 1 office was now the largest in the country. Kriesberg proceeded to highlight the major board decisions over the last year, discussed budgetary concerns, and gave attendees helpful information on e-filing, saying "e-filing is the future."

Mary E. Hoye, area director for the U.S. Department of Labor-OSHA, in the Springfield-area office, provided attendees with a powerful presentation on workplace violence. Hoye revealed the discordant gender differences surrounding work-related fatal injuries and assailant types. She then explained the four types of workplace violence, offering examples for each type, and the risk factors associated with identifiable occupations.

The day concluded with a lively discussion of whistleblower protection laws. Supervisory Investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor-OSHA Michael Mabee, gave an overview of the Whistleblower Protection Program including the recent changes to 806 Sarbanes Oxley Whistleblower Protections and the Consumer Financial Act (Dodd-Frank).  Federal OSHA now enforces 22 Whistleblower Statues.

Michael K. Fee of Ropes & Gray LLP and Boston attorney Jeffrey Newman followed Mabee's overview by offering two unique perspectives of Whistleblower cases. Newman ran over the evolving issues of law concerning false claims act cases, while Fee questioned whether the "whistle-blowing culture" is one to be fostered and offered defenses to claims brought under federal law as well as employment cases.  

The conference was followed by a reception where attendees continued the discussion of the day's agenda as they enjoyed complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.