Comments from the Labor and Employment Law Section

Issue Vol. 9 No. 1 January 2007 By Rosemary Pye

The 1,200 members of the Labor and Employment Law Section enjoy careers in a field that provides intellectual challenge, the satisfaction of having an impact on working lives, and colorful stories. The L&E Section Council wants to reach out to its members throughout the state to bring you services through the Section Review, our CLE programs, our review of pertinent legislation, and community outreach. We welcome your ideas and participation.

In this issue, Nina Kimball and Paul Merry lead the section’s enhanced commitment to the Section Review as an ideal way to reach all of our members. Kimball introduces us to a recent case from the D.C. Circuit on the constitutionality of taxing damages for emotional distress. Although the decision was vacated by the D.C. Circuit after Kimball submitted her article, the case will be heard en banc and is likely to have far reaching consequences. While Merry notes the particular challenge of obtaining evidence in employment cases, the problem of the spoliation of evidence cuts across all legal specialties. Editors Marilyn Zuckerman, Alicia Matos and Christina Montgomery would be happy to hear your suggestions and receive your articles. Do not miss the opportunity to educate and inspire other members of the Bar.

Our luncheon roundtable program continues in Boston and is now expanding to Springfield and Worcester. In Boston, we have had presentations on retaliation in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burlington Northern, the survival of MCAD claims and new litigation theories of workplace bullying under the leadership of Ellen Messing, James Glickman and David Wilson. Currently, Tani Sapirstein and Daniel Blake are making plans for luncheon roundtables in Springfield, while Nicholas Anastopoulos and Mark Hickernell are doing the same for Worcester. The Springfield program began on Jan. 18 with a presentation on retaliation claims post Burlington Northern. We want to bring the MBA to you.

The L&E Section features practice groups which meet at the MBA at 20 West St. in Boston. The Employment Law Practice Group for employment lawyers is chaired by Patrick Bannon, Elizabeth Neumeier and Christina Montgomery and meets the second Tuesday of the month at 4:30. The Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining Practice Group for labor lawyers is chaired by Bryan Decker, Catherine Reuben and Jay Siegel and meets the second Wednesday of the month at noon.

Because both are open to members and non-members for free, this is an ideal time to come and bring guests. Each meeting covers a specific topic or presents a particular speaker, and you are always welcome. In this small group setting, you can have an intensive discussion of cutting-edge issues with a cross-section of practitioners in your specialty. These groups have often included opportunities to speak informally with state and federal labor and employment law officials, such as MBA section council member and MCAD General Counsel Martin Ebel.

Section council leaders also promote our interests in community outreach, legislation, and amicus curiae participation by the MBA. Pro Bono Coordinator Bryan Decker is starting a program to develop materials and train volunteer lawyers to educate employees on their rights and obligations in the workforce. While achieving a consensus on legislation among neutrals, management, plaintiff and union attorneys is difficult, Legislative Liaison Yvette Politis is tracking legislation of interest to the section’s members. Monica Halas represents the section on the MBA’s important Amicus Curiae Committee. All three welcome your suggestions and participation.

The section sponsors two major conferences and at least one seminar each year. The Annual NLRB – U.S. DOL Robert Fuchs Labor Law Conference, co-sponsored with the other New England state bar associations and the Boston Bar Association, is held in October and focuses on Washington federal officials. Our 28th Annual Spring Conference is already set for May 9 at the Sheraton Boston. Judge Nancy Gertner will give the keynote address. Tani Sapirstein, Elizabeth Hendler and Steven Locke will provide a comprehensive summary of recent employment law.

Another topic in employment law and a morning of labor law topics complete the program. Jay Shepherd started our year with a seminar on non-compete agreements, headed by Judge Allan van Gestel. While much work has already been done on the CLE programs for the year, we invite your suggestions to allow us to respond to developing interests.

The section values its co-sponsorship with other MBA sections. Labor and employment law impacts many specialties, including business law, civil litigation, immigration law and tax law. By joining with our colleagues in L&E and the MBA in general, we all sharpen our knowledge and skills, meet new people in our specialty and beyond, gain recognition for our expertise and contribute to the community. Please contact any section council members or section leaders to participate.