Website: www.Antonino-DiMare-Law.com Nestled on a mountain with sweeping views of the beautiful Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, the Law Firm of Antonino & DiMare provides personable, high quality and responsive legal counseling and representation.
Founded in 1985, Antonino & DiMare has established an outstanding reputation in the areas of business law, labor & employment law, civil rights, zoning & land use, personal injury, and education law. In these dynamic and changing times, Antonino & DiMare provides counsel and legal expertise to clients in complex and sometimes unprecedented situations. The Firm brings valuable insight, perspective and innovation, which results from many years of experience. Wisdom, coupled with responsive and strategic problem solving is a hallmark of the Firm. Antonino & DiMare’s mission is our clients’ success. Every aspect of our work is focused on representing clients expertly and cost-consciously. Integrity is a key component to our success.
Remembering civil rights leader, Rep. John R. Lewis, who devoted his life to racial justice and equity, with one of his most powerful quotes:
"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
Breaking news: In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans from discrimination in employment.￼
New Zealand passes historic zero carbon bill with near unanimous bipartisan support
New Zealand passes landmark legislation enshrining its zero-carbon target into law with bipartisan support, although concerns linger about plans to tackle agricultural emissions.
Conservation Law Foundation
New England relies too much on fracked gas in our energy supply, a dirty fossil fuel that contributes to climate change. If we want to avoid a climate catastrophe, we need to end fossil fuel use—including our addiction to fracked gas—by 2050 at the very latest.
New laws in effect in Massachusetts in 2020:
With the start of the new year, some new laws will begin to impact residents in Massachusetts.
After years trying to pass a distracted driving bill, this year a new hands-free driving law takes effect on Feb. 23. It bans motorists from using handheld electronic devices while driving, unless in hands-free mode. Some navigation devices are still permitted. First offenses will cost $100, second offenses $250 and third and subsequent offenses $500, as well as auto insurance surcharges.
Also taking effect in 2020, are a number of laws that will impact hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts workers. While the state's income tax will fall to 5%, the state's minimum wage will increase to $12.75 per hour, beginning Jan. 1. Tipped workers' wages will increase to $4.95 an hour.
For the first time, workers will begin paying into a system that funds the state’s paid family and medical leave program. Under the law, Massachusetts workers will be eligible to take up to 26 weeks of paid leave for medical or family reasons. The benefits will not be available until 2021.
And in 2019, Governor Charlie Baker approved a law that makes Massachusetts the first state in the country to ban flavored tobacco products and vaping products. Flavored nicotine vaping products will be limited to smoking bars, where they must be smoked on-site.
There will also be a 75% excise tax on cigarettes and shops will be banned from selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. The law takes effect on June 1.
Italy passes law to send unsold food to charities instead of dumpsters
Italy joins growing list of countries looking to end food-waste
Endearing exchange with Chief Municipal Judge Frank Caprio in Providence, RI.
A gentleman from the old neighborhood comes in front of the Judge.
Thank you Attorney General Maura Healey.
BREAKING: The court declares that the AR-15 and other assault weapons "fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment and may be banned."https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/04/06/Worman%20dismissal-SJ%20ruling%204-6-18.pdf
Conservation Law Foundation
Time to speak up – call on your representative in Massachusetts to protect clean water before it's too late!
Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules for Employee Fired for Medical Marijuana Use
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that a newly hired employee who was terminated because she tested positive for marijuana use can sue her former employer for disability discrimination. Christina Barbuto suffers from Crohn's disease and her physician had provided her with a written certification allowing her to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Medical and recreational marijuana use is legal in Massachusetts in limited amounts.
In its ruling in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, (SJC, July 2017) the court rejected the employer's argument that it could not accommodate the plaintiff because her continued use of medical marijuana is a federal crime. It also dismissed the employer's contention that it owed the plaintiff no obligation to participate in an interactive process to identify a reasonable accommodation before firing her.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants noted that the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Act makes clear that it does not require "any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any place of employment." Chief Justice Gants said this limitation implies that off-site medical marijuana use might be a permissible accommodation.
Barbuto did not report to work in an intoxicated state, nor did she use marijuana in the workplace. Nonetheless, her employer's HR representative told Barbuto that she was terminated for testing positive for marijuana.
Courts elsewhere generally have ruled for employers in cases in which they have fired an employee or prospective employee for failing a drug test because of medical marijuana use. However, the tide may be turning. In May 2017, a Rhode Island court ruled in favor of a medical marijuana cardholder a company refused to hire for a paid internship because she could not pass a pre-employment drug test.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, so this issue bears continued watching as cases continue to arise in the courts.
Massachusetts Adopts New Workplace Protections for Pregnant Workers
Last month, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) into law. The PWFA, which will go into effect on April 1, 2018, requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees upon their request. The final version of the law combines the bill passed in May 2017 by the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a similar bill approved by the Massachusetts Senate in June 2017.
Under the PWFA, Massachusetts employers must provide workers with reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions such as lactation unless doing so would cause the employer undue hardship. Upon a current or prospective employee’s request, the employer must engage in a timely, good faith interactive process to determine the appropriate accommodation in a given circumstance. Though employers can require medical documentation of the need for most accommodations, they may not do so when the requested accommodation is (1) more frequent breaks, (2) seating, (3) limits on lifting over 20 pounds, or (4) private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk. Also, an employer cannot require a pregnant employee to accept an accommodation that the employee does not need in order to perform the essential functions of the job, nor can an employer require a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence if other reasonable accommodations are available.
In addition, the PWFA amends the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (“Chapter 151B”) to expressly ban employment discrimination against individuals who are pregnant or have a pregnancy-related condition. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against current or prospective employees for requesting or using a reasonable accommodation due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Massachusetts employers will be required to provide notice to new and existing employees about their right to be free from pregnancy discrimination, including their right to reasonable accommodations for their pregnancies or pregnancy-related conditions.
In preparation for the April 1, 2018 effective date, employers should consider reviewing their workplace policies to ensure they are in compliance with the new law. Specifically, employers should consider updating their employee handbooks before April 1, 2018 to provide employees with the notice mandated by the PWFA. Employers also will want to make sure that human resources personnel and supervisory employees are trained on these new employer obligations to avoid future discrimination or retaliation claims under M.G.L. Chapter 151B.
Conservation Law Foundation
Today, the country's governors kick off their semi-annual meeting in Providence, RI. Tell our governors to step up to the plate and #ActOnClimate before it's too late.
Conservation Law Foundation
Huge win for Mainers! A bill to protect Solar energy wins approval from Maine legislature – thank them for their commitment and ask them to override any veto that comes their way!
Conservation Law Foundation
Bravo Charlie Baker, Governor Phil Scott, Gina Raimondo, and Dan Malloy! Thank you for your leadership in New England!
The venerable journal's president is a black woman for the first time in 130 years.
Conservation Law Foundation
This is a huge victory, and great news for our oceans as we head into the new year!
HELL has frozen over.
Massachusetts Pay Equity Law Imposes New Restrictions on Employer Pay and Hiring Practices
On August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Baker signed “An Act to Establish Pay Equity (the Act)” into law. The Act, which does not become effective until July 1, 2018, will require Massachusetts’ employers to pay men and women equally for comparable work. It also forbids employers from asking prospective employees about salary history or restricting employee discussion of pay. The Act imposes significant consequences for violations of the law.
What will the Act Forbid?
Employers May Not Pay Unequal Wages. “The Act will make it unlawful for employers to pay unequal wages to employees of different genders who perform comparable work. The Act broadly defines wages to include “all forms of remuneration for employment.”
Massachusetts’ employers are already forbidden from pay discrimination on the basis of gender under the existing Federal Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, and Massachusetts’ state discrimination statute - M.G.L. c. 151B. However, those existing laws generally relate to men and women doing the same job, while the new Act will provide additional protections for employees, as it relates to men and women doing different but “comparable work.” “Comparable work” is defined as work that is “substantially similar” in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed in similar working conditions. Under the Act, employees’ job titles or job descriptions will not be determinative of whether work is deemed to be comparable. Rather, a careful analysis of the duties and work performed will be necessary to determine whether employees are engaged in “comparable work.”
The Act does, however, allow for “variations in wages” based on:
“a system that rewards seniority with the employer” (with the exception that time spent on a pregnancy, parental or family leave of absence cannot reduce seniority);
a “merit system;”
a system which measures earnings “by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue;”
the geographic location in which a job is performed;
education, training, or experience, to the extent such factors are “reasonably related” to the job; or
travel that is “a regular and necessary condition” of the job.
Importantly, under the new law, employers will be forbidden from lowering more highly paid employees’ salaries “solely” in order to comply with the law.
Employers May Not Inquire into Applicants’ Pay History. The Act will forbid employers from seeking a prospective employee’s salary history from the prospective employee or a former employer unless the prospective employee voluntarily discloses it. Once an offer including pay has been negotiated and made, however, an employer may seek or confirm the prospective employee’s wage or salary history.
Employers May Not Restrict Employees from Discussing Wages. The Act further prohibits employers from restricting employees from “inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages or about any other employee’s wages.” The federal National Labor Relations Act already protects employees’ rights to discuss their compensation; the New Act will provide employees with a right of action under State Law. However, employers will not be required to disclose wage information to any third party and employers can prohibit employees whose job responsibilities require or allow access to compensation information from disclosing their co-workers’ compensation information to a third party without prior written consent from the employee.
Employers May Not Retaliate. Retaliation against an employee or applicant who has “opposed any act or practice made unlawful” under the Act or who has disclosed their own compensation or discussed the compensation of others is forbidden.
What will be the Consequences for Failure to Comply with the Act?
The Act imposes significant liability for violations. Damages authorized under the Act include unpaid wages resulting from unequal compensation practices, liquidated damages in the same amount as the unpaid wages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
In addition to giving the Massachusetts Attorney General the right to sue, the Act grants employees a private right of action, and permits employees to bring claims either individually or as a class action. Unlike with other discrimination-based compensation claims, employees will be able to bring claims under the Act directly to court, without having to exhaust administrative remedies by filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Are there Any Defenses to the Act?
The Act grants employers who have completed a “self-evaluation of its pay practices in good faith” and “can demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating wage differentials based on gender for comparable work” an affirmative defense against a claim for pay discrimination under the Act. The affirmative defense is available to an employer only for a period of three years following the completion of the self-evaluation. While there are no guidelines for completing self-evaluation, it must be “reasonable in detail and scope in light of the size of the employer” or “consistent with standard templates or forms issued by the attorney general.”
What Steps Should Employers Take?
Employers should consult with employment counsel about how to best undertake a review of their pay and hiring practices to ensure compliance with the new law. Specifically, employers should consult with counsel about completing a “self-evaluation” of their pay practices and how to take steps to remedy any discrepancies found. (Employers should also plan to revisit their self-evaluation at least every three years in order to take advantage of the Act’s affirmative defense).
Employers should also review and revise offer letters, policies and applications to ensure that they do not request prior compensation information or forbid the disclosure of wage information.
Yesterday, the Supreme Judicial Court declared it unlawful for Massachusetts to force residential electricity customers to subsidize the construction of private gas pipelines, requiring the companies themselves to shoulder the substantial risks of these projects rather than allowing that risk to be placed on residents across the Commonwealth.
“This is an incredibly important and timely decision,” said David Ismay, CLF’s lead attorney on the case. “Today our highest court affirmed Massachusetts’ commitment to an open energy future by rejecting the Baker Administration’s attempt to subsidize the dying fossil fuel industry. The course of our economy and our energy markets runs counter to the will of multi-billion dollar pipeline companies, and, thanks to today’s decision, the government will no longer be able to unfairly and unlawfully tip the scales.”
BREAKING: Decision from Massachusetts high court protects families from risky and unlawful gas pipelines!
National Lawyers Guild
FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY! Named after the late criminal defense attorney and constitutional law advocate, the #NLG's newly-established Leonard I. Weinglass Memorial Fellowship will grant a stipend to a recent law graduate to work on a civil rights project every year. A longtime Guild member, Weinglass (1933-2011) represented political activists, government opponents, and criminal defendants—including Angela Davis, the Cuban Five, the Chicago Seven, the Pentagon Papers, and the death row appeals of Mumia Abu-Jamal—in a half century of politically significant cases. This fellowship is made possible by a generous bequest from the Weinglass estate. Learn more and see how to apply at the link!
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