The B&B Docket Blog:

Developments in the Dynamic World

of Business and Employment Law

Drafter Beware – Employment Handbooks as Binding Contracts. Part 3 of 3: ’Warning! This Policy Manual Is Not a Contract’: Is a disclaimer enough?

Employer’s frequently include disclaimer language in their employment manuals in an effort to thwart efforts to characterize their policies as contracts.  This is done by management in order to avoid extending additional rights and avenues of relief to disgruntled employees. In O’Brien v. New England Telephone Co. the SJC found that a policy manual was an implied contract but that…

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Drafter Beware – Employment Handbooks as Binding Contracts, Part 2 of 3: “Competing Considerations in Massachusetts Case Law”

There is much debate, especially in the courts, as to whether an employment policy manual is enforceable as a contract.  The Massachusetts Appeals Court commented in Ferguson v. Host International, 53 Mass. App. Ct. 96, 103 (2001), that “[i]t would be unfair to allow an employer to distribute a policy manual that make the workforce believe that certain promises have…

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Part 1 of 3 – Drafter Beware: Employment Handbooks as Binding Contracts

In Massachusetts, employment is ‘at-will’ unless modified by contract or statute.  This now familiar principle permits employees to resign and employers to terminate the employment relationship at their respective whims – subject to some narrow, yet important, exceptions.   Exceptions to the ‘at-will’ doctrine include statutory protections such as laws addressing discrimination (MGL 151B) , wage violations (MGL c. 149 s….

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Owners Have a Duty to Keep Their Properties Reasonably Clear of Snow and Ice – 100 Year Old Natural Accumulation Rule Overturned

If you are a property owner, don’t delay getting your shovels out this winter.  Property owners are now obligated to take reasonable steps to keep their properties free of snow and ice, no matter the source.  Since 1883, Massachusetts courts have consistently held that a property owner is only liable in negligence for failing to remove “unnatural” accumulations of snow…

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Massachusetts CORI Reform: More Than Just Banning the Box

Massachusetts’ recent reform of the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) administrative procedures contains one widely-noted provision, the so-called “ban the box” rule, but contains a number of other new provisions that may have a significantly greater impact on the hiring process. The “ban the box” provision prohibits employers from requiring job applicants to disclose criminal offenses on written employment applications…

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NOT IN MY HOUSE!

The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently held in 11-227-10 Cummings Properties, LLC v. Cepoint Networks, LLC, et al.,(Appeals Court, November 19, 2010 ), that the guarantor of a commercial lease agreement who was not in possession of the property, could not be named as a party to a summary process (eviction) case.   Summary process is an expedited eviction procedure that can…

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The Critical Role of Dialogue Between Mentally Disabled Tenants and their Landlords in the Interactive Process

There is an interesting tension in the law between the rights of disabled tenants to receive additional process when they disturb their neighbors and the rights of neighbors and landlords to maintain an orderly living environment free of interference.  Under federal and state law, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against qualified handicapped tenants because of their mental disability.  Landlords may…

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Amendments to Massachusetts Personnel Records Law: A Double-Edged Sword?

The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a comprehensive job-creation bill that contained a little publicized amendment substantially modifying the Massachusetts Personnel Record Law, M.G.L. c. 149 § 52C.  Prior to this recent change, the law required employers with 20 or more employees to maintain written personnel records and make those records available to employees 5 days after written request.  The recent…

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