The Supreme Judicial Court recently amended Rule 45 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, effective as of April 1, 2015. The most significant change in the amended Rule 45 is the allowance of "documents only" subpoenas to non-parties. Previously, if only documents were sought from a non-party, Massachusetts practice involved serving a deposition subpoena that agreed to "waive the appearance" of the non-party at the deposition if the documents were produced. Consistent with the federal practice, now Massachusetts practitioners can serve a "documents only" subpoena when only documents are needed. The last line of Rule 45(b) makes clear that "[a] person commanded to produce documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things, or to permit inspection of premises, need not appear in person at the place of production or inspection unless also commanded to appear for a deposition, hearing, or trial."
There are many anti-discrimination statutes aimed at protecting employees, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under federal law and the anti-discrimination provisions of Chapter 151B of the Massachusetts General Laws to name a few. While understanding the nuances and the interplay between federal and state laws can pose challenges, the intention behind these laws is something that all well-meaning employers support. Nevertheless, situations can arise when even the most well-meaning employer may find compliance with the law and the behavior required to avoid a lawsuit both counterintuitive and difficult. One particularly dangerous area for employers can be found in the anti-retaliation language contained in many employment discrimination statutes. This is because employers too often react negatively to the assertion of a claim and consequently turn a weak discrimination case into a strong retaliation claim.