In the recent Superior Court case of Martinez v. Burlington Motor Sports, Inc., et al., a defendant auto dealership moved to dismiss a commission-based employee's claim for overtime wages pursuant to G. L. c. 151, §§ 1A and 1B, arguing that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's (SJC) 2019 ruling in Sullivan v. Sleepy's LLC did not apply to the case. See Fitch's blog post on the Sleepy's decision here. The Sleepy's decision stands for the proposition that an employee paid on commission is entitled to separate and additional wages for minimum wage and to overtime and Sunday pay.
In a recent Memorandum and Order, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts District Court granted summary judgment to a group of defendant banks after applying a "precondition" test established by the First Circuit regarding overtime pay to employees for their participation in required training programs. The case, Miller et al v. Citizens' Financial Group et al., stemmed from the plaintiff employees' claims that the banks had failed to pay them overtime compensation for time spent outside of regular working hours to study for mandatory licensing exams, and that this failure constituted a violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania state law. The District Court analyzed the summary judgment motion under controlling First Circuit precedent as established in Ballou v. General Electric Co. and Bienkowski v. Northeastern University. In both cases, the plaintiffs claimed that they were not compensated for time spent on mandatory classwork and/or training in connection with their employment and, in both cases, the First Circuit upheld summary judgment rulings against the plaintiffs.
In the recent case of Capron v. Office of Attorney Gen. of Mass., the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an interesting ruling regarding the intersection of federal and state law, affirming a U.S. District Court order of dismissal providing that state wage and hour laws fully applied to foreign nationals employed as "au pairs" in Massachusetts on special visa programs promulgated by the U.S. State Department.
In the recent case of Suzuki v. Abiomed, Inc., the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a U.S. District Court order granting summary judgment to the defendant employer, holding that the company's termination of an employee approximately fifteen months prior to the achievement of an important milestone, which would have entitled the employee to a large equity grant, did not violate the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in his employment contract.
In a case of first impression, the Business Litigation Session (Davis, J.) recently declined to reduce the amount of restitution a disloyal corporate officer had been ordered to pay to his employer in connection with a judgment against the corporate officer. In so holding, the court held that a settlement payment, received by the plaintiff employer from two co-defendants (the former employee and a competitor business), did not fall within the scope of the Joint Tortfeasors Act and, therefore, the Act could not be applied to offset any damages the former corporate officer was ordered to pay. See Element Productions, Inc. v. Editbar, LLC et al. (Suffolk Sup.Ct.).
The United States Supreme Court held in the unanimous decision of New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira earlier this year that the Federal Arbitration Act's exclusion as to contracts of employment necessitated that the parties' arbitration clause be overridden and the plaintiff be allowed to pursue his lawsuit in the Massachusetts federal courts.
In Baer v. Montachusett Regional Technical School District (D. Mass. May 17, 2019), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment to an employer on a former employee's claim that he was discriminated and retaliated against because of his association with his wife, who was also a former employee.
The Massachusetts Wage Act, M. G. L. c. 149, § 148, governs how and when an employee's wages must be paid and provides that an employer who fails to comply with the Wage Act may be subject to treble damages and be ordered to pay the attorneys' fees of the employee who has to turn to the courts to enforce their rights under the Wage Act. Commission payments are considered "wages" and, therefore, are governed by the Wage Act. For a commission to be "wages," the Wage Act provides that the amount of the commission must be "definitely determined" and "due and payable to [the] employee." Commission compensation has been "definitely determined" when the amount of the compensation due is "arithmetically determinable." Commission compensation is "due and payable" to the employee when "dependent contingencies have been met and it is thus owed to the employee." Practically speaking, that means that the employee (or the court considering whether an employer has violated the Wage Act by failing to pay a commission) must be able to calculate how much commission was owed to the employee and that all of the conditions that must be met for the commission to be payable must have been met.