Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, May. 10, 2007
Image for Labor and Employment
Photograph by Jeff Thiebauth
The Hon. Nancy Gertner delivered the keynote speech at this week's Labor & Employment Law Conference.

Labor & Employment Law Conference draws 180 attendees

Judge Gertner decries the increase in summary judgments and waning use of trials in employment cases

Held in a majestic ballroom at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston, the 28th Annual Labor & Employment Law Spring Conference attracted labor and employment law attorneys from across the state.

Keynote speaker Judge Nancy Gertner, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, concentrated her speech on what she views as a troubling rise in summary judgments in employment law cases, and also spoke about discrimination in general. She noted that a summary judgment used to be considered a "last resort" but is now "the procedure of choice in areas of law where it should be just the opposite." She described employment discrimination law as being "reduced to a series of tests" and recalled Judge Patricia Wald's 1998 assessment of summary judgments as a "potential juggernaut which, if not carefully monitored, could threaten the relatively small residue of civil trials that remain."

Conference panelists covered a range of current issues in the field. In the first session of the day, attorneys discussed the status of the functus officio doctrine in the arbitration process, as well as what to expect from the courts when appealing an arbitration award.

On the second panel of the day, attorneys discussed the rights of undocumented workers and the obligations of employers in regards to the immigration status of their employees. The attorneys especially focused on the ways in which the Supreme Court attempted to reconcile conflicts between two federal policies - the National Labor Relations Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act - in the 2002 case Hoffman Plastic Compounds Inc. v. NLRB.

The afternoon concluded with a session on tips, tricks and pitfalls of electronic discovery. Two of the attorney panelists, who had previously gone head-to-head in a complex e-discovery case, emphasized the vast differences between e-discovery and paper discovery, and instructed attendees how to best utilize e-discovery in their employment cases.

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