The Massachusetts Bar Association held its 34th Annual Labor
& Employment Law Spring Conference June 5 at Suffolk University
Law School in Boston.
The day kicked off with the annual employment and labor case
updates. An expert panel of labor lawyers gave attendees an
in-depth overview of the year's major decisions including the "Noel
Canning" decision where the Supreme Court ruled that appointments
made by President Obama to the National Labor Relations Board in
January 2012 were not valid because the Senate was in recess at the
time of the appointments. As a result, the board lacked the
required quorum needed to conduct its business. Employers in more
than 70 appeals nationally have argued that the board has lacked a
quorum to hear and issue decisions since Jan. 4, 2012.
The employment panel discussed several decisions that have been
issued in recent months. The panel highlighted cases in the
disability area that show a shift in judicial attitudes towards
disability insurance and qualifications in accommodations.
Jonathan B. Kreisberg, regional director for Region 1 of the NLRB
delivered this year's keynote address. Serving areas in
Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode
Island, Kreisberg proclaimed the Region 1 office was now the
largest in the country. Kriesberg proceeded to highlight the major
board decisions over the last year, discussed budgetary concerns,
and gave attendees helpful information on e-filing, saying
"e-filing is the future."
Mary E. Hoye, area director for the U.S. Department of Labor-OSHA,
in the Springfield-area office, provided attendees with a powerful
presentation on workplace violence. Hoye revealed the discordant
gender differences surrounding work-related fatal injuries and
assailant types. She then explained the four types of workplace
violence, offering examples for each, and the risk factors
associated with identifiable occupations.
The day concluded with a lively discussion of whistleblower
protection laws. Supervisory Investigator for the U.S. Department
of Labor-OSHA Michael Mabee, gave an overview of the Whistleblower
Protection Program including the recent changes to 806
Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protections and the Consumer Financial
Act (Dodd-Frank). Federal OSHA now enforces 22 whistleblower
Michael K. Fee of Ropes & Gray LLP and Boston attorney Jeffrey
Newman followed Mabee's overview by offering two unique
perspectives of whistleblower cases. Newman discussed the evolving
issues of law concerning false claims act cases, while Fee
questioned whether the "whistle-blowing culture" is one to be
fostered and offered defenses to claims brought under federal law
as well as employment cases.
The conference was followed by a reception where attendees
continued the discussion of the day's agenda as they enjoyed
complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.