New law firm

March 5, 2019:-  Amherst attorneys Paul Bobrowski and Peter Vickery are pleased to announce the formation of Bobrowski & Vickery, LLC, which will focus on civil litigation, employment law,  land-use law, landlord-tenant, general business law, and  estate planning. The firm will also assist businesses entering the Massachusetts cannabis market.

Bobrowski is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he obtained his BS (Astronomy) and MA (Sociology), and of the University of San Francisco where he obtained his JD. In addition to practicing law, he served for 11 years as Senior Consultant at the Information Technology Division of the Judicial Branch for the State of Connecticut.

Vickery is a graduate of Oxford University (BA); the University of the West of England (Postgraduate Diploma in Law); Boston University School of Law (JD); and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Master of Public Policy & Administration). Vickery is a former Governor’s Councilor for Western Massachusetts and former member of the State Ballot Law Commission, and is Legislative Affairs Counsel for MassLandlords, the statewide membership organization representing rental-property owners in Massachusetts.

For the new firm’s website, click here.

 

Attorney Paul Bobrowski
Attorney Paul Bobrowski

Progress at the MCAD

January 15, 2019:-  The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has published its draft procedural regulations, and I am happy to report that the draft includes a proposal of mine, or at least a version of it.

Readers may recall that back in 2017 I wrote a bill to cover situations where there is doubt that the MCAD has jurisdiction to investigate a complaint. (New MCAD Bill Filed). If a person accused of discrimination files a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the MCAD should rule on that motion first, before launching an investigation. In the meantime, the Investigating Commissioner should stay (i.e. suspend) the investigation.

The new proposed rules give the Investigating Commissioner clear authority to issue a stay.

Generally, investigation of a complaint shall not be not stayed pending the ruling on a motion. However, where the Commission’s jurisdiction or authority to proceed is challenged by a motion filed with the Commission, the Investigating Commissioner may stay investigation of the merits of the charge pending a ruling on the motion.

Draft 804 CMR 1.13 (9)(b)(3). Here is a link.

Although not as good as an automatic stay, this is a very welcome step. Well done, MCAD.

cropped-cropped-petervickery_6-standing
Peter Vickery, Esq.

 

Trigger warning

December 4, 2018:- Leyla Pirnie’s landlord would like her to move out. Why? Because Ms. Pirnie (a graduate student at Harvard University) keeps a firearm in her apartment.

The story has been gaining national attention after it broke in the Washington Free Beacon , and it raises important questions for landlords across Massachusetts. How far can landlords go in limiting their tenants’ exercise of constitutionally-guaranteed rights? For example, does a landlord have the right to prohibit a tenant from exercising her right to free speech in the leased premises? What about the free exercise of religion?

If a tenant has a disability, the landlord may have to make an exception to the property’s no-pets policy so as to accommodate the tenant’s emotional support animal (for my MassLandords article on that subject click here).  But is there such a thing as an emotional support gun?

I will be exploring these and other questions in next month’s MassLandlords newsletter. In the meantime, to watch Ms. Pirnie’s interview on Fox News click here.

second amendment
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

From Trump Tower to public housing tenant

The Washington Post reports that Lynne Patton, the New York regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is moving from her apartment in Trump Plaza into public housing in Harlem for the month of January.

Lynne Patton_HUD
Lynne M. Patton (center) HUD Regional Administrator for NY

Patton will become a tenant of the New York City Housing Authority, which has been the subject of much criticism for, among other things, failing to address lead paint problems. See e.g. this New York Times article and various stories in The Real Deal. The conditions in the authority’s units triggered a federal investigation and lawsuit, which in turn prompted Patton’s planned stint as a public-housing tenant.

“As Regional Administrator, I cannot continue to purport to understand, nor resolve, the daily plight of a NYCHA resident without experiencing it firsthand,” Patton said. “It is my intent to spend the entire month of January doing exactly that.”

Stay tuned.

Tip for landlords: Do not discriminate against people with Section 8 vouchers!

November 30, 2018:-

From the MassLandlords newsletter: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a press release relating to the sum of $40,000 that her office acquired from three sets of rental-property owners, property managers, and real-estate agents to settle enforcement actions. The press release outlines cases involving three properties: the first in Taunton, the second in Revere, and the third in Roslindale.  To read the rest of the article, click here.

Fool me once

August 1, 2017:- In 2010, Alberto Rodriguez sued his employer, a freight transportation company, for employment discrimination. Although the employer denied any wrongdoing, the case settled for $10,000.00.

In 2010, Alberto Rodriguez sued his employer, a freight transportation company, for employment discrimination. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

In fact, second time around the outcome was different. By the time of the pay-out from employer 1 (Roadway Express) Alberto Rodriguez was already working for employer 2 (UPS) in Springfield, Western Massachusetts. After 11 months, UPS fired him, and a few days later Mr. Rodriguez filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) alleging employment discrimination. Earlier this year the MCAD dismissed the case. Among the various reasons the MCAD hearing officer gave for ruling against Mr. Rodriguez was this one:

In her deposition in the Roadway Express lawsuit (which, during his deposition in the UPS case, Mr. Rodriguez denied ever having filed), Mrs. Rodriguez stated that she had overheard a cellphone conversation via Bluetooth in which the employer used ethnic slurs against her husband. In her deposition in the UPS case, Mrs. Rodriguez testified that she had overheard a cellphone conversation via Bluetooth in which the employer used ethnic slurs against her husband. The hearing officer found this similarity not only “striking and suspicious” but “so far-fetched as to be wholly implausible.”

Fool me once, shame on me, as the saying goes. Fool me twice? For the second part of that aphorism (the less traditional version) delivered by internationally-acclaimed business guru Michael Scott, click here.

The lessons for employers facing charges of discrimination?  First, consider taking depositions, so that you can compare and contrast the deposition testimony with the deponent’s testimony at the hearing. It is not only discrepancies that can be helpful; so can consistencies, especially those that strike a reasonable objective listener as implausible. Second, even if the MCAD issues a probable-cause finding that paves the way for a public hearing, as happened in the Rodriguez v. UPS case, if the facts are on your side and you can prove them, consider resisting the understandable impulse to settle and, instead, stand firm.