Trial Success: Employer Liable for Wrongful Termination

After over three years of litigation at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), Attorney Murphy’s client prevailed against her former employer, a nursing and rehabilitation center.  During the 3 day trial, Attorney Murphy successfully proved that the employer’s basis for termination was actually pretext to hide its true motivation against his client, a black, female, Certified Nursing Assistant (“CNA”).  Indeed, the hearing officer concluded that but for the CNA’s complaint of a discriminatory, hostile workplace, the employer would never have terminated Attorney Murphy’s client.  This is because the client was one of the best and well-liked employees by residents of the facility-her 13 year work history was spotless.

Significantly, during the 3 years of litigation Attorney Murphy made several attempts to the settle the case on behalf of his client, but the employer did not believe it did anything wrong.  During trial, however, Attorney Murphy quickly discredited the employer’s rationale and it became clear: the employer fired the CNA to rid itself of a “problem employee”.  Thereafter, MCAD concluded this termination was illegal.  See Cesar v. Danvers Management Systems, Inc. d/b/a Hunt Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (2018).

Accordingly, Attorney Murphy vindicated his client and brought her justice.

Attorney Murphy now shifts his focus to a similar case in which a different nursing home facility arguably terminated an employee for nearly the exact same reason as the above.  Attorney Murphy hopes his work here improves management practices in nursing homes, where unfortunately, employee protections are often disregarded.

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Exposing Employer Abuses

Two of Attorney Murphy’s clients recently won at their unemployment hearings after being initially denied benefits.  The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) denied benefits to these clients because the employers lied about the circumstances that lead to the separation from employment.  And so Attorney Murphy is proud to have vindicated his clients after two highly contentious unemployment hearings.

Signed Confession Thrown Out

In the first case, Attorney Murphy’s client, a former cashier at a major pharmacy retail chain, was terminated for allegedly stealing $10.00 that a customer left behind at the cash register.  The client denied she did anything wrong and asked for proof during an interrogation by a lost prevention officer.  No proof was ever provided to the client, but nevertheless, the client signed a confession admitting she stole the money.  Thereafter, the employer terminated Attorney Murphy’s client.

Attorney Murphy sat down with the client and was shocked to hear that the loss prevention officer accused the client of theft for over an hour in the back storage room of the store.  During this hour long ordeal, the loss prevention officer berated Attorney Murphy’s client and made her feel like she had no rights; he made her feel like she was less than human.  After what seemed like days, the client wrote a confession and signed it, thinking that doing so was the only way she could keep her job.  This proved incorrect and she was fired.  When Attorney Murphy heard this account, he assured his client he would do everything in his power to help her.

Thereafter, Attorney Murphy represented the client at the unemployment hearing.  At the hearing Attorney Murphy established that the employer failed to present any proof that his client stole any money.  Attorney Murphy then took aim at the hour long interrogation and argued the loss prevention officer essentially forced the client to sign a confession.  The unemployment hearing officer agreed and concluded the employer did not prove the employee actually committed theft.

Now that Attorney Murphy has secured his client’s unemployment benefits, he is moving forward with a wrongful termination lawsuit against this large pharmaceutical retail chain.

Exposing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In the second case, Attorney Murphy battled an employer in another unemployment hearing on behalf of his client, a former store manager of a large retail clothing store.  The unemployment office denied the client’s claim for benefits because the employer said the client abandoned her job.

The client is a divorced, female and mother who needed her job to put food on the table.  The last thing this woman would ever do is abandon her job.  Attorney Murphy argued that the owner of the clothing store sexually harassed the client for years and that the employer is a liar.  Attorney Murphy presented three former employees who testified the employer is known for gross behavior in the workplace.  The employer’s lawyer aggressively attempted to discredit Attorney Murphy’s client, but Attorney Murphy counseled his client such that she maintained her composure and dignity throughout the hearing.  After nearly a day of questioning, the unemployment office agreed with Attorney Murphy and concluded that the client did not abandon her job; but instead, the employer’s actions amounted to terminating her.

Now that Attorney Murphy has secured his client’s unemployment benefits, he and his client are moving forward with a wrongful termination lawsuit based on sexual harassment and illegal retaliation.

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Restaurant Manager Prevails (again*)

Attorney Murphy is pleased with a recent decision by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”) affirming unemployment benefits for his client, a former restaurant manager of major seafood restaurant chain based in Boston.  Attorney Murphy represented the manager at 2 separate unemployment hearings because the unemployment office lost the evidence from the first hearing.  Thus, Attorney Murphy’s client was required to appear at a second de novo hearing despite prevailing at the first hearing.  This was extremely frustrating for Attorney Murphy’s client, to say the least.

At the first hearing, Attorney Murphy successfully established that his client did nothing wrong despite the employer’s allegations that the client violated company policy by serving alcohol to an intoxicated guest.  The client prevailed at the first hearing because the employer failed to prove Attorney Murphy’s client was actually aware that the guest was intoxicated.

*At the second de novo hearing, the employer brought its lawyer and an additional witness, a bartender who worked on the evening at issue.  Again, the employer argued that Attorney Murphy’s client violated company policy by allowing a guest to be served after being shut-off by one of the bartenders.  Then the employer called the bartender who testified Attorney Murphy’s client served an intoxicated guest after being shut off.  Attorney Murphy then cross-examined the bartender who admitted he was paid to testify at the hearing.  Attorney Murphy then questioned the bartender about the time-line of events.  The bartender’s answers were inconsistent, and ultimately the unemployment hearing examiner determined that the bartender was not credible.  Further, the hearing examiner determined that the employer’s evidence simply could not prove the bar manager did anything wrong.

Accordingly, the bartender prevailed again and is now receiving unemployment benefits.

Attorney Murphy understands that from a business point of view the employer in this case believed it was necessary to contest the bar manager’s eligibility for unemployment benefits; but, unfortunately, the employer failed to understand the purpose of unemployment law: to assist individuals who lost their job through no fault of their own.

Thus, the unemployment law contains strict requirements and employers should be well-advised to understand the law before wasting time and resources contesting claims.

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100k Judgment Secured

Recently, Attorney Murphy secured a $100,992.00 judgment in favor of his client in a non-payment of wages case.  At issue was whether the employer paid the client, a laborer, prevailing wages and wages due upon his termination.  The evidence overwhelmingly favored Attorney Murphy’s client and the court granted treble damages, costs, and attorney fees.  Superior Court docket no: 15-2056G.

Attorney Murphy represented his client in this private right of action case which allows payment of client’s attorneys fees to be paid by employers should they be found liable.

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No Call No Show Can Result in Unemployment Benefits

Recently, the unemployment office issued a decision upholding its initial determination that Attorney Murphy’s client was entitled to receive unemployment benefits. The client’s former employer appealed the determination stating the client quit her job by virtue of a “no-call, no show”.  The client’s position was that her employer fired her.  Attorney Murphy prepared his client for the hearing such that it was readily apparent she was a credible and honest individual; and cross-examined the employer at the hearing such that it was apparent the employer’s testimony and evidence failed to support their position.  Indeed, the review examiner found the employer could not establish that Attorney Murphy’s client intentionally quit her job and applied Section 25(e)(2) rather than Section 25(e)(1) of the Massachusetts Unemployment Law.

Attorney Murphy notes that unless employers have an overwhelmingly amount of evidence to support that an employee quit through a “no-call, no show” employers face an uphill battle.  Further, employers using agencies to handle these type of matters are not fairing any better; arguably, agencies are putting employers in worse positions which greatly helped Attorney Murphy’s client in this case.

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Pro Bono Honoree

For the second consecutive year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized The Law Office of Justin M. Murphy “for performing in the finest tradition of the Massachusetts bar by providing significant pro bono legal services during calendar year 2014.”  Attorney Murphy celebrated by volunteering on October 29, 2015, at the Attorney For the Day table in Boston’s Housing Court.  Providing individuals pro bono legal representation is paramount to Attorney Murphy’s law practice and benefits his clients, overall.

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Recovering Security Deposit

Massachusetts’ residential security deposit law contains strict requirements for landlords, including returning a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of lease termination.  As a landlord or tenant you should know your rights and options when dealing with General Laws: CHAPTER 186, Section 15B, the Massachusetts Security Deposit law.  Remedies include double or treble damages, all costs, and payment of attorney fees should a tenant prevail.  Attorney Murphy provides pro bono legal services to recover security deposits.

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Trial Success: Landlord’s Right to Possession Secured

Recently, Attorney Murphy represented a landlord at trial in the Boston Housing Court. Attorney Murphy counseled the landlord through the eviction process and secured the landlord’s right to possession as well as back rent.

Originally, the landlord attempted to evict the tenant without knowing the requisite steps to do so. The landlord nearly caused the case to be dismissed, but Attorney Murphy quickly corrected the deficiencies without issue. Housing Court Docket no.: 15H84SP002142.

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Bank Employee Prevails

Recently, Attorney Murphy’s client, a former senior personal banker, received a favorable unemployment benefits decision. The unemployment office initially denied the claim because the former employer alleged the client committed misconduct. Attorney Murphy, however, established through direct and cross examination at the unemployment hearing that the employer could not prove the client actually committed the conduct at issue. The supervisor essentially admitted he did not take any immediate corrective action. Thus, Attorney Murphy harped on this lapse of disciplinary action to discredit the employer’s case such that the unemployment office found the client more credible, and ruled in favor of the client.

Attorney Murphy notes that micromanagement of employees can lead to unwarranted and unnecessary terminations because like in this case, the supervisor failed to understand the big picture: the company lost a loyal and hard-working employee.

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Attorney Murphy Successfully Argues Motion for Reconsideration

On March 4, 2015, Attorney Murphy persuaded the Cambridge District Court to vacate its order issuing an “execution” against his client, a tenant, for violating an “agreement for judgment”.  Prior to retaining Attorney Murphy, the client and her former landlord entered into an agreement for judgment in lieu of a costly eviction trial.  The landlord then filed a motion for issuance of the execution alleging that the client breached the agreement for judgment.  The court agreed with the landlord and found the client in breach of the agreement.

The client was dismayed by the process, particularly where she now had a judgment against her.

The client then retained Attorney Murphy.  Attorney Murphy drafted a motion to reconsider the issuance of the execution.  Typically, motions to reconsider are never granted.  Attorney Murphy, however, persuaded the court that for purposes of justice and equity, the landlord’s motion should never have been issued in the first place.  The court agreed.

Attorney Murphy’s understanding of the balance between law and equity was paramount to his client’s success in this matter.  Attorney Murphy would urge any landlord or tenant to seek assistance of counsel when dealing with motions for reconsideration because courts will only reverse their orders when exceptional circumstances are present.

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