Bennett & Belfort P.C.
The B&B Docket Blog
Developments in the Dynamic World
of Business and Employment Law

B&B Attorneys Secure Win in Federal Court Jury Trial Involving Pizza Delivery Tips

Posted on: November 20th, 2015 by admin

On October 23, 2015, B&B partners, Eric LeBlanc and Todd Bennett, obtained a favorable jury verdict for their client in the United States Federal District Court in Boston.  Mr. Bennett and Mr. LeBlanc represented PMLRA Pizza, Inc. (“PMLRA”), a franchisee of Domino’s Pizza, and Henry Askew (individually), the President of PMLRA Pizza, Inc.

At issue in the case, was:

a)      Whether or not delivery charges are “Service Charges” under the Massachusetts Tips Act,


b)   Whether a reasonable customer would be aware that a delivery charge was not a gratuity.

The case was brought by a former PMLRA food delivery driver, seeking compensation under the Massachusetts Tips Act and the Massachusetts minimum wage statute.

As to the issue of whether delivery charges were “service charges” under the Tips Act, PMLRA argued that the evidence showed that that these charges were not service charges under the law but, instead were used to address rising operational costs, versus payment for the actual service of delivery.

The case was tried over the course of one week before Hon. Judge William G. Young, and the jury returned its verdict in favor of PMLRA.

Congratulations to Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Bennett for a hard fought federal court trial victory.



Four Bennett & Belfort P.C. Attorneys Selected 2015 Super Lawyers

Posted on: October 30th, 2015 by admin


We are proud to announce that Thomas Reuters / Super Lawyers has again listed Bennett & Belfort P.C. partners Todd J. Bennett, David E. Belfort, Michael L. Mason (Rising Star) and Eric R. LeBlanc (Rising Star) among the 2015 New England Super Lawyers.

Mr. Bennett and Mr. Belfort were selected “Top 100 Lawyers in New England” for a second consecutive year. Attorney Bennett has been named a Super Lawyer for the past five years in the area of Business Litigation while Mr. Belfort has been selected a top Lawyer in the area of Employment Litigation: Plaintiff for the last decade. Mr. Mason and Mr. LeBlanc are once again Rising Stars in the areas of Employment and Labor and Business Litigation, respectively.

Super Lawyers rates lawyers in more than 70 practice areas. They evaluate attorneys who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. While up to 5 percent of the lawyers in a state are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5 percent are named to Rising Stars.

Bennett & Belfort P.C. concentrates its practice in business and commercial litigation and employment law and litigation.

Bennett & Belfort Volunteers at Rosie’s Place

Posted on: August 19th, 2015 by admin

Rosies Place BB Team 300x225On August 18, 2015 Bennett & Belfort attorneys and staff sponsored, prepared and served lunch to about 180 women at Rosie’s Place, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women in Boston’s South End.


Attorney LeBlanc Advises Employers on Best Practices for Dismissing Underperforming Employees

Posted on: July 1st, 2015 by admin

Cubicles 300x199Bennett & Belfort P.C. partner, Eric R. LeBlanc, was featured in an article for IE3 Global, entitled “Dismissing Underperforming Employees:  Tips and Potential Pitfalls.”  Audrey Henderson, who authored the publication, interviewed Attorney LeBlanc regarding proactive safeguards business owners can establish in order to minimize potential lawsuits by terminated employees.

When employers effectively communicate with their employees and treat them fairly, the chances of a terminated employee taking adverse legal action are considerably diminished.  Having represented both employers and employees, Attorney LeBlanc understands the value of effective communication between employers and employees, as well as the notion that employees who perceive that they have been treated fairly are less likely to sue their former employers.As outlined in the article, “Employers should be proactive in the treatment of employees prior to termination versus reactive in dealing with underperforming workers.”

The article can be accessed through the IE3 website (

Attorneys Belfort and Amundson Present at Hobart and William Smith Colleges Networking Event

Posted on: June 26th, 2015 by admin

HWS Dave Sarah 150x150On June 17, 2015, Bennett & Belfort partner, David E. Belfort and associate, Sarah E. Amundson, co-lectured a presentation entitled “Employment Law:  Primer and Pitfalls” for their alma mater Hobart and William Smith Colleges‘ Professional Networking Group. The discussion constituted a broad introduction to Massachusetts employment law and covered topics such as at-will employment, employee privacy, and the Wage Act.  The event was held at the offices of Moors & Cabot at 200 Devonshire Street, Boston. 

HWS 300x33

Supreme Court Clarifies Rules for Accommodating Pregnant Employees

Posted on: June 10th, 2015 by admin

Belly 150x150UPS driver Peggy Young became pregnant in the fall of 2006 and was advised by her doctor to restrict lifting to 20 pounds.  Young’s job typically required her to lift up to 70 pounds, and she sought accommodations from UPS to comply with her doctor’s advice.  UPS denied her request and told her to return to work after the pregnancy.  UPS took the position that it could only accommodate lifting restrictions for employees in three specific groups: employees who were considered disabled under the Americans with Disability Act, employees who were injured on the job, and employees who lost their Department of Transportation Driving Certification.  In the past, UPS accommodated workers who were unable to lift heavy objects due to job related injuries only, not physical reasons.  In justifying its denial of Young’s request, UPS asserted that it was exercising neutrality and fairness. 

As a result, Young lost out on several months of pay without medical coverage.  She sued UPS in July 2007 under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”).  The PDA states that pregnant employees “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”  According to Young, the refusal of UPS to temporarily reassign her job duties or allow co-workers to assist with heavy lifting tasks constituted discrimination in violation of the PDA.  She argued that the PDA required employers to accommodate pregnancy in the same manner they accommodate any temporary disability.  UPS countered that since it only accommodated lifting restrictions for workers who were injured on the job, its refusal to accommodate Young was in keeping with its policy and was not discriminatory.   Both a federal court judge and an appeals court ruled in favor of UPS, stating that the company’s policy was neutral, and the employees whom UPS had accommodated were not comparable to Young because their restrictions were related to distinguishable, job-related factors.  Not satisfied with the interpretation of the PDA, Young took the matter to the Supreme Court which ruled 6-3 in her favor.

Justice Breyer, who authored the decision for the Court, found both the arguments of Young and UPS wanting.  While he didn’t agree with Young that the PDA grants pregnant women a blanket right to accommodations, he also didn’t agree that UPS’ neutrality argument was viable.  Rather, Justice Breyer’s opinion clarified that if an employer chooses to accommodate restrictions caused by some temporary disabilities, the employer must also accommodate the same restriction if caused by pregnancy.

Following the Court’s ruling, Young must now return to Virginia courts and prosecute her discrimination claim under this clarification of the law.  Meanwhile, employers who are subject to the PDA are now on notice that they must accommodate pregnancy-related restrictions to the same extent that they accommodate other disabling conditions when they arise.

Belfort Speaks on Employment Issues at Seminar for Attorneys Starting Law Firms

Posted on: June 3rd, 2015 by admin


Bennett & Belfort, P.C. partner David E. Belfort served as invited faculty for the May 29, 2015 Massachusetts Bar Association legal education conference How to Start and Run a Successful Solo or Small Firm Practice.  Mr. Belfort focused his presentation on practical employment law tips for those forming new law firms.  He discussed employment law basics in the context of Massachusetts law governing personnel management, employment policies (including sexual harassment and privacy), hiring, firing and traps for the unwary.

Massachusetts Adjusts Its Trial Rules Allowing Lawyers to Argue for Specific Awards

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by admin

DOLLAR SIGN 150x150Massachusetts has modernized its rules governing attorney argument as to specific damage awards at trial – but only in Superior Court.  Newly amended M.G.L. chapter 231, section 13B, has opened the door for juries to consider specific requests for damage sums which are sought by an aggrieved or injured plaintiff.

Prior to this amendment, plaintiffs’ counsel in Superior Court civil trials were prohibited from arguing that their clients were entitled to a specific award when it came to intangible damages like those awarded for emotional distress, pain and suffering, the loss of use or function of a body part, or punitive damages. Massachusetts jurors were expected to determine damage amounts, if any, based on their life experiences.  This often left juries without guidance as to unfamiliar or esoteric concepts of value without any direct assistance or argument from counsel.  Juries were left to determine what damage sums the evidence supports and the law allows given the nature and extent of a breach or injury.

With the recent implementation of the new law all this changed.  Now “in a civil action in the Superior Court, parties, through counsel, may suggest a specific monetary amount for damages at trial.”  Freed to advocate for their clients as to remedies, plaintiff’s counsel may now provide juries with argument geared at suggesting specific awards for damages in cases involving financial recovery.

As with all argument at trial, there are risks.  Attorneys may well suggest damage figures that are far lower than a jury would have ordinarily awarded.  Alternatively, a jury might find an advocate’s recommendations exaggerated and artificially high award recommendations may undermine a lawyer’s credibility in the eye of the jury.  This may well impact their assessment on the merits of liability.  Of course, leaving the damages assessment entirely up to the jury is also a danger in that ordinary jurors considering large money figures might well minimize damage awards based on their personal life experiences, biases against run-away jury awards or preconceived notions association with the personal perceptions or misconceptions of a profit motive by the lawyers.

Massachusetts’ new law also changes the manner in which defendant’s counsel may wish to respond to claims for specific damages.  Attorneys defending civil cases in the Superior Court should consider attacking inflated or unrealistic damage suggestions.  Of course, a liability defense aimed at preventing a damage assessment altogether will remain a focus in most cases for defense counsel.  In most cases, including when liability is clear, defense counsel must be prepared to argue and advocate for their client’s own view on damages, including presenting a rational view on the scope and extent of injury or damage to the plaintiff.  For example, Defendants routinely highlight the role of any pre-existing injury or allude to evidence of plaintiff’s failure to mitigate their damages.

As attorneys in Massachusetts wrestle with this new law at the Superior Court level, Bennett & Belfort PC will keep you updated as to trends and developments in this rapidly evolving area of trial practice.  Should you have any questions on this or any other employment legislation, please feel free to contact Bennett & Belfort P.C.

Attorney Belfort Moderates Labor & Employment Law Update Panel at MBA’s 36th Annual Spring Conference

Posted on: April 15th, 2015 by admin

MBAOn Tuesday, April 14, 2015, Bennett & Belfort partner, David E. Belfort moderated the Labor and Employment Update Panel at the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 36th Annual Labor & Employment Law Spring Conference at Suffolk University Law School.  The Panelists addressed a variety of new developments, both legislative and case-related, in both labor and employment law over the last year.

Seasoned labor attorneys Ira Sills and James Pender led the panel in addressing, among other issues, the NLRB’s newly announced expedited election rules and the expanding prohibitions limiting employee communications as to the terms and conditions of employment under the NLRA – even in the non-unionized workplace.  Experienced employment law panelists, Anthony Califano and Nina Kimball, addressed a variety of major US Supreme Court decisions that came down over the last year, including relative to pregnancy accommodations.  On the very active state level, the panel highlighted new Massachusetts legislation pertaining to gender neutral pregnancy leave, paid sick leave, protections for victims of domestic violence and the new Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (a/k/a “Nanny law”).

36th Annual


Posted on: April 1st, 2015 by admin

MCAD 150x150Below are some facts about sexual harassment claims in Massachusetts that you may not have known.  There are many other important details relating to sexual harassment claims that are not discussed in this blog. We will update future blogs with additional information regarding sexual harassment law.  If you have questions about sexual harassment in Massachusetts, please contact our office (617.577.8800).

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates both Massachusetts law (General Laws, Chapter 151B and General Laws, Chapter 214, Section 1C) and federal laws (Title VII of the Civil Rights -Act of 1964).



1. Quid pro quo” harassment

When an employee with authority or control over the terms and conditions of another employee’s work offers him/her a work benefit or advantage in exchange for sexual favors or gratification, this is quid pro quo harassment.  Also, if an employee is denied a work benefit or advantage due to his or her refusal to provide sexual favors, or as a result of rejecting requests for sexual favors, this is quid pro quo sexual harassment.  For example, quid pro quo harassment may exist if an employee declines to provide sexual favors to his or her boss and as a result, suffers termination; demotion; denial of a promotion; transfer; reduced or less preferential hours or scheduling; poor performance reviews; or decreased compensation.

2.  A “Hostile Work Environment” claimant must show that:

he or she was subjected to conduct of a sexual nature;

the conduct of a sexual nature was unwelcome;

the conduct of a sexual nature had the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment; and

the conduct unreasonably interfered with the claimant’s work performance or altered the terms and conditions of the claimant’s employment.

While these cases are fact specific, any of the following types of conduct can serve as the basis for a potential hostile work environment sexual harassment claim (this list is not exhaustive): inappropriate touching; sexual jokes, gossip, sexual conduct or comments; requests for sex; displaying sexually suggestive pictures and objects; and leering, whistling, or making sexual gestures.  Keep in mind that other civil claims and criminal sanctions might be available remedies as well, including, but not limited to, assault and battery, interference with contractual relations, and retaliation.  Therefore, a careful review of these types of cases is recommended.

NOTE:  If the harasser is NOT in a supervisory role, the victim – in most cases – is expected to notify the Human Resources Department or a managerial employee of the employer, so that the employer is on notice of the misconduct and has an opportunity to take corrective action.

If the harasser is in a supervisory role, the employer is considered “strictly liable” for the conduct, whether or not the employer is aware of the sexual harassment. 



Careful consideration must be given to an analysis of whether conduct in a particular situation is sexually charged (and not just a stray remark) or sufficiently severe and pervasive at the workplace to constitute actionable sexual harassment.

A single “off color” or sexually charged action or comment may or may not be sexual harassment.  In order to prove a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim, the claimant must show that the conduct was either severe or pervasive, or both.  While a single instance of improper lewd touching is usually severe enough to constitute a hostile work environment claim, generally speaking—even where it is inappropriate or sexually charged—a single lewd or inappropriate comment might not constitute a hostile work environment claim.  This is very fact specific, and each circumstance (including the background information) must be evaluated on a case by case basis.



Not all sexual harassment cases involve a male harasser and a female victim.  The victim or harasser may be male or female, and same sex sexual harassment claims (female harasser and female victim, male harasser and male victim, etc.) appear to be on the rise.



An employer may be held liable for sexual harassment committed by non-employee third parties when the employer knew or should have known about the conduct and failed to take prompt, effective and reasonable remedial action.  Generally, the greater the employer’s ability to control the non-employee’s conduct, the more likely it will be found liable for the unlawful harassment.



Sexual harassment claims pursuant to General Laws, Chapter 151B must be filed at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and/or the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the adverse/discriminatory conduct.  There are exceptions, including situations in which the conduct complained about was of a continuing nature.

If a claimant files a claim after the applicable statute of limitations, his or her claim will be forever time barred. Time is of the essence with any discrimination claim.



Most sexual harassment allegations arise from an employer-employee relationship.  However, sexual harassment is also prohibited in places of public accommodation,educational facilities,and housing.

We will update future blogs with additional information regarding sexual harassment law.  Please do not hesitate to contact us at 617.577.8800 if you have any questions.