News + Insights from the Legal Team at Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein

Archives

We are pleased to announce that seven of our attorneys have been selected to the 2020 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list. We would also like to congratulate four of our attorneys for being selected to the 2020 Massachusetts Rising Stars list.

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

Please join us in congratulating the following attorneys who have been selected as “Super Lawyers” and “Rising Stars” this year.

Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP is proud to announce that Attorneys Inga Bernstein, David Duncan, Elizabeth Lunt, Ruth O’Meara-Costello, Emma Quinn-Judge, Monica Shah, Rachel Stroup, and Norman Zalkind are listed in the 2021 edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession and rates attorneys by conducting exhaustive peer-review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. Congratulations to all!

Shah-headshotOn Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Monica Shah, a partner at Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, will speak at the Boston Bar Association’s 2020 Higher Education Virtual Legal Conference. She will join a panel titled “Title IX: Hearing from Parties’ Counsel and Predicting Future Litigation.” Learn more about the event here.

Shah-headshot-300x200

Monica Shah, a partner at Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, will be joining a panel of experts for the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 41st Annual Labor & Employment Conference scheduled for Thursday, June 18, 2020.  Attorney Shah will be presenting recent developments in state and federal employment law.  Registration for this virtual conference is open until June 16, 2020. Learn more about the event here.

US-DOE-sealOne of several controversial revisions to the new Title IX regulations issued by the Department of Education (DOE) is the change to the definition of “sexual harassment.” The regulations significantly narrow the scope of Title IX’s definition of sexual harassment, making it less expansive than the workplace standard for sexual harassment under Title VII and related state anti-discrimination laws.  The DOE has justified this dramatic redefinition of sexual harassment based on concerns that Title IX enforcement has been overbroad and, as a result, has applied to conduct that may implicate free speech and academic freedom concerns.  The DOE also supports the revisions by claiming that they clarify and provide more explicit guidance to schools about what conduct constitutes sexual harassment for Title IX purposes.  The new regulations may provide more clarity in the most egregious circumstances involving quid pro quo sexual harassment and conduct that constitutes sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking under the Clery Act (the federal law requiring United States colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses).  However, the revised definition raises serious questions for complainants about whether other conduct—such as some forms of physical contact, verbal sexual harassment, or gender-based (non-sexual) or LGBTQ-based harassment—will be prohibited under Title IX.

Definition of Sexual Harassment Under Prior Law

Under prior guidance, the DOE defined sexual harassment as “[c]onduct of a sexual nature [that] is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the education program, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment.”  This definition broadly included a variety of conduct that could interfere in a student’s ability to participate in school, ranging from physical conduct such as rape, groping, and other nonconsensual sexual contact to verbal harassment.

Today the Massachusetts Appeals Court vindicated Chantal Charles, a black woman and longtime public servant, who had won a nearly $11 million verdict in 2015 in her race discrimination and retaliation case against the City of Boston and the City’s First Assistant Collector-Treasurer Vivian Leo. The Appeals Court issued a unanimous 45-page decision affirming the jury’s verdict that the City and Ms. Leo discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Charles and granted Ms. Charles’ appeal of the trial court’s decision to reduce the punitive damages verdict.

Ms. Charles is an outstanding employee who has worked in the City’s Treasury Department for thirty-three years, managing the Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust and other trusts, and has dedicated her career to beautifying and improving the city’s parks and neighborhoods. Despite her excellent performance, Ms. Charles has never been promoted. The Treasury Division generally has failed to promote black employees to higher level management positions and is one of the least racially diverse departments in the City with one of the highest pay gaps between white and non-white employees. Ms. Charles’ longtime supervisor left his position after Ms. Leo called Ms. Charles “aloof, non-deferential, and uppity” and insisted that he give her a poor performance review, which he refused to do because it was unwarranted. Following his departure, Ms. Charles continued to experience discrimination and was passed over for promotion to his position twice.

After hearing the evidence at trial, the jury found that the City and Ms. Leo engaged in a “consistently enforced pattern and practice of discrimination” against black employees. The jury also found that the City and Ms. Leo retaliated against Ms. Charles for filing a charge of discrimination at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

On August 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit released a decision that ca1strengthens the due process requirements applicable to discipline at state universities, but does not go as far as other courts such as the Sixth Circuit, which has forcefully affirmed a due process right to cross-examination on issues of credibility. In Haidak v. University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the First Circuit largely found the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) procedures adequate as they were applied in the specific case before it, but adopted a requirement for some form of real-time cross-examination sufficient to address the key facts and issues in a student’s case. The court also emphasized the need for a state college to provide a student with due process for even an interim suspension – and only in the case of a real emergency can that process occur after the suspension. 

CONTINUE READING ›

On March 25, 2019, Monica Shah presented a session on criminal law and students’ rights at the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston’s award-winning “Know Your Rights!” program at the Waltham Public Library.  Through this program, SABA GB empowers South Asian community leaders in Massachusetts on topics ranging from criminal law to employment law, bankruptcy, consumer protection, immigration, and elder care. Learn more about SABA GB and the KYR program here: https://www.sabagb.org/know-your-rights

Monica Shah, a partner at Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, will be joining the faculty as Chair of the MCLE webcast and on-site program, “Preventing & Handling Sexual Harassment Claims in the #MeToo Era” scheduled for March 19, 2019. The program will focus on providing guidance for attorneys handling sexual harassment cases from initial intake or investigation to verdict or settlement, whether at the MCAD or in court. Attorney Shah has extensive experience working on sexual harassment cases. Read more or register for the program here. 

Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah recently won an employment discrimination appeal at the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The Appeals Court agreed with Attorneys Quinn-Judge and Shah that their client’s pay discrimination claim should not have been dismissed by the lower court after the defendant, the City of Boston, moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff presented evidence that the City had refused to provide a promised raise to the plaintiff, an African-American woman and a longtime public servant, after she spent nearly three years in her promoted position with substantially greater responsibilities, while at the same giving raises to another white manager.  As a result of this decision, their client will now be able to take her pay discrimination claim to trial.

Read the opinion here: Flint vs. City Of Boston & another

Super Lawyers
Martindale-Hubbell
Best Lawyers
Best Law Firms