On July 11, 2016, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment against Kathleen Burns, a former employee of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) who suffered gender discrimination and a hostile work environment at the hands of a male supervisor who wielded a baseball bat in every interaction with her and ultimately stripped her of her main responsibilities. ZDB attorney Monica Shah authored an amicus brief on behalf of MELA arguing that the lower court erred by requiring direct evidence of discrimination, disregarding substantial circumstantial evidence of discrimination (including stereotypical beliefs about a female employee’s role in positions of leadership and authority), and ratcheting up the standard for a hostile work environment claim. Acknowledging MELA’s assistance to the Court, the First Circuit concluded that the lower court erred in these ways and that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence for a reasonable jury to find in Ms. Burns’ favor on both claims. The Court’s decision and MELA’s amicus brief can be found here.
In June 2016, Norman Zalkind and David Russcol advocated for a client accused of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Our client was accused of causing serious injuries to the alleged victim. The prosecution requested that he be found guilty of all charges, including two felonies. Over the prosecutor’s objection, the Court accepted our request that the case be continued without a finding. Our client was placed on unsupervised probation, and the charges against him will be dismissed in 2017.
In April 2016, Emma Quinn-Judge spoke about pregnancy and caregiver discrimination as part of a panel about “Dismantling Barriers to Women’s Equality in the Workplace.”
In April 2016, Emma Quinn-Judge spoke about the relative success of retaliation claims as compared to discrimination claims as part of a National Employment Lawyers Association seminar entitled “Reining in Retaliation & Winning Whistleblower Cases.”
Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of three national voices on criminal justice reform – The Constitution Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers – in Commonwealth v. Laltaprasad, a case which will be argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on April 5, 2016. The case involves the question of whether Massachusetts’ law contains a safety valve allowing a criminal defendant relief from harsh mandatory minimum penalties in cases involving mitigating circumstances. In the brief, amici provide context to the Massachusetts law by explaining that a national consensus has emerged that strict mandatory minimum sentencing schemes fail to effectuate the basic purposes of sentencing, and that, as a result, the federal government and at least twenty-nine states have statutes that provide judicial discretion to depart below certain mandatory minimum sentences.
Monica Shah authors amicus brief on behalf of the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association in Burns v. Johnson, a case involving gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims pending before the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The plaintiff – a longtime employee with Department of Homeland Security and a mother of five children who worked an alternative schedule due to her childcare obligations – was almost immediately stripped of her responsibilities when a new male supervisor took over, singled her out and questioned her work schedule, and reassigned her main duties to a group of male employees to promote their “leadership” skills. He further asserted his authority over her by wielding a baseball bat in every interaction he had with her. MELA’s brief addresses the district court’s failure to consider the circumstantial evidence of gender-based discrimination and harassment against the plaintiff, including unconscious bias about women in leadership roles and gender stereotypes, and urges the Court of Appeals to vacate and reverse the district court’s decision to dismiss all of plaintiff’s claims.
On February 10, 2016, Inga Bernstein and Monica Shah had the pleasure of volunteering at the Cradles to Crayons’ Presidents’ Day Celebration of Service event. Cradles to Crayons is a not-for-profit organization that works to provide essential items to low-income children, including clothing, school supplies and toys. Monica has served on the Board of C2C since 2015. If you’d like more information about this terrific organization and opportunities to donate and get involved, visit the C2C website.
In January 2016, Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah spoke at the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association program regarding their recent nearly $11 million verdict in a race discrimination and retaliation case against the City of Boston. For more information about the case, click here for Boston Globe coverage and here for Boston Herald.
Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP is proud to announce that it has named two new partners. Ruth O’Meara-Costello and Emma Quinn-Judge joined the firm’s partnership effective January 1, 2016. For more firm news and information on our firm’s work, please follow us on social media at the following links.
Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah represented Chantal Charles, a black woman and longtime public servant, in a race discrimination and retaliation case against the City of Boston and the City’s First Assistant Collector-Treasurer Vivian Leo. The Boston jury awarded a nearly $11 million verdict to Ms. Charles, finding 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.
The jury awarded Ms. Charles approximately $390,000 in economic damages, $500,000 for emotional distress, and $10 million in punitive damages. The scope of the punitive damages award shows that the jury found the City and Ms. Leo’s conduct was outrageous and egregious.