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Supreme Judicial Court Agrees with Arguments in David Russcol’s Amicus Brief in Upholding Broad Anti-Retaliation Protections Under Massachusetts Wage Act

In Parker v. EnerNOC, Inc., the Supreme Judicial Court held that employers who fire or otherwise retaliate against their employees in order to avoid paying earned commissions must pay treble damages for those lost commissions. Zalkind Law’s David Russcol, along with Audrey Richardson of Greater Boston Legal Services, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association, Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and Fair Employment Project. The plaintiff in Parker landed a major sale for her employer, but the jury found that her employer fired her after she complained about being underpaid on her commissions (and for being subjected to sex discrimination, which was not at issue in this appeal). A large portion of her commission only became due a year later, after the customer decided not to exercise an option to cancel its contract. The SJC agreed with David’s argument that the commissions the plaintiff would have been paid if she had not been fired qualify as “lost wages” under the Massachusetts Wage Act, meaning that she could recover triple that amount. In doing so, the SJC rejected the trial judge’s interpretation that only commissions that were due and payable as of the last day of employment should be tripled – a reading of the law that would encourage employers to fire employees to deprive them of earned commissions. The SJC strongly reinforced the purpose of the Wage Act to protect employees from wage theft, and clearly stated that an employer cannot make commissions contingent on continued employment, and then rely on that contingency to deny payment to a terminated employee who has done the work to earn the commission. This decision emphasizes the broad reach of the Wage Act’s protections, as well as the substantial remedies (including treble damages and attorney’s fees) against those who violate this law.

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