Thursday, July 27, 2006

Signing for Sudafed

A new Federal law, known as the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, was enacted in March with the renewal of the Patriot Act. Beginning September 30, P.L. 109-177, sec. 701-756 puts limits on the purchase of products containing pseudoephedrine.

These decongestants, like Sudafed, must be kept behind the counter and you can buy no more than 3.6 grams per day or 9 grams per month. Purchasers will be required to present ID and sign a log book with their name, address, and the date and time of purchase.

Many drug stores are already implementing these procedures. Details on the requirements are available at General Information Regarding The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 [Title VII of Public Law 109-177]. More information on health care issues is available at Mass. Law About Health Care.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Moving Away with Children

In Mason v. Coleman, 447 Mass. 177 (July 10, 2006), the SJC decided this month that in order for a parent who shares joint physical custody to move out of state, s/he must meet a higher standard than a parent who has sole physical custody. “While a joint physical custody agreement remains in effect, each parent necessarily surrenders a degree of prerogative in certain life decisions, e.g., choice of habitation, that may affect the feasibility of shared physical custody.” “Where physical custody is shared, the "best interest" calculus pertaining to removal is appreciably different from those situations that involve sole physical custody.” “No longer is the fortune of simply one custodial parent so tightly interwoven with that of the child; both parents have equal rights and responsibilities with respect to the children. The importance to the children of one parent's advantage in relocating outside the Commonwealth is greatly reduced.”

Applying the “best interests of the child” test, the court determined that the mother would not be permitted to move out of state.

More information on this case is available from the Boston Globe. More information on child custody issues is available at Mass. Law About Child Custody.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Overtime for Commissioned Employees

The U.S. Department of Labor has a handy Fact Sheet for determining when a commissioned salesperson is exempt from overtime requirements. It says, in part, “If a retail or service employer elects to use the Section 7(i) overtime exemption for commissioned employees, three conditions must be met:

1. the employee must be employed by a retail or service establishment, and
2. the employee's regular rate of pay must exceed one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage for every hour worked in a workweek in which overtime hours are worked, and
3. more than half the employee's total earnings in a representative period must consist of commissions.

Unless all three conditions are met, the Section 7(i) exemption is not applicable, and overtime premium pay must be paid for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek at time and one-half the regular rate of pay.”

More information on the determination of exempt status for other types of employees is available at Mass. Law About Overtime.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fire-Safe Cigarettes

Last week, the Legislature passed St.2006, c.140, An Act Relative to the Loss of Life Due to Fires Caused by Cigarettes, which will require cigarettes sold in Massachusetts to be made with special self-extinguishing paper beginning in January 2008. According to the Business Journal, Massachusetts is the sixth state to enact such a law. More information on smoking and the sale of cigarettes is available at Mass. Law About Smoking.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You have the right to remain seated...

Cingular has reached a compromise with employees who were angered that management had taken away their seats in stores and was requiring them to stand. An obscure Massachusetts law, MGL c.149, s.103, may have saved their chairs.

Originally written to protect “women or children” in “manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile” businesses, the law was amended in 1974 to include all employees. It now provides: “Employers shall provide suitable seats for the use of their employees and shall permit such employees to use such seats whenever they are not necessarily engaged in the active duties of their employment, and shall also provide for their use and permit them to use suitable seats while at work, except when the work cannot properly be performed in a sitting position or when such seats may reasonably be expected to result in an unsafe or hazardous working condition. Whoever violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than two hundred dollars.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Minimum Wage Increase

On July 6, the state Senate passed a new minimum wage bill, S2632, which is expected to pass the House this week. The Governor has remained noncommittal on the measure. The bill will raise the state minimum wage from the current $6.75/hour to $7.50/hour effective January 1, 2007, and then to $8.00/hour effective in 2008. More information is available from the Boston Globe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Proposed Marriage Amendment Can Go Forward

In Schulman v. Attorney General, 447 Mass. 189, the SJC ruled unanimously yesterday that the proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage rights in Massachusetts can go forward. The court said, in part, that while “measures that relate to "the reversal of a judicial decision" are excluded from the initiative process,” that exclusion does not apply to “the "overruling" of the prospective application of a court decision.”

In a concurrence, Justice Greaney (with Ireland, J.) suggests that the amendment, even if passed, may be too inherently inconsistent with the provision of equal rights granted by the rest of the constitution to stand. “The only effect of a positive vote will be to make same-sex couples, and their families, unequal to everyone else; this is discrimination in its rawest form.” He further suggests that such an amendment may be overturned on Federal constitutional law grounds, citing Romer v. Evans in which a Colorado Constitutional amendment repealing all “existing statutes, regulations, ordinances, and policies of state and local entities that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation” was overturned. In that case, the US Supreme Court ruled, in part, “It is not within our constitutional tradition to enact laws of this sort. Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance.”

To voice your opinion before tomorrow's joint session of the Mass. legislature, see Senators and Representatives by City and Town. For more information on same-sex marriage, see Mass. Law About Same-Sex Marriage.

Monday, July 10, 2006

New Juror Questionnaire

Beginning July 5, people reporting for jury duty in Massachusetts are now required to fill out a more detailed questionnaire. A series of yes-no questions replace formerly more open-ended questions, but the form is still just a single page. Questions include: Have you or anyone in your household or family ever had any of the following experiences with the law? (Please check all that apply): Been arrested? Been charged with a crime? Been convicted of a crime? Been a crime victim? Been sued? Filed a lawsuit? Been a witness in a civil/criminal case? Been seated on a jury? Been served with a court order? Sought a court order (restraining order, stay-away order, injunction, etc.?). In the demographic section, a status of "domestic partner" has been added to the traditional married, divorced, single, etc.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Social Security and Unemployment

On June 24, Gov. Romney signed a bill removing a penalty for those collecting Social Security benefits who find themselves unemployed. Massachusetts had been one of just 10 states to reduce unemployment benefits for people collecting Social Security. St.2006, c.123, sections 68 and 69 provide:

SECTION 68. Section 29 of chapter 151A of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 125, the words “the Social Security Act or”.
SECTION 69. Paragraph (6) of subsection (d) of said section 29 of said chapter 151A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:— Payments received under the Social Security Act shall not be subject to this paragraph.

The law these sections amend is MGL c.151A, s.29, which previously had provided that "the amount of benefits otherwise payable to such individual shall be reduced by fifty per cent of the amount of such pension, retirement or retired pay, annuity, or other payment, notwithstanding the amount contributed by the individual to such plan."

More information on the new law is available at the Boston Globe. For more on unemployment, see Mass. Law About Unemployment.