Important Message Re: An Act Establishing Just Schedules for Employees

Dear BVCC Member, 

I would like to bring to your attention, if you are not already aware, of a new proposed bill before the legislature…

 

An Act Establishing Just Schedules for Employees

 – Representative Garballey

This bill addresses on-call and last-minute scheduling by mandating the provision of extra pay for employees whose schedule is changed within 24 hours of the shift. Specific mandates include 3 hours of pay at minimum wage when workers work less and are sent home early, 4 hours of pay at the regular rate of pay for work cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice, when workers are sent home early and work less than four hours, or for unworked on-call shifts, and 1 hour of extra pay for any shifts added within 24 hours. It also strengthens investigative and punitive authority for the government to incentivize compliance.
Here is a link to the actual bill

 

If passed, this law could cause problems for many  small business owners, and add greatly to the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth.  The Blackstone Valley Chamber is working with MACCE (Mass Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives) and AIM to reach out to our legislators with your views on how this could affect you.  Please contact your legislators and let me know your thoughts jhebert@blackstonevalley.org  so we can act as a liaison for you in reaching out as your voice of business.

 

Many thanks for your input and support!

 

Jeannie

Jeannie Hebert

President and CEO

Homestead Exemption: Court Adopts Predominance Test for Home Offices

Joshua Lee Smith – The Massachusetts homestead statute (M.G.L. c. 188) permits an owner to declare a homestead on his or her principal residence to protect it against claims of certain unsecured creditors of up to $500,000, or if an owner is disabled or 62 years of age or older, up to $1,000,000. Without declaring a homestead, homeowners are entitled to an “automatic homestead exemption” of $125,000. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts recently held in In re: Walter D. Catton, Jr. that a property that is predominantly used for commercial rather than residential purposes will disqualify such property for exemption under the homestead statute.

The debtor in the case owned a two-story structure in which he lived on the second floor and used the first floor as an office for his insurance agency. The opposing party, a bankruptcy trustee, argued that, due to its commercial use, the debtor’s property should not qualify as a single family dwelling entitled to homestead protection. The trustee pointed to the city’s assessor website which described the property as an “office” having a style of “Stores/Apt Com” and noted that the city taxed part of the property at the residential rate and part at the commercial rate. The trustee also pointed out that the debtor’s appraisal described the property as a “two unit mixed use property.” The Court was unpersuaded by these arguments, stating that the test for homestead eligibility is not whether the single family dwelling includes any commercial use but whether the commercial use predominates.

In holding that the debtor’s use of the property for his insurance agency was not the predominant use, the Court indicated that the zoning district in which the property was located permitted a home occupation with commercial use only if the commercial use was “clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the premises for residential purposes.” The Court also found persuasive the fact that over 60% of the floor area represented residential living area.

The good news for homeowners (and bad news for creditors) is that this case further demonstrates how the courts in Massachusetts continue to follow what the Court here described as the “golden rule” that exemptions are to be liberally construed in favor of debtors. Homeowners should consider taking the simple step of filing a declaration of homestead as a means to maximize the protection of one’s principal residence. Creditors should be mindful of the homestead protections afforded to debtors in the collection of judgments and the few but important exceptions where debtor-friendly homestead laws do not apply.

Small Business Website Design and Hosting Essentials

Everybody knows their small business needs a web presence today. But what are the essentials? What style site do you need? What about SEO and SMM and CMS and other acronyms? Here is a simple Top Ten list of website requirements for success today:

  1. A clear, concise description of your business: You need to grab your visitor in the first 2 or 3 seconds. Be Clear, Concise and Compelling.
  2. A simple, easy-to-remember and easy-to-type web domain: ideally, a .com URL omitting hyphens and unusual spellings if possible as these are stumbling blocks to potential visitors.
  3. Easy to follow navigation: an navigation scheme with top level sections and sub-sections as needed, typically a navigation bar at the top with your main sections and dropdowns for your sub-sections.
  4. Contact Info! Make it easy for folks to contact you with contact info in the footer and a contact us page with phone, email, physical address, and any other pertinent information. Set your email to your domain so potential customers can easily remember it and associate it with you (example: me@mydomain.com rather than me@gmail.com).
  5. Fresh, high quality content: keep your site updated regularly so it’s always fresh; a blog can help immensely in keeping fresh content on the homepage.
  6. Attention-grabbing design fitting your subject area: a tourism site, for instance, should feature photo galleries of key destinations, a photographer’s site a rich gallery of sample work, and a manufacturer’s site aiming at online sales product info, photos, and easy way to purchase
  7. Reliable, secure hosting: it’s easy to get web hosting for $10 or less per month these days, but how reliable is the host? how readily available to service your needs? how flexible in their offerings? I offer my clients a hosting plus support package tailored to their needs, so that they have guaranteed time each month for their special requirements at a reduced rate.
  8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): website elements that help drive search engines to find your site, including keywords, alt and title tags, inbound links, and social media.
  9. SMM (Social Media Marketing) or just “Social”: your social media connections, from Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn to Tumblr.
  10. CMS (Content Management System): you need a CMS that facilitates easy and flexible site maintenance, whether you edit the site yourself, have a webmaster or even team to manage the site, or a combination. There are many platforms available today, but the most versatile and simple to use for a small business is a WordPress site.

I will address these issues in more detail future posts.

Adverse Possession – What Has Your Neighbor Been Up To?

Joshua Lee Smith – In Massachusetts, a party claiming title to land through adverse possession must establish actual, open, exclusive and non-permissive use of such land for a continuous period of at least 20 years. The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently held in 1148 Davol Street LLC v. Mechanic’s Mill One, that a cause of action for adverse possession against a private party can begin during prior ownership of the land by The Commonwealth of Massachusetts or a city or town.

The city of Fall River was the record owner of a certain parcel of land (the “Mechanic’s Mill Property”) from 1975 until 1989, when the city sold the Mechanic’s Mill Property to a private party. The Mechanic’s Mill Property was subsequently sold to the named defendant. In 1975, the owners of property adjacent to the Mechanic’s Mill Property (the “Adjacent Property”) began to use an approximately 25,000 square foot strip of land on the Mechanic’s Mill Property along the boundary of the two properties. The Adjacent Property was sold to the named plaintiff in 2007, and in 2008, the plaintiff brought suit against the defendant over the ownership of the strip.

The parties agreed that the plaintiff satisfied the elements of an adverse possession claim for a continuous 32-year period from 1975 to 2007. Therefore, the sole issue before the Court was whether the plaintiff could count the time during which title to the Mechanic’s Mill Property was held by the city toward the requisite 20-year period of adverse use.

The Court recognized that under the common law, a party claiming adverse possession could not count the time title to the land was held by the Commonwealth or a city or town towards the applicable limitations period as adverse possession cannot be claimed against a governmental entity as to public land. However, Massachusetts has explicitly departed from the common law rule by adopting M.G.L. c 260, § 31 (“Section 31”). Section 31 provides a 20-year statute of limitations period for actions for the recovery of land commenced by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. The defendant argued that the exceptions to the statute of limitations for land held for conservation, open space, parks, recreation, water protection, wildlife protection or other public purpose that were added to Section 31 by amendments indicate an intent by the Legislature that land put to a public purpose could never be subject to adverse possession, and on this basis the limitations period cannot run while the property is held by a public party, which, in this case, would mean that the adverse possession “clock” would not have started until the city transferred the Mechanic’s Mill Property to a private party in 1989.

The Court disagreed, holding that a private record owner of once-public land opposing an adverse possession claim may not invoke Section 31 as a defense. The Court reasoned that while the amendment to Section 31 “undeniably added broad protections allowing the Commonwealth and its subdivisions to recover land held for public purposes, nothing in the statute evinces an intent that such protections also benefit a subsequent private owner.” Moreover, the public policy reasons for adding the broad public purpose language to Section 31 are indicative of an intent to protect land that benefits the general public, and allowing a private party to “take advantage of a law clearly designed to benefit the [Commonwealth] would be inapposite to the purpose of that law.”

Owners and purchasers of real property should always carefully review claims and potential claims of adverse possession. This decision makes clear that any such claims cannot be defended on the basis that the property was once owned by a public entity. In general, property owners interested in avoiding claims of adverse possession should consider registering the property with the Land Court, erecting no trespassing signs or a fence or posting a Notice to Prevent Acquisition of Easement pursuant to M.G.L. c. 187, §§ 3 and 4 (with respect to prescriptive easements). Doing nothing and relying on the love of thy neighbor won’t help to protect your land.

A Manufacturing Renaissance? – By Senator Richard T. Moore

moore“The story of the factories of the Bay State is a narrative of an astonishing concentration of human endeavor.

“In quantity no less than in value do the manufactures of Massachusetts amaze. A boot, shoe, or slipper for every human foot in the United States; more cotton goods than the whole world produced when John Adams was President; enough hosiery to cover 40,000 miles of feet and legs; sufficient woolen goods to put a twenty-foot bandage around the waist of Mother Earth – these are some of the yardsticks that measure the annual activities of this beehive of industry.

“Of course, when one thinks of Massachusetts industry, the manufacture of textiles comes immediately to mind.

“Think of twelve million flying spindles converting fiber into yearn and thread, each of them dancing around its own axis at rates varying from 5,000 to 10,000 turns a minute. Placed end to end, these dancing dervishes of the textile industry would reach from Montreal, Canada to Memphis, Tennessee.

“Then, there are the looms, a quarter of a million of them. Put these cloth making machines together, end to end, with no aisles in between them, and the weaving shed required to house them would begin in Boston, Mass., and end in Wilmington, Delaware. Every third spindle and loom in the United States is humming away in the cities and towns of the Bay State.”

Excerpt from “Massachusetts – Beehive of Business,”
Published in The National Geographic Magazine, March, 1920

Nearly a century ago, Massachusetts was among the national leaders in manufacturing. As the “Birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution,” it’s not surprising that the Bay State was such a Mecca of business and industry.
Then, about fifty years ago, the effects of the Great Depression and another World War, and competition from lower wage states, and, ultimately, foreign countries took its toll. The hours were long; the labor was often hard and physical or boring piece work. Parents wanted better for their children, and children wanted better for themselves.

Massachusetts, known since colonial times as a place where education was valued, began to promote a college education and scholarly pursuits. The professions – largely service in method – became the goal of most educated young people. Technology replaced much of the traditional manufacturing, and office buildings replaced workshops. Technology also dramatically reduced the need for large numbers of workers doing repetitive functions. The economy shifted to an innovation economy where brains took over for brawn.

Manufacturing known today as “advanced manufacturing technology” needs fewer workers and more innovative thinkers. Massachusetts now boasts an innovation economy, and manufacturing of lasers, robotic, fiber-optics has replaced textiles and shoes. The jobs are usually clean – almost like laboratories – and the pay is substantially better.

Despite the growth of first-class regional vocational technical high schools like Blackstone Valley, Bay Path, and Worcester, there are not enough skilled workers to supply the new advanced manufacturing facilities. It is estimated that 190,000 skilled jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified applicants. Our educational system continues to produce, and parents continue to demand education for the professions despite the over-supply of lawyers, accountants, and others.

However, a “new industrial revolution” is beginning. Policymakers and educational leaders are finally working together with advanced manufacturing entrepreneurs to focus on the need for a skilled workforce to meet the needs of advanced manufacturing. The Legislature has established a “Manufacturing Caucus,” focused on listening to the needs of industry and on shifting public policy priorities to support this burgeoning sector. The state’s higher education leadership is developing a shared effort among community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts to develop training centers that offer college level technical courses to educate the new advanced manufacturing workforce.

Recently, a manufacturing roundtable of business, government, and education leaders held meetings in Southbridge, at the Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton, and at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin. Another is planned in Sturbridge in the coming weeks. We have some catching up to do, but the will and the means are present.

Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, is the Senate President Pro Tempore of the Massachusetts Senate. He is also the Senate Chairman of the Legislature’s new Manufacturing Caucus. He represents fourteen towns in South Central Massachusetts that were the “Birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution.”

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Contacts:
Sean Riley, Director of External Affairs Office of Senator Richard T. Moore
(W) 617-722-1420
(C) 508-572-1433
Sean.Riley@masenate.gov