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Employment

Shades of Gray

Free Speech in the WorkplaceRecent high-profile issues around free speech in the workplace — from the NFL’s new national-anthem policy to ABC’s blackballing of Roseanne Barr — have elicited much debate in the public square, with the point often made that private-sector employees have no right to free expression. But that’s not exactly true — or, at least, it’s not as black-and-white as some might believe. That fact creates uncertainty for employers, who must balance their own interests with their employees’ very human desire to speak their mind.

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, backed by 31 of 32 owners, announced a new national-anthem policy last month, they hoped it would quell an issue that seemed to be dying down on its own.

They were wrong, to judge by the wave of debate — in the media, online, and among players — that followed, and promises to bleed into the 2018 season. Even President Trump, whom the NFL hoped to placate with the new policy, only intensified his tweeted attacks on players and teams — a tactic he knows plays well to his base.

The new policy removes the existing requirement that players be on the field during the playing of the national anthem, but does require that players who are on the field must stand, and authorizes the NFL to fine teams whose players violate this policy. Supporters of forcing players on the field to stand have repeatedly argued — in internet comment boards and elsewhere — that private employees have no free-speech rights in the workplace.

But is that true?

To a significant degree, it is, area employment lawyers say, but the issue is far more gray than the black-and-white terms on which it’s often debated.

“Obviously, the Bill of Rights is a constraint on government action; clearly, the First Amendment doesn’t restrict what a private-sector employer can do or not do” when it comes to establishing workplace rules, said Timothy Murphy, an attorney with Skoler, Abbott & Presser. “And, if you think about it, the vast majority of employees work in the private sector and are at will, and can be terminated for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal.”

However, he went on, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employees are generally protected when speaking out on issues that impact the workplace. In other words, companies can’t just fire an employer over anything he or she says on social media, even criticism of the company itself — particularly if that criticism specifically targets an employee policy or the workplace environment. In fact, the NLRB has likened such talk to water-cooler chatter, only in a more public forum.

Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy says private-sector workers have far fewer free-speech rights than public-sector workers — but that doesn’t mean they have no rights.

“If you’re taking a knee because you’re concerned about police brutality, are you making a statement on an issue of mutual concern that impacts your workplace?” Murphy asked. “The NLRB does tend to take a broad view of what impacts your workplace. Would something like that be viewed as protected speech under the NLRB? I don’t know.”

Because the NFL’s anthem-policy changes were not collectively bargained with its unionized workforce, they may be susceptible to legal challenge, notes Michael McCann, a sports-law expert who writes for Sports Illustrated. But, intriguingly, free expression of this kind may find even more protection now than before, if a player chooses to file a complaint, because he could argue that kneeling is also a protest against an onerous, hastily implemented workplace policy.

“Players could argue that such a change will impact their wages, hours, and other conditions of employment,” McCann notes. “To that end, a player could insist that, while the new policy does not lead to direct league punishments of players, it nonetheless adversely affects the employment of players who do protest in ways that violate the new policy.”

It’s just one example of many of the ways in which free speech in the workplace is an amorphous beast, pulling in competing issues of discrimination, harassment, and other labor laws.

“That’s why people like me have jobs. The law provides a lot of areas for employers to get in trouble doing things that seem like common sense,” said Daniel Carr, an attorney with Royal, P.C. “It’s entirely reasonable for employers to think employees being critical of them at work are guilty of some egregious conduct, but they may not realize that criticism does contain some protected rights.”

Power to the People

Because the NLRB has established a bit of a record on this front, the issue of speaking out against an employer on social media is a bit clearer right now than other, related situations.

“Generally, if the speech is oriented toward addressing some workplace condition or benefit, if it’s targeted toward concerted activity for the mutual benefit of workers, that can have the largest amount of protection,” Carr said. “But it’s sometimes unclear where the lines are. If you say, ‘company X is awful,’ well, how are they awful? Do they treat their employees badly? That might be protected.”

Daniel Carr

Daniel Carr says employees generally have the right to speak out about work conditions, but it’s sometimes unclear where the lines are.

Even without specifics, he went on, the NLRB has often come down on the side of employees, he noted. For example, saying “the products they sell are terrible” might be protected if someone works on commission, and the product really is terrible, so they don’t sell a lot of them.

“My thinking is, if you work for company X, you couldn’t go online and say, ‘do business with company Y.’ That crosses a line,” he added. “But the NLRB does have a lot of protections for employees criticizing their own companies, and even moreso if the criticism is based on the way employees are treated, or other conditions of employment.”

What to make, then, of the NLRB’s statement in January that Google didn’t violate labor laws last summer when it fired engineer James Damore? He was terminated after distributing a memo criticizing the company’s diversity program.

He filed a complaint, and Jayme Sophir, associate general counsel with the NLRB, concluded that, while some parts of Damore’s memo were legally protected by workplace regulations, “the statements regarding biological differences between the sexes were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive as to be unprotected.”

Sophir made it clear that, in this case, an employer’s right to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies permits it to restrict the kinds of speech that could lead to a hostile workplace.

“Where an employee’s conduct significantly disrupts work processes, creates a hostile work environment, or constitutes racial or sexual discrimination or harassment,” she noted, “the board has found it unprotected even if it involves concerted activities regarding working conditions.”

Indeed, Carr noted, as one example, employers are expected to grant accommodations for religious expression — certain dress codes, or short breaks for prayer — but not necessary for proselytizing to co-workers.

“There’s a lot of gray area where somebody’s religious beliefs may conflict with somebody else’s protected rights,” he said. “For example, if you have a religious belief against gay marriage, you don’t necessarily have the right to advocate for that in the workplace, where you might potentially discriminate against a gay employee. There are a few areas of anti-discrimination law where one person’s right conflicts with another person’s.”

Even clearer are employers’ rights when it comes to online speech by employees that has nothing to do with work conditions but theatens to cause the company embarrassment or reputational harm — such as ABC shutting down its hit show Roseanne last month after its namesake star, Roseanne Barr, fired off a racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett, a prominent African-American woman, to an ape.

Barr’s case is muddled by the fact that the public doesn’t know what stipulations she might have agreed to in her contract — and, considering her past tendencies to be controversial, such stipulations would probably be a wise move by the network.

“That certainly deals with a private employer’s ability to sanction speech it doesn’t agree with,” Murphy noted, adding that employers have much more to worry about in this realm than it did a decade or more ago. “These days, reputational damage can go viral at the drop of a hat, and employers want to be able to act to protect their brands.”

To measure the speed at which this can happen, look no further than the Justine Sacco debacle of 2013. A senior corporate communications director for IAC, an international media firm, she began tweeting travel-related jokes from Heathrow Airport while waiting to board a flight from London to South Africa. The last one was a joke intended ironically: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Then she turned off her phone. By the time she turned it back on in Cape Town, she was famous.

Although Sacco had only 170 Twitter followers, tens of thousands of angry responses to her ‘joke’ flooded Twitter, and she even became a trending hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet — all in the space of a few hours. By day’s end, IAC had fired her. She’s certainly not the only employee to run afoul of an employer’s right to protect its brand through such a termination; Barr is just the latest in a long string of cases.

Public or Private?

It’s clear, Carr said, that private-sector employees need to be more careful about what they say than government employees, who do have greater protections.

“It is true that the First Amendment does not apply to private actors; there has to be a government actor. And there’s even some gray area in terms of what is and what is not a private employer,” he said, citing, for example, the example of a private contractor working on a government project.

“It gets tricky because these free-speech kinds of issues are often less about free speech and the First Amendment and more about labor law,” he said, citing, as one example, anti-discrimination laws that protect employees against being fired for religious reasons. “You don’t have an unfettered right to political speech in a private workplace, but there may be some overlapping and intermingling of, say, political speech with protected speech.”

For example, he noted, “the policies that political figures make do often affect the workplace, and insofar as employees have a right to engage in concerted activity, that can become a gray area. For example, somebody is advocating for a candidate that is proposing to pass anti-union legislation, then you’re clearly intermingling political speech with issues of labor law.”

Murphy noted that these issues tend to proliferate around election time, and employers often handle them on an ad hoc basis as they arise. “Employers want a civil workplace, but they don’t want to seem like heavy-handed censors. I’ve never seen a policy that deals with talking politics or the issues of the day at work; in general, employers say, ‘for everybody’s sanity, let’s try not to ratchet this up too much.’ Because these issues reflect society, and there can be a lot of hard feelings.”

On the matter of off-duty speech, on the other hand, employers are often taken aback by what the law and NLRB rulings actually say, Murphy said. “Is off-duty misconduct something employers have a right to weigh in on or sanction? Most employers say, ‘yes, we do, if it impacts our reputation or customers.’”

Some wrinkles of labor law have decades of case guidance behind them, Carr noted, while others are fairly new — social media being a prime example. “As each successive change in the law occurs, there’s a huge lag in getting guidance from judges. And for every law that’s passed, it’s impossible for us to predict all the possible eventualities. That’s what the judicial system is for — to interpret the law and define those edges.”

That said, he added, there has been a feeling in the legal world that the NLRB under the current administration may be amenable to clawing back some of the speech protections it originally granted employees.

“The pendulum is swinging back a little bit,” Murphy agreed. “They’re actually looking anew at some of those decisions and rules about employers’ handbooks and social-media policies. Generally, under the NLRB, you can speak out about matters of mutual concern among employees. But that’s fluid.”

At the end of the day, he went on, employers simply want a productive workforce and resist anything that might stir the pot, whether it’s a peaceful demonstration in favor of racial justice, an unhinged tweet that promotes racial strife, or something in between.

“There are people who say we’ve become less tolerant as a society and we’re not respectful enough of opposing viewpoints. They say, ‘get out of the bunker and listen to your employees; you don’t necessarily need to be censors,’” Murphy said. “But an employer’s primary responsibility is to protect that business and brand. That’s what they’re up against.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Employment

Under Pressure

By Marylou Fabbo

In the year that’s passed since President Donald Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, there’s been increased federal scrutiny on the employment-based visa petition process that has made it more difficult for businesses to hire foreign employees.

President Trump and other critics of employment visa programs believe they displace American workers and drive down wages, while employers maintain they need foreign labor to fill jobs that Americans are not willing or qualified to fill. So far, however, the administration’s actions have taken place through heightened agency action, such as government I-9 audits and immigration ‘raids,’ rather than legislation.

Enforcement Action Substantially Increased

When it comes to employing non-immigrant workers, the message is clear: companies’ hiring practices must be able to withstand heightened scrutiny. In September 2017, Asplundh Tree Expert Co. was ordered to pay a record fine of $95 million for employing thousands of unauthorized alien workers.

The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (often referred to as ICE) has implemented a worksite-enforcement strategy that focuses on criminal prosecution of employers, human-resources personnel, and talent officers who knowingly hire illegal workers or are ‘willfully blind’ to the same. ICE has already doubled the number of worksite-enforcement cases that it pursued all of its last fiscal year. In New England alone, ICE made more than 680 arrests during the first quarter of its fiscal year. Even companies that don’t employ any immigrants or foreign workers are subject to an ICE audit and can face significant fines and penalties for things such as failing to fully and accurately complete I-9 forms for U.S. citizens.

Number of H-1B Visa Petitions Down

President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order is purportedly designed to increase wages, protect the jobs of U.S. citizens, and increase employment rates. Among other things, the order requires federal agencies to review and propose new rules and guidance to protect the interests of U.S. workers and to prevent fraud and abuse in the H-1B visa program. This program allows companies in the U.S. to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations typically include fields such as science, engineering, and information technology.

About 65,000 regular visas and 20,000 masters-level visas are awarded each year through a lottery system, although the ultimate goal is to switch to a point-based merit system. While ICE received more than double the amount of petitions needed to fill the quotas, the total number of petitions submitted decreased by about 10,000 from last year and has decreased more than 50% since its high in 2016. Trump’s executive order — designed to reform the H-1B visa program by making it more difficult to get such a visa — may be driving some away from using the program at all.

Spouse Employment Authorizations Likely to Be Rescinded

Certain spouses of H-1B workers may be eligible to work pursuant to an H-4 visa. However, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have stated that they intend to rescind employment authorization for H-4 visa holders, and it now appears that at least some form of the rescission is likely to take place in the near future.

Yet, some questions remain unanswered. Will current H-4 visa holders be able to renew them? Will there be a drop-dead date after which H-4 authorization is no longer valid at all? What’s clear is that employers who hire H-4 workers need to start thinking about alternate means of legally employing them.

Tougher Standards for H-1B Workers at Third-party Locations

ICE also has increased the scrutiny on employers who petition for H-1B employees and intend to place them at third-party sites. Earlier this year, ICE issued a policy memorandum stating that, for an H-1B visa petition involving a third-party worksite to be approved, the petitioner must show “by a preponderance of evidence” that, among other things, the worker will be employed in a specialty occupation and the petitioning employer will maintain an employer-employee relationship with the beneficiary for the duration of the requested validity period. The third-party recipient of the H-1B worker will also have to come up with some evidence corroborating what the employer provides.

Organizations that provide H-1B workers to third parties should be prepared to respond to requests for evidence beyond what they have experienced in the past, denials of petitions, and, possibly, the granting of H-1B visas for less than the usual three-year period.

Moving Forward

Employers should expect the Trump administration to continue to aggressively pursue immigration reform. Like the visas mentioned in this article, the state of those with C-33 visas — non-immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), remains up in the air, and employers that have DACA recipients with employment authorization may face the loss of the ability to continue their employment.

Companies that have not already done so should carefully review their hiring practices and evaluate alternate means of employing non-immigrant workers regardless of their current visa status. Those employers that have H-1B workers at third-party sites should scrutinize their vendors and their contracts with those third parties. And, perhaps most importantly, companies should make sure their I-9s and other immigration-based records are complete and accurate. u

Marylou Fabbo is a partner and head of the litigation team at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. She provides counsel to management on taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of legal liability that may be imposed as the result of illegal employment practice, and defends employers faced with lawsuits and administrative charges filed by current and former employees; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• May 16: Chamber Nite & BYP Networking Social, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Dalton Union, 395 Main St., Dalton. Join us for our joint May Chamber Nite and BYP Social at Union Block in downtown Dalton with participating businesses: Hot Harry’s, Berkshire Dream Home, Therapeutic Massage & Wellness, Academy Mortgage Corp., Horace Mann Insurance, McMahon & Vigeant, P.C., Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, Dalton Restaurant, New England Dynamark Security, and 2 Flights Up Dance & Game Studio. Cost: free. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• May 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Munich Haus, 13 Center St., Chicopee. Chief greeter: Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Keynote Speaker: Kim Kenney-Rockwal, Elms MBA. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 18: Chicopee Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Tournament, 10 a.m. shotgun start, hosted by Chicopee Country Club, 1290 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Sponsored by Gaudreau Group, First American Insurance Agency Inc., Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Poly-Plating Inc., N. Riley Construction, Hampton Inn, Residence Inn of Chicopee, Tru by Hilton, and Health New England. Cost: $125 per golfer, $500 per team of four, and/or $20 golfer package that includes 25 raffle tickets and one mulligan. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 31: Sunshine Soiree, a multi-chamber networking event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. The event will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer. Register in advance for this free event online at springfieldyps.com.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• May 24: Chamber on the Vine, 5:30-8:30 p.m., a wine-tasting event hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Taste wine, enjoy local food, and listen to the music of Trailer Trash. Cost: $20 to enjoy the music, $30 to taste the wine. Pre-registration is a must. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call (413) 527-9414.

• June 14: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Fort Hill Brewery, 30 Fort Hill Road, Easthampton. Sponsored by Oxbow Ski Show Team and Tandem Bagel. Food and door prizes will be available. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• June 27: Speaker Breakfast 2018, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted and sponsored by Williston Northampton School, 19 Payson Ave., Easthampton. Keynote speaker Kate Harrington, Human Resource manager for Smith College, will speak on “Hiring the Right Fit.” She will help attendees understand how to develop a diverse applicant pool, know what questions to ask, and recognize what questions to avoid. She will also point out what to look for in a great employee and how to watch for bias. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members. Pre-registration is suggested. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.holyokechamber.com

(413) 534-3376

• May 16: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Hummus, 285 High St., Holyoke. Meet up with your business associates for a little networking while hosts John and Dawn whip up some munchies. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 23: Leadership Holyoke Information Session, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Join the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Community College for a free information session for Leadership Holyoke 2018-19. The program is designed for emerging leaders within in the community to sharpen their skills, meet local leaders, and more.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will present our favorite tips, tricks, and shortcuts we have collected and developed over 20 years of teaching and using Microsoft Excel. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• June 6: June Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Sponsored by Northeast Solar, MassDevelopment, and Kuhn Riddle Architects. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• June 21: Workshop: “Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• May 21: After 5 at the Ledges Golf Course, 5-6:30 p.m., hosted by the Ledges, 18 Mulligan Dr., South Hadley. An evening of networking with other community business leaders while overlooking the Connecticut River Valley and Mount Tom across the way. Sponsored by the Ledges Golf Course. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-register by May 15 by contacting Sara Lawrence at (413) 532-6451 or [email protected]

• June 1: Annual Legislative Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by the Orchards Golf Club, 18 Silverwood Terrace, South Hadley. Meet with our town and state legislators, who will talk about the hot issues upcoming for the rest of the year. More details to come. By reservation only at [email protected]

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• May 15: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Exclusive members-only event. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door). Reservations may be made at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

• May 31: Sunshine Soirée with the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Greater Chicopee Chamber, and YPS, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. Reservations may be made at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• May 17: Networking Lunch, noon, hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief intro and company overview. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch if you are a member. Non-member fee: $10. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

May 22: Job Fair 2018, 3-6 p.m., hosted by Storrowton Tavern/Carriage House, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. West Springfield and Agawam businesses, along with other employment opportunities, will be showcased. This event is free and open to the public. To be a participating vendor, register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• May 18: Adult Field Day, 2-5 p.m., Irish Cultural Center, West Springfield, hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. Adult Field Day is a throwback to elementary school, created with adults in mind. Friends and co-workers will relive their glory days while playing classic games, as well as a few new surprises. For more information, visit springfieldyps.com.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Family Lawyer, Law Offices of Alison Silber; Age 34; Education: BA, University of Pennsylvania; JD, University of Maryland

Alison Silber

Alison Silber

Silber is a family lawyer and mediator who owns and runs her own family-law practice in Longmeadow. After clerking on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for a family-law judge, Silber opened her own practice in 2011. She mediates and litigates all types of divorce and custody matters, including but not limited to complex jurisdictional issues and complicated domestic-violence matters. In addition to her private practice, she also takes on mediations through the Mediation and Training Collaborative in Greenfield and the Family Resolutions Specialty Court in the Hampshire Probate and Family Court.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A Supreme Court Justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed when I was in fifth grade, and I still remember feeling like she and Sandra Day O’Connor made space for my friends, me, and all other little girls to attain that height of success in the legal profession.

How do you define success? Success is balance between work, family, and community.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the pace of life, which provides the space to be introspective and purposeful about how we all spend our time.

What are you passionate about? As a divorce lawyer, I have the privilege of working closely with my clients to help make their finances work post-divorce, and I have observed that good employment opportunities for my clients seem to be disappearing. On a micro level, I am passionate about helping my clients restructure their lives post-divorce so that they have a living wage, financial security, and the ability to meet their needs. On a macro, nationwide level, I am passionate about ensuring that opportunity for good employment exists for all Americans, not just those who live in certain pockets of the country.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Jo March, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, is my favorite. She has a great Massachusetts sensibility, devotion to her family, and a fiery, independent spirit.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Hopefully they will give me the best compliment a divorce lawyer can receive — that I have been substantively aggressive while being professional and personally kind.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018
Erica Flores

Erica Flores

Attorney, Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.; Age 38; Education: BS, University of Colorado, Boulder; JD, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Flores has spent the past 10 years counseling and defending employers in all manner of employment-related disputes. She also serves on the board of directors of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Before joining Skoler Abbott in 2013, she spent seven years working for prominent law firms in Manhattan and Philadelphia and served as a judicial clerk to Justice Russell Nigro of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Flores lives in Westfield with her wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Jackson.

How do you define success? I had a tough childhood, so first and foremost, success for me means being a great mom to my little boy, a dependable partner to my wife, and a good sister to my three siblings. Everything else is secondary.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? After more than a decade living and working in big cities, moving to Western Mass. was, literally, a breath of fresh air. I love the hills, the trees, the farms, and the beautiful spring and fall colors. It never gets old to me.

What are you passionate about? I remind myself each day that I do not live to work, but work to live, so the little things mean the most to me — home-cooked meals, gardening, watching football, campfires with friends, good local beer, and spending as much time as possible with my family.

Education Sections

Piece by Piece

Elms College Financial Aid Director Kristin Hmieleski

Elms College Financial Aid Director Kristin Hmieleski

It’s hardly news that college costs have consistently risen over the past two decades, outpacing both inflation and incomes. But there are a host of resources families can access to help bring those costs down and reduce the initial sticker shock. Still, putting the pieces together takes a combination of hustle, clear communication, hard work, and often sacrifice, all in search of what students hope will be a life-changing degree.

 

Bryan Gross calls them “success stories” — incoming students who weren’t sure they could afford college, but somehow manage to make it happen.

“You’ll see a lot of media attention and articles about sticker shock, the cost of tuition, fees, room, and board, and it makes families very nervous,” said Gross, vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing at Western New England University (WNEU). “But we do work very hard to make college affordable for families, and the sticker price is not what they end up paying.”

But it doesn’t happen overnight.

“It is a lot of piecing things together,” said Kristin Hmieleski, Financial Aid director for Elms College. “We always tell students, ‘you’re not going to get this for free, so let’s look at the resources at hand. What can you get through federal and state aid? What has the institution already offered you by way of merit? What else can we offer based on need? Worst-case scenario, you may have to pay out of pocket or take on additional loans.’ It’s almost like a puzzle we put together.”’

It’s a puzzle that has become increasingly challenging over the past couple decades, as college costs have steadily risen, often outpacing inflation and average income. According to the College Board, which tracks these trends annually, tuition and fees at private, four-year instititions increased by 1.9% from 2016-17 to 2017-18, to an average of $34,740. Meanwhile, public, four-year institutions saw an average increase of 1.3%, to $9,970.

Those increases are substantially lower than the spikes seen during the Great Recession. In 2009-10, for example, private institutions raised tuition and fees by 5.9%, and public schools posted a 9.5% increase.

However, the College Board noted, students still shoulder a heavier burden this year, because even those modest price hikes outpaced grant aid and tax benefits. And that places more pressure on financial-aid officers to help families, well, assemble that puzzle.

The key, both Hmieleski and Gross said, is communication — and lots of it, starting early.

“We do open houses, and as prospective students are looking at Elms College, we talk about different resources they can look at,” Hmieleski said, noting that plenty of opportunities exist beyond the award package — based on academic merit and financial need — that the college puts together for each enrollee.

“They might not know every single website to look at, but we give them some hints about community resources they can look into,” she explained. “Do they belong to a church? Do the businesses their families work for offer scholarships? The students need to do some hunting themselves. Have they reached out to guidance counselors? They might know of some opportunities.”

It’s not an easy process, and it takes legwork and often sacrifice. But if the end result is a degree and a career pathway, families are more than willing to make the effort.

Knowledge Is Power

Gross said communicating with students starts well before they ever sit down in a classroom.

“Being a private institution, being well aware of the current state of the economic landscape, giving families direct and clear information regarding their financial-aid package is really important for us,” he said.

Bryan Gross

Bryan Gross says communication with families — both early and often — is key to helping them forge a strategy to pay for college.

To that end, WNEU started a program three years ago called Culture of Financial Wellness, which includes several components, starting with financial-aid counseling, during which officers help families navigate the process of piecing together available resources. Meanwhile, during spring open houses, financial-aid workshops are offered to inform and educate parents about the financial-aid process to help them make the right decisions for their student.

Following those are SOAR, the university’s Summer Orientation and Registration sessions, featuring presentations by Peter Bielagus, known as “America’s Financial Educator,” who provides information to parents about financing their student’s education.

The final piece of Culture of Financial Wellness continues after the student has joined the campus. The Freshman Focus program offers programming and talks to help students successfully transition to college life, including an overview session each fall on finances and spending designed to teach students about credit-card debt and making sound financial decisions in college and beyond.

“We want to educate students and help them understand the importance of living within your means,” Gross said. “That’s the circle of life — we want to help students for the rest of their lives.”

But that help begins at the financial-aid office, where the allocation of resources has been subtly shifting. This year, the College Board reports, federal loans account for 32% of all student aid, followed by institutional grants (25%), federal Pell grants (15%), tax credits and deductions (9%), state grants (6%), private and employer grants (6%), and veteran and military grants (6%).

“We put together a strategy for each student based on their academic performance,” Gross said. “We offer them scholarships, and of course federal and state grants typically get offered, and after that we have need-based grants we offer depending on their circumstances, and typically at the bottom of all that is federal work studies.”

Hmieleski said some 80 to 100 Elms students benefit from federally funded work-study jobs, 7% of which must be targeted at community-service work, such as the America Reads program administered locally by Valley Opportunity Council, in which college students tutor children after school.

“Unfortunately, federal funding has been so limited — it gets cut every year,” she said, noting that some students work at campus jobs funded by the college, while others secure part-time employment off campus.

Gross said certain enrollees benefit from special circumstances. “Veteran students are a population we work with; we help students directly apply for veterans benefits, and they might be eligible for ROTC as well.”

The bottom line, he told BusinessWest, is that students are given a full picture of what resources are available so they can figure out how to fill in the gaps, even if that means living at home.

“We want them to live on campus, but we want families to make an informed decision. It’s amazing how many families don’t even think about that,” he said. “We just don’t want families to be flat-footed when they receive their first bill.”

Beyond the Gloom and Doom

As Gross noted, he’s gratified by the success stories, but they’re not the whole story, unfortunately.

“To be honest with you, every college also has stories of families that fill out an application for federal aid, then come to us and say, ‘this is not our reality; we can’t afford to pay that.’ We work with families to come up with a plan, and it may work, but it may not work.”

In some cases, he said, students will instead opt to begin their education at a two-year community college. No matter what the outcome, though, he tries to make sure the decisions are made from a place of copious information.

“Families know that it’s not just a matter of crossing their fingers and closing their eyes, and somehow it comes together. You really have to have a plan, and you have to use college and community resources to help you through the process.”

No matter how much thought goes into a strategy, Hmieleski added, it’s impossible to de-stress the process of financial planning for college.

“No matter where you are in life, even if you have wealth, money is always stressful,” she said. “When some people hear about finances or anything involving money, their reaction is almost to shut down and not listen because they don’t feel like they’ll ever understand it.

“But we deal with a lot of first-generation, low-income students here at Elms; we are here to support those students,” she went on, noting that the college is invested not only in their ability to pay for school, but their academic success and keeping them enrolled. “OK, you’re here, you’re able to afford it — now let’s make sure you’re academically successful.”

But it begins with that first look at the unassembled puzzle, and all the decisions that go into putting it together. Hmieleski recalled one student — whose academic record was strong — that she worried about every fall, wondering if she’d be able to continue on, due to tight finances. But each year, the family somehow managed, and she graduated.

“I get goosebumps in so many situations when it looked like doom and gloom, like the student wouldn’t be able to come here, but we work on it,” she said. “And when they’re able to walk through that door, it’s a thrill.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Departments People on the Move
Alexandra Fach

Alexandra Fach

Meghan Morton

Meghan Morton

Genevieve Brough, president of Finck & Perras Insurance Agency Inc., recently announced the firm has hired two new employees. Alexandra Fach and Meghan Morton will serve as personal-lines account managers. Fach will work in the firm’s Easthampton office, and Morton at the Florence location. Fach holds a bachelor’s degree in communication technology and visual communication and a master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge. She has worked in the industry since 2013 and also holds state insurance licensure. Morton is a certified insurance service representative and a certified insurance counselor. She holds state insurance licensure and has worked in the industry for six years.

•••••

Andrew Caires

Andrew Caires

Pathlight, a provider of services for residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities, has named Andrew Caires its chief financial officer and vice president of Administration, effective April 9. Caires has significant experience in human services. He was the financial director for Hawthorn Services for 15 years. When Hawthorne merged with the Center for Human Development, he became CHD’s director of Fiscal Services. Most recently, he was the controller for the Williston Northampton School. Caires has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Western New England University and an MBA from UMass Amherst. He has maintained his certified public accountant (CPA) designation. Pathlight has been providing programs and services to people with developmental disabilities since 1952. Its programs include residential homes, supports for independent living, family-based living, recreation, enrichment, employment supports, family resources, autism supports, and more.

•••••

Amanda Carpe

Amanda Carpe

The Gove Law Office announced that Amanda Carpe has joined the firm as an associate attorney focused on real-estate transactions, estate planning, and estate administration. Carpe earned her juris doctor from Western New England University in 2016. While in law school, she interned with Gove Law Office and for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, where she appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth in child-endangerment cases. She also clerked for Judge Charles Belsky. She began her career in Worcester, where she worked on complex estate planning, elder-law matters, guardianships and conservatorships petitions, and probate administrations.

•••••

Dean Brown

Dean Brown

Teresa Wurszt

Teresa Wurszt

Florence Bank announced recently that Dean Brown and Teresa Wurszt were named to the President’s Club for 2018. The honor recognizes superior performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank. Brown, a card operations specialist in the Operations Department in the main branch in Florence, began work at Florence Bank in 2008. Wurszt, an assistant commercial loan administration manager in the main office in Florence, joined the bank in 2015. With nearly 20 years of banking experience, she was praised by her colleagues for her knowledge, collaboration, and dedicated work ethic.

•••••

Erika Gleason

Erika Gleason

Pathlight, a provider of residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism, named behavior specialist Erika Gleason as the first recipient of its Donald Fletcher Scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship, which will be awarded yearly, is meant to assist an employee in obtaining an undergraduate degree. A committee of Pathlight board members and staff made the selection after receiving applications from employees. The scholarship is named after Pathlight’s former Executive Director Donald Fletcher, who was committed to helping staff pursue their education. This scholarship is in addition to Pathlight’s current tuition-reimbursement program. Gleason started at Pathlight in 2013 as a direct support professional, supporting people with intellectual disabilities and intensive behavioral needs, but quickly moved up the Pathlight career ladder, becoming a behavioral specialist this year. In her new role, she is responsible for checking in with all of Pathlight’s residential homes, as well as conducting safety-training sessions that teach people how to support individuals with special needs. She is currently working toward an associate’s degree in psychology at Holyoke Community College. Her goal is to transfer to Westfield State University, where she hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree.

•••••

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Patrick Carnevale as director of the Governor’s Western Mass. Office in Springfield. Carnevale brings almost 20 years of experience in public service and will be the administration’s primary liaison between Western Mass. constituents and communities. With 18 years of public service in the Commonwealth, Carnevale has spent much of his career in emergency-preparedness response and recovery. He most recently served as regional manager for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), where he was responsible for emergency management in Central and Western Mass. Since 2002, he has held multiple roles in the State Emergency Operations Center, responding to natural disasters, developing and implementing municipal preparedness plans, allocating state and federal funding and grants, and improving emergency management in 161 communities. Carnevale graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and received his MBA from Western New England University. He also attended the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative and the National Preparedness Leadership in Homeland Security at Harvard University. He holds 14 certificates relating to emergency-preparedness disaster management from the Emergency Management Institute, the National Hurricane Center, and MEMA.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• May 7 to 17: Dream Auction. Grab great deals on theater tickets, spa services, dining certificates, and one-of-a-kind experiences in our online auction. Proceeds support the Berkshire Marketing Fund, which promotes the region as a destination for all seasons. Visit www.biddingforgood.com/berkshires.

• May 16: Chamber Nite & BYP Networking Social, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Dalton Union, 395 Main St., Dalton. Join us for our joint May Chamber Nite and BYP Social at Union Block in downtown Dalton with participating businesses: Hot Harry’s, Berkshire Dream Home, Therapeutic Massage & Wellness, Academy Mortgage Corp., Horace Mann Insurance, McMahon & Vigeant, P.C., Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, Dalton Restaurant, New England Dynamark Security, and 2 Flights Up Dance & Game Studio. Cost: free. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.amherstarea.com

(413) 253-0700

• May 3: Leaders as Readers, 12 noon, hosted by Pasta E Basta, 26 Main St., Amherst. This month in Leaders as Readers, we will be discussing Work It: Secrets of Success from the Boldest Women in Business by Carrie Kerpen. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/928353994013860 or e-mail [email protected]

• May 4: Lunch and Learn, “How to Protect Your Most Important Asset: Your Income,” 12 noon, hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Sponsored by Hollister Insurance. Lunch will be provided. For details, e-mail [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• May 10: Business After Hours, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, 295 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Kentucky Derby theme. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Munich Haus, 13 Center St., Chicopee. Chief greeter: Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Keynote Speaker: Kim Kenney-Rockwal, Elms MBA. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 18: Chicopee Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Tournament, 10 a.m. shotgun start, hosted by Chicopee Country Club, 1290 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $125 per golfer, $500 per team of four, and/or $20 golfer package that includes 25 raffle tickets and one mulligan. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 31: Sunshine Soiree, a multi-chamber networking event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. The event will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer. Register in advance for this free event online at springfieldyps.com.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• May 24: Chamber on the Vine, 5:30-8:30 p.m., a wine-tasting event hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Taste wine, enjoy local food, and listen to the music of Trailer Trash. Cost: $20 to enjoy the music, $30 to taste the wine. Pre-registration is a must. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.holyokechamber.com

(413) 534-3376

• May 2: Women in Leadership: Leadership in Your Future, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. A monthly luncheon series where participants learn from area CEOs while networking with peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by the HCC Culinary Arts program provides the setting.

• May 9: Coffee Buzz, 7:30-8:30 a.m., hosted by Loomis House, 298 Jarvis Ave., Holyoke (Sheldon entrance). A free morning networking event sponsored by Loomis House where guests enjoy a light breakfast while networking with the business community. Register online at holyokechamber.com or call the chamber at (413) 534-3376. There is no charge for this event.

• May 14: Holyoke Chamber Cup Golf Tournament, 50th Anniversary, 10 a.m., hosted by the Orchards, 18 Silverwood Terrace, South Hadley. Registration begins at 10 a.m., followed by lunch at 11 a.m., tee off at noon (scramble format), and dinner afterward. Cost: $150 per player, which includes lunch, 18 holes of golf, cart, and dinner. Cost of dinner only is $30. Awards, raffles, and cash prizes follow dinner. For reservations or sponsorships, call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 or register online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 16: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Hummus, 285 High St., Holyoke. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 23: Leadership Holyoke Information Session, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Join the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Community College for a free information session for Leadership Holyoke 2018-19..

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• May 4: Annual Spring Swizzle, 6:30-10:30 p.m., hosted by Eastside Grill, 19 Strong Ave., Northampton. A networking event. Cost: $75; $100 for two. Purchase tickets at www.chamberspringswizzle.com.

• May 9: May Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., host to be announced. Sponsored by Northeast Solar and the Lusteg Wealth Management Group – Merrill Lynch. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

• May 7: May Coffee Hour with Mayor Brian Sullivan, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Westfield Center – Genesis Healthcare, 60 East Silver St., Westfield. This event is free and open to the public. Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org, so we may give our host a proper count. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• May 7: May After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by East Mountain Country Club, 1458 East Mountain Road, Westfield. Refreshments will be served. A 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Cost: free for chamber members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• May 14: Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce 57th annual Golf Tournament, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., hosted by Shaker Farms Country Club, 866 Shaker Road, Westfield. Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• May 9: Educational Breakfast: Insider Travel Tips, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Loomis Village, 20 Bayon Dr., South Hadley. Chuck Elias, travel advisor for Pioneer Valley Cruise Planners, will share tips on how to make travel safe and fun. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. To register, call (413) 532-6451 or e-mail [email protected]

• May 14: The South Hadley & Granby Chamber will join the Greater Holyoke Chamber for a day of golf at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley. Registration and lunch will begin at 10:30 a.m., with tee-off beginning at noon. Cost: $150, which includes lunch, a round of golf and cart, a tourney T-shirt, refreshments on the course, and a dinner back at the clubhouse. E-mail [email protected] to register.

• May 21: After 5 at the Ledges Golf Course, 5-6:30 p.m., hosted by the Ledges, 18 Mulligan Dr., South Hadley. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-register by May 15 by contacting Sara Lawrence at (413) 532-6451 or [email protected]

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• May 2: [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield. Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door).

• May 10: Lunch ‘N’ Learn, Equal Pay, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by Lattitude restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: $30 for members in advance ($35 at the door), $40 general admission ($45 at the door).

• May 15: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Exclusive members-only event. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door).

• May 31: Sunshine Soirée with the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Greater Chicopee Chamber, and YPS, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee.

Reservations for all Springfield Regional Chamber events may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• May 2: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 8: Coffee with West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt, 8-9:30 a.m., hosted by West Springfield Public Library, 200 Park St. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 17: Networking Lunch, noon, hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch if you are a member. Non-member fee: $10. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 22: Job Fair 2018, 3-6 p.m., hosted by Storrowton Tavern/Carriage House, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. West Springfield and Agawam businesses, along with other employment opportunities, will be showcased. This event is free and open to the public. To be a participating vendor, register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• May 18: Adult Field Day, 2-5 p.m., Irish Cultural Center, West Springfield, hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. For more information, visit springfieldyps.com.

Court Dockets Departments

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Nain Oliver v. Petco Animal Supplies Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $4,366.40

Filed: 3/21/18

Nichole Gura v. North East Specialty Corp. d/b/a Nescor

Allegation: Unauthorized credit-card charge; unfair or deceptive business act or practice: $6,000

Filed: 3/29/18

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

JR Kakley & Sons Inc. v. Affordable Baths Inc. and Craig S. O’Connor

Allegation: Unpaid balance due from goods sold and delivered: $6,590.31

Filed: 3/13/18

Laura L. Sikes v. Metro Motors of Chicopee Inc. d/b/a Metro Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Allegation: Breach of used-car lemon law, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, revocation of acceptance, unfair and deceptive practices in trade or commerce: $25,000

Filed: 3/14/18

Bria Wilson v. BZGJJ Inc. and Irving Oil Corp.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $25,000

Filed: 3/27/18

EP Floors Corp. v. Merritt Construction Services, LLC

Allegation: Breach of contract: $9,939.50

Filed: 3/27/18

Emily Montalvo v. All Wheels Detailing & Auto Sales Inc.

Allegation: Breach of service contract, breach of lemon law warranty: $4,395

Filed: 4/4/18

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Kurt Wolmart v. In-Land Contracting Inc., Joaquim Borges, Baltazar Contractors Inc., and Paulo Baltazar

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $200,000

Filed: 3/12/18

Rediker Software Inc. v. Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District

Allegation: Breach of contract: $85,000+

Filed: 3/14/18

Mary Ann Mannix as personal representative of the estate of Joan Watson v. Guidewire Inc.

Allegation: Negligence, wrongful death: $1,030,000

Filed: 3/16/18

Daniel Stebbins and Susan Stebbins v. Joseph E. Flack III, M.D.; Abdallah K. Alameddine, M.D.; Mara Slawsky, M.D.; Sonali Arora, M.D.; Gregory Valania, D.O.; and John or Jane Does, 1-5

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $341,585

Filed: 3/19/18

Mary K. Pijar and John F. Pijar v. Colebrook Realty Services Inc., Baystate Medical Center Inc., John Doe; and XYZ Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $85,000+

Filed: 3/20/18

Willwork Inc. v. the Exhibit Source Inc.

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $30,783.23

Filed: 3/22/18

Joya Bruce-Pettway, personal representative of the estate of Dominique Williams v. Cheryl Ruta, RN; and Chandravathi Loke, M.D.

Allegation: Medical malpractice; wrongful death: $25,000+

Filed: 3/22/18

Rick Lajeunesse and David Richter v. the Home Depot U.S.A. Inc.

Allegation: Violation of overtime law: $150,000+

Filed: 3/23/18

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Pellegrini Development, LLC v. Paul Truehart d/b/a Truehart Paving & Construction

Allegation: Failure to complete agreed-upon work, causing plaintiff to incur expenses completing it at higher cost: $125,000

Filed: 3/27/18

Sherry McGinn v. Greenfield Housing Authority

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $14,167.16

Filed: 4/2/18

HOLYOKE DISTRICT COURT

Yanitza Bruno-Jimenez v. Lia Auto Group Inc. d/b/a Lia Honda

Allegation: Negligence; plaintiff’s vehicle rear-ended by Lia employee causing injury: $20,768.84

Filed: 3/30/18

Company Notebook Departments

Blue Sox to Host 2018 NECBL All-Star Game

HOLYOKE — The Valley Blue Sox announced they will play host to the 2018 New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) All-Star Game this summer on Sunday, July 29 at Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke. The league’s showcase event will be the third major NECBL event hosted by the Blue Sox in the past five years. The team last hosted the NECBL All-Star Game in 2014 and hosted the NECBL Championship Series this past August, winning their its NECBL championship in franchise history. The Blue Sox finished first in the NECBL in attendance for the second consecutive season and ranked ninth among all summer collegiate teams, outdrawing 204 affiliated minor-league and independent teams. The event will be sponsored by Trinity Health Of New England and Mercy Medical Center.

MGM Springfield Adds More Than 1,000 Jobs to Employment Website

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield recently announced it added 75 new postings representing more than 1,000 jobs to the resort’s website. There are about 2,400 open positions for hire today at MGM Springfield. This is the largest employment posting by the new resort, and one of the single largest hiring efforts in Springfield history. MGM Springfield will employ 3,000 employees when the $960 million luxury resort opens later this year in downtown Springfield. The expanded list includes job descriptions for new career opportunities not previously posted by the resort. Most of the new opportunities are in the food and beverage area, including cooks and servers. The entire list now includes a diverse array of jobs, including locksmiths, electronics technicians, carpenters, and painters. Many postings represent positions not traditionally associated with the casino industry, ranging from human resources and retail management to conference services. A full list of jobs and detailed descriptions is available at www.mgmspringfield.com/careers. The majority of jobs will be full-time positions with benefits. MGM Springfield established a goal to hire 35% of its workforce from the city of Springfield and 90% from a combination of Springfield and the region. For additional information about the available career opportunities at MGM Springfield, go online or visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center located at 1259 East Columbus Ave., third floor. The Career Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

PV Squared Joins Effort to Create Affordable Net-zero-energy Homes

GREENFIELD — PV Squared employees and students from Franklin County Technical School recently worked together to install a solar system on a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity home in Greenfield. This hands-on experience is essential for Franklin County Technical School students enrolled in the electrician program. With installers and licensed electricians from PV Squared acting as mentors, this project was both a learning experience for the students and an opportunity to create high-quality housing for a low-income family. PV Squared has been partnering with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity since 2010 to help make solar energy more accessible to lower-income households in the community. To date, it has worked with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity on eight projects in Franklin and Hampshire counties, specifically in the towns of Easthampton, Turners Falls, Amherst, Northampton, and Greenfield. All these solar PV projects have been completed through grant funding or through the donation of products and services by PV Squared at no cost to the homeowner. Each system was designed with net-zero-energy potential, which means that, depending on the energy use of the household, each homeowner could be meeting all of their energy needs with the solar array.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Donates $25,000 to Elder-care Unit

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union (PVCU), a not-for-profit financial institution, recently donated $25,000 to the new Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Seniors are the fastest-growing group in the U.S. population, and their health is declining. The elderly are three times likely to be hospitalized from chronic diseases. Many hospitals across the country haven’t prepared to treat the number of growing elderly patients nearing end of life. With that in mind, Baystate Medical Center created an acute-care unit specifically for treating the growing number of elderly patients. Since 2014, the program has cared for more than 500 senior patients.

Be Vital Wellness Opens Second Clinic in Wilbraham

WILBRAHAM — Stephanie Nascimento and Jeanette Wilburn, owners of Be Vital Wellness, LLC, recently expanded their weight-loss practice opening a second clinic in Wilbraham. Located at 2121 Boston Road, Unit N, in Wilbraham, the team specializes in medically derived weight-loss programs, weight-loss coaching, detox and cleansing, as well as various wellness services. In October 2011, Nascimento, a registered nurse, and Wilburn, a doctor of chiropractic, partnered in search of a business that promoted overall wellness and weight loss. After much research, they selected the Ideal Protein Protocol, a medically derived weight-loss method developed and refined for more than 20 years. They tested the program themselves and successfully lost a combined 30 pounds. Their weight loss inspired them to open their first clinic in Amherst; that clinic is now located in Hadley.