Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Resorts International announced the appointment of Louie Theros as president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield, where he will oversee the resort’s daily operations and strategic direction, focused on continued employee engagement and community relations. He succeeds Chris Kelley, who recently announced his decision to pursue a new opportunity closer to family on the West Coast.

“We’re thrilled to have Louie leading the charge at MGM Springfield,” said Steve Zanella, president of MGM Resorts Operations. “Louie brings more than 30 years of leadership, legal, and regulatory experience to the property and has a strong vision to continue to drive growth throughout both the city of Springfield and the larger region.”

Theros has been with MGM Resorts since 2015, most recently serving as vice president, legal counsel, and assistant secretary at MGM Grand Detroit. Prior to joining the company, Theros worked in legal private practice, serving as vice president of Detroit-based law firm Butzel Long, following more than 20 years as a lawyer at Dickenson Wright. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan.

“As we begin the new year, I’m excited to continue building on MGM Springfield’s success,” Theros said. “The incredible team at MGM Springfield makes the magic happen for our guests every day, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with them. I’m also eager to jump right in and focus on supporting downtown Springfield’s continued development, while creating even stronger connections across the community.”

Daily News

Ashley Swett

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently announced that Ashley Swett has been named manager of the bank’s Customer Service Center at the main office in Florence. In her new role, she will oversee the staff responsible for assisting Florence Bank customers who contact the bank via telephone or email.

Swett has 16 years of industry experience and is a graduate of the New England School of Financial Studies. She holds a certificate in supervision from the Center for Financial Training.

“We are pleased to have someone with Ashley’s skills in this important role, as customer service is a top priority at Florence Bank,” said Matt Garrity, the bank’s president and CEO. “She has a great deal of experience in customer service, and we look forward to her valuable insight as a member of our retail banking team.”

Active in the community, Swett is currently a member of the Holiday Flair in Ware, where she enjoys the annual festival and parade.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is set to host a Registration Rush event for the spring 2024 semester on Monday, Jan. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event offers a convenient opportunity for on-the-spot application review, registration, and financial-aid support.

Prospective and returning students are encouraged to attend the event being held at AIC’s Shea Memorial Library at 1000 State St. in Springfield. The college’s Admissions and Financial Aid teams will be on hand to assist with the application process, FAFSA submission, and class registration, all in one visit.

Those who complete the process during this one-stop experience will be eligible to join classes when AIC’s spring semester begins on Wednesday, Jan. 17. For additional information, contact AIC Admissions at (413) 205-2101 or [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELDBusinessWest is currently accepting nominations for the 40 Under Forty class of 2023. The deadline for nominations is Friday, Feb. 16.

Launched in 2007, the program recognizes rising stars in the four counties of Western Mass. Nominations, which should be as detailed and thorough as possible, should list an individual’s accomplishments within their profession as well as their work within the community. Nominations can be completed online at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-nomination-form.

Nominations will be weighed by a panel of judges, and the selected individuals will be announced and profiled in the April 29 issue of BusinessWest and honored at the 40 Under Forty Gala in June. Event sponsorship opportunities are available.

Cover Story Economic Outlook

There’s Uncertainty, but Also General Optimism About the Year Ahead

Brooke Thomson says the Business Confidence Index issued each month by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), does a fairly effective job of conveying what business owners are thinking.

When the index is consistently below 50, it indicates general pessimism about the economy in general. Conversly, when it’s above 50 and trending north of that mark, it conveys overall optimism and, as the name on the index indicates, confidence about what is to come.

And … when the index is right around 50 and hovering there, as it has been for the past several months, well, that generallly communicates the sentiment that business owners aren’t exactly sure what to think, and are, by and large, neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic, said Thomson, who took the reins as CEO of AIM on Jan. 1.

“What this tells me is that there’s a moderating that’s happening,” she told BusinessWest. “The good thing that you can draw from the index is that when you see it around 50 for several months in a row, there’s some consistency, which is critical for business to be successful; uncertainty is the worst thing that you can see in business. But it also indicates to me that businesses aren’t quite sure if we’re headed to a good place or a bad place. Businesses need to have a sense of being able to forecast wh at’s coming in order to adjust.”

This general state of not knowing what to think extends to economists and economic-development leaders as well, meaning that uncertainty is perhaps the prevailing sentiment heading into a year that promises to be an intriguing one in many ways and on many levels, including a presidential race that will likely consume the nation and its business community.

Bob Nakosteen

“I think growth will slow down in 2024, and there’s less than a 50-50 chance of going into a mild recession, with the emphasis on mild.”

But despite this uncertainty, there is strong sentiment that many of the positive forces seen in a better-than-expected 2023 — from job growth to still-robust consumer spending to falling inflation — will continue into next year.

“I think growth will slow down in 2024, and there’s less than a 50-50 chance of going into a mild recession, with the emphasis on mild,” said Bob Nakosteen, a semi-retired professor of Economics at UMass Amherst. “I don’t expect anything seriously negative to happen; I personally think the economy will be relatively healthy all through 2024.”

Beyond the presidential race, there will be many other things to watch in the year ahead, eveything from interest rates and inflation (and the broad impact of both) to the ongoing workforce crisis and efforts to stem that tide; from global turmoil and the impact it may have on various sectors of the economy to initiatives to address an ongoing housing shortage in this region and beyond; from continual changes in where and how people (and the impact of all this on commercial real estate and individual cities and towns) to those two letters that convey both enormous promise and great concern: AI.

For its 2024 Economic Outlook, BusinessWest talked with several business and economic leaders about these and other topics. Their comments add exclamation points to what we generally knew already — that 2024 will be an important year, one of both challenge and opportunity.



The Indicators Are Indicating…

Historically, Nakosteen told BusinessWest, the Fed tries — that’s tries — to keep a low profile in presidential-election years, and especially after the primaries are over. Elaborating, he said the Fed generally tries to keep from influencing a race with monetary policy, including sharp increases or decreases in interest rates.

And he expects that pattern to continue in 2024 while acknowledging that “anything could happen.”

And while that broad sentiment applies to the general economy as well, the prevailing opinion, if there is such a thing, is that the mostly tepid growth in GDP — roughly 2% in quarters 1 and 2, but then nearly 6% in Q3 — will continue into 2024, with only a modest chance of the country slipping into a recession, especially if interest rates start coming down, as the Fed has hinted. Sort of.

Tom Senecal

Tom Senecal

“All indications are that inflation is coming under control, which has caused the Federal Reserve to pause on interest-rate increases.”

Overall, 2023 was, in many ways, better than some economists projected, with the country able to skirt a recession despite aggressive efforts to tame inflation through interest-rate hikes. Nakosteen said the overriding reason for this was that, with the notable exception of housing, consumers were still willing to spend, and with supply chains righting themselves, there was plenty for them to spend on.

“In effect, supply created demand and kept things moving,” he said, adding that there are plenty of other positive notes in 2023. Indeed, Wall Street recorded a solid year, with the S&P 500 up a robust 23% over the past year, heading into the final week. Meanwhile, the country continues to add jobs — roughly 240,000 per month, on average, over the past year — and unemployment remains low at 3.8%.

On the downside, the housing market cratered, and banks started to suffer from a combination of a depressed housing market, a slower commercial-lending environment, and having to pay more than 5% interest on deposits when they had been paying close to zero. However, housing starts surged nearly 15% in November, providing still more evidence that the Fed is engineering a soft landing, with another 2% growth projected for the fourth quarter.

The $64,000 question, obviously, is whether the momentum seen on these various fronts can continue into 2024.

Rick Sullivan

Rick Sullivan

“Overall, I’m optimistic that the pieces are coming together, and that we’ll see more progress in 2024.”

Nakosteen, as always, said he is not equipped with a crystal ball, and forecasting is difficult given the many unknowns. But he offered this:

“It takes interest rates many, many months, if not years, to work their way through the channels to affect the economy. And some of that is still happening, and that’s causing a slowdown,” he said, noting the decline from Q3 to what is projected for Q4. “But there is nothing approaching recession; the job market is still very healthy, and that’s the key signal that will tell us if we’re heading into a recession.”


Points of Interest

As he looks ahead to 2024, Tom Senecal, president and CEO of Holyoke-based PeoplesBank, said he believes the momentum generated on inflation and interest rates — meaning the pause orchestrated by the Federal Reserve as inflation started to ease throughout the year — will likely continue into 2024, although there are no certainties.

“All indications are that inflation is coming under control, which has caused the Federal Reserve to pause on interest-rate increases,” he said. “At worst, we are hoping for no further increases, which should help the housing and commercial real-estate markets. At best, some predict lower rates, and, quite frankly, many consider equity markets to be overreacting to this potentially good news. We’re not out of the woods yet, but hopefully we are in for a soft landing as recessionary fears seem to be easing.”

Elaborating, Senecal said that much hinges on inflation and the needle continuing to move in the right direction.

Brooke Thomson

Brooke Thomson

“It’s imperative that policymakers send the right signals through their actions that we’re going to continue on this course of enhancing our competitiveness and promoting economic stability.”

“Everything points to price stability, and as long as price stability continues, we should see a stabilization of interest rates,” he explained. “As long as interest rates stay high on mortgages, the housing market will continue to have a ripple effect throughout our economy. Not only are housing sales down, but all economic activity related to homebuying and construction has been severely impacted.

“Several national economists and the Federal Reserve are expressing caution and a non-commitment about the direction of interest rates,” he went on. “Equity markets seemed to react extremely quickly to the interest-rate pause as good news. I am not so sure that we will see any change in interest rates. I think rates will remain stable throughout the year because the Federal Reserve is extremely cautious in any move, up or down, until they have clear signs that the economy, inflation, and employment are back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Overall, Senecal sees improvement on the residential real-estate market, but some lingering challenges, many of them pandemic-related.

“With the recent Federal Reserve pause, and the market’s reaction to that, it has started to impact long-term interest rates on mortgages coming down almost three-quarters of a percentage point,” he noted. “I would expect and hope the impact on the residential real-estate market come spring will have a positive effect on inventory and therefore increase residential RE purchases and inventory.”

Meanwhile, he added, “commercial office-space markets will continue to see a continuing decline as the effects of the pandemic on lease maturities will continue to impact commercial real-estate values. Because Western Mass is heavily concentrated in the medical and educational markets, neither of which are severely impacted by these interest-rate economic changes, I fully expect Western Mass. to remain economically stable throughout 2024.”


Progress Report

It’s called the CHIPS and Science Act. This is a federal statute signed into law by President Biden in August 2022 that authorizes roughly $280 billion in new funding to boost domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the U.S., and also includes $39 billion in subsidies for chip manufacturing on U.S. soil, along with 25% investment-tax credits for costs of manufacturing equipment and $13 billion for semiconductor research and workforce training.

Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, said provisions of the CHIPS Act require that companies in the supply chain be U.S.-based. And this has translated into some intriguing early-stage talks between the EDC and some international companies.

Sam Hanmer

“Insurance isn’t sexy. It isn’t high-tech, it isn’t Wall Street, it’s just … not sexy, so young people aren’t interested in it, and the ones who are interested are aging out.”

“Not only is there onshoring being discussed, but there’s also some foreign investment from different companies, European mostly, that are looking to get a foothold; they’re at least looking,” he said, adding that, between developable land on which to build and precision manufacturers that could be acquired, there is plenty within the 413 to show them. “It’s an opportunity I haven’t seen in the past seven or eight years.”

And this fairly recent development is one reason why Sullivan is rather optimistic about 2024 and what it holds for the region.

Other reasons include everything from progress on the workforce front (see related item below), with area colleges and universities seeing a boost in enrollment as well as new programs and initiatives to put workers in the pipeline for various sectors, to headway in the preparation of a new growth strategy for the region, to some new businesses in different, and promising, sectors.

Businesses like CleanCrop Technologies in Holyoke, which boasts technology that “redefines food and agriculture efficiency.”

“This is a company that came out of UMass, it’s growing significantly, and it’s getting the attention of some multi-national companies in terms of potential investment,” said Sullivan, adding that there are other companies in what he called the “clean-tech realm” that are emerging and offering great promise for that sector. “Overall, I’m optimistic that the pieces are coming together, and that we’ll see more progress in 2024.”


The State We’re In

Thomson told BusinessWest that the tax cut orchestrated by the Healey administration in 2023 was a welcome signal that the state might actually get it when it comes to the high cost of living and doing business in the Commonwealth and the need to take steps to make it more competitive.

She hopes there will be more of these to come in 2024 because the state still has a long way to go when it comes to being competitive with North Carolina’s Research Triangle and other regions like it.

“It’s imperative that policymakers send the right signals through their actions that we’re going to continue on this course of enhancing our competitiveness and promoting economic stability,” she said. “We’re really at an inflection point.”

George Timmons

George Timmons

“It’s about how you respond to the populations that you have on your campus and ensuring that they have the resources and the support they need to be successful.”

There continues to be an outmigration from Massachusetts, said Thomson, noting that the so-called ‘millionaire’s tax’ certainly has something to do with this. But the larger issue is simple affordability, she went on, adding that many young professionals feel priced out by the Bay State, and especially the broad area east of Worcester.

Housing is a huge issue, she said, adding that the state needs to prioritize efforts to create housing on many different levels, from affordable to what would be considered starter homes for young professionals. But it’s not the only issue, she noted, adding that overall affordability also includes transportation and childcare, which are also very high in this state.

“The outmigration numbers worry me because they indicate that the biggest population group that we’re losing are these 25- to 36-year-olds,” she said. “These are the people who maybe came here for college and then concluded that it’s too expensive to stay here.”

Finding ways to keep them here, Thomson added, will go a long way toward easing the workforce issues that are impacting every business sector and in some ways stunting their growth.


‘Workforce, Workforce, Workforce’

As he talked with BusinessWest about his sector and efforts to attract and retain talent, Sam Hanmer hit upon an uncomfortable truth.

“Insurance isn’t sexy,” said Hanmer, president of the Chicopee-based Rush Insurance Group, with Rush being his mother’s maiden name. “It isn’t high-tech, it isn’t Wall Street, it’s just … not sexy, so young people aren’t interested in it, and the ones who are interested are aging out. Let’s be honest, insurance has been an ugly word forever — you have to have thick skin to be in this game because no one wants to talk to you.”

With that, he summed up the ongoing challenge of attracting and maintaining a workforce today, hitting on two of the key points: Baby Boomers are retiring, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire their successors, especially in insurance.

“If you have that skillset, you’re in an environment where you can change jobs and get a pretty significant pay increase,” he said, referring to seasoned insurance professionals. “In order to get that skillset — and the number of people who possess it is diminishing — employers have to pay up for it, and that squeezes everyone.”

But even those business sectors that would be considered sexy continue to struggle on this front, with many of those we spoke with summing up 2023, and the overriding issue for 2024, with three simple words: “workforce, workforce, workforce.”

Susan Kasa

Susan Kasa

“Commercial aerospace had come to a virtual standstill for many suppliers, and they had to reinvent the wheel for themselves. But we’re starting to see a comeback to pre-pandemic levels.”

Hanmer was one of them, noting that, in his sector and many others, ‘virtual assistants,’ technology, and especially AI hold the promise of removing the human element, meaning hired help, from some backroom functions, the broad realm of customer service, and “helping customers understand what they’re buying.”

In the meantime, though, Hanmer and those in many other sectors are focusing their efforts on educating young people about what could be promising careers, including those in that non-sexy realm known as insurance, and grooming them for this work.

“We’re going to start looking at young, inexperienced people who have a desire to potentially have a good-paying job in insurance, because these are good-paying jobs, and you just can’t get people to fill them,” he explained. “So we’re going to have to start growing them from a younger age, and, hopefully, they’ll stick around.”

With that, again, he spoke for business owners across virtually every sector.


School of Thought

It will be called the Adult Learner Success Center.

This is a new initiative at Holyoke Community College (HCC), that, as the name suggests, has been created to help adult learners — non-traditional students generally in the their mid-20s and older — achieve success, however they choose to define it.

“It will help address the specific needs of the adult leader, and we’re really excited about it,” said George Timmons, who took the helm as HCC’s president this past summer. “It’s about how you respond to the populations that you have on your campus and ensuring that they have the resources and the support they need to be successful.”

And the program says a lot about the state of higher education as the caldendar turns to 2024.

Indeed, with the passage of the MassReconnect program, which provides free community college to eligible individuals 25 and older, these institutions have seen a much-needed boost in enrollment (4% at HCC, for example) that is also changing the demographic on their campuses.

While enrollment has edged higher at community-colleges and other institutions in 2023, overall enrollment and financial challenges persist, said Timmons, citing the announced closing of the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., after more than a century of operation, providing more evidence — not that any was needed — that these are difficult and somewhat perilous times in higher education.

“It’s still real when you think about the challenges facing colleges and universities, especially in the Northeast, where the birth rates are signficantly less than they were years ago, putting fewer students in the pipeline,” he said, noting that, on a different spectrum, there are an estimated 700,000 people in the Bay State who have attended college but not finished what they started.

This represents a tremendous opportunity for community colleges, he said, adding that this focus on the adult learner and helping them achieve success will be among the many key issues to watch in 2024.


Making Things Happen

Susan Kasa, president of Boulevard Machine & Gear in Westfield, said that, a year ago, her shop was able to shut down the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, a non-traditional break that was enjoyed by employees and managers alike.

So much so that the plan was to do it again, she said, adding that it just wasn’t possible to do so this year.

“Right now, we have so much demand that we will be open that week and plugging along,” she said in an interview prior to the holidays, adding that this demand comes in the form of a high volume of orders, a number of them in the expedited category, that cover most all of the customer groups served by this precision manufacturer.

That includes what Kasa calls ‘outer space,’ meaning everything from satellites to the rockets taking billionaires and their clients to the edge of space; from defense to aerospace.

This surge in orders reflects many of the issues that will define 2024, from turmoil in the Middle East, Ukraine, and other hotspots to a resurgence in airline travel — all of which is positively impacting precision manufacturers, and there are many of them in the 413, who serve original equipment manufacturers in those markets.

Indeed, on the space and defense sides of the ledger, Boulevard is currently handing orders for parts for everything from the satellites that track incoming missiles to the Apache helicopter, and all indications are that the pace of activity will only increase in 2024 and probably beyond.

“We’ve been delivering parts in this last quarter of the year, and the numbers are very strong right through 2032,” she said, ading that L3Harris, the Florida-based defense contractor that specializes in microwave weaponry, surveillance solutions, and electronic warfare, has become one of Boulevard’s larger customers for outer space, satellite, and aerospace work.

This upward trajectory in orders, which led to the hiring of three new machinists in 2023, also includes aerospace, she said, adding that a pronounced lull in that sector, resulting from the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, a sharp decrease in air travel during the pandemic, and other factors, is now to be discussed with the past tense.

“Commercial aerospace had come to a virtual standstill for many suppliers, and they had to reinvent the wheel for themselves,” Kasa said. “But we’re starting to see a comeback to pre-pandemic levels. We’re finally getting back to normal; orders are resuming, and they’re taking all this inventory that may have been sitting for a while. With both Boeing and Airbus, they’re seeing orders come in, and they’re large orders.”


Features Special Coverage

Making It Work

Mike Long and Alana Sambor

Mike Long and Alana Sambor say Axia employees appreciate a four-day workweek.


They call it the ‘buddy system.’

And it’s just one of many elements that have gone into what has thus far been a successful transition to a four-day workweek at West Springfield-based Axia Insurance.

Mike Long, the company’s CEO, explains how it works.

“Everyone picks or is assigned a buddy; if someone is not on in Monday, their buddy will take anything that comes in that has to be handled on Monday,” he said, noting that, in insurance, there are some things that can’t wait a day, so the buddy system is imperative to this arrangement whereby employees can take either Monday or Friday off, thus earning a three-day weekend 52 weeks a year.

The success of the buddy system has helped Axia make conversion to four days — 34 hours, with a goal of eventually getting it down to 32 hours — a success story that is still a work in progress, said Long, adding that a great deal of study and preparation went into this, and the prep work is certainly paying off thus far — for employees and the company.

“If you want to work at home because you find there are fewer distractions there, that’s fine. But if you feel the need to be at work because there are fewer distractions there, that’s fine, too. For those of us with kids and dogs, there are fewer distractions at work.”

Alana Sambor, director of Operations, agreed. She said employees have enthusiastically embraced the change, as might be expected, and there have been a number of benefits, everything from steady, and in some cases improved, levels of productivity, but with happier employees, to a decline in the number of requests for other paid time off, with employees scheduling doctor, dental, and vet visits; home-appliance repair windows; and more on the one day a week they are off (more on all this later).

As noted, the four-day week has come about through a hard focus on employee satisfaction, followed by study, examination of best practices (what few there are in this realm), and what could be called beta testing, running the program through its paces over this past summer, said Long, adding that businesses thinking about following this course need to do their homework, think it through, and effectively communicate everything that needs to be communicated to employees at all levels.

Allison Lapierre-Houle

Allison Lapierre-Houle says remote work and hybrid schedules have earned a measure of permanence at ArchitectureEL.

Meanwhile, the Wilbraham offices of Giombetti Associates tout what Bobby O’Neil calls a four-and-a-half-day workweek. There is a half day on Friday, with almost all employees — often everyone but him — working remotely on that day. This is the latest spin, or evolutionary course, on remote policies that are working for the company on many levels.

“The other four days, there is flexibility, with remote work an option for those who prefer it,” said O’Neil, senior advisor at this company, which specializes in pre-employment assessments, leadership training and development, and talent-acquisition solutions.

“If you want to work at home because you find there are fewer distractions there, that’s fine,” he said. “But if you feel the need to be at work because there are fewer distractions there, that’s fine, too. For those of us with kids and dogs, there are fewer distractions at work.”

As for Fridays and the quietness in the office, O’Neil said he enjoys it, mostly. “I’m alone, but I’m not lonely,” he quipped.

“Everyone has a three-day weekend, which has improved morale exponentially and improved work-life balance for everyone. The positivity in the office and the energy have completely changed.”

Fridays are nearly as quiet at the ArchitectureEL offices in East Longmeadow. That’s because seven of the company’s 10 employees are working remotely. All employees have the option to work remotely several days of the week, and most of them, but not all of them, make Friday one of those days, said Allison Lapierre-Houle, office manager for the company.

She said this is the pattern, or schedule, that employees have generally settled into, adding that remote work has earned a measure of permanence here, as it has elsewhere.

For this issue, we examine this shift in the workplace, and the many variations on the broad themes of remote work, flex schedules, and, yes, a shorter work week.


Week Link

As he talked about how the four-day week came to be Axia, Long said there was some careful reflection deeply rooted in a focus on employee satisfaction, recruitment, and retention.

Elaborating, he said Axia had embraced remote work in the wake of the pandemic, and most employees were taking advantage of it.

Bobby O’Neil

Bobby O’Neil says Giombetti Associates’ four-and-a-half-day workweek is one of several initiatives to help employees balance work and life.

But it came with a price tag of sorts, he went on, referencing a loss of company culture because employees were not together in the same place at the same time. “We were losing the culture of Axia,” he said. “All of the sudden, it felt that they were slipping away from us; we weren’t a family anymore.”

But, and this is a big but, the company also recognized the need to create a work environment that was attractive to current and potential employees, especially in the middle of an ongoing workforce crisis.

“We realized that the most valuable asset we have at the company is our employees, and based on that understanding, we’ve tried to create a culture that is very employee-focused,” he said, adding that Axia even boasts a gym at its facility. “What we wanted to do is create an effective work-life balance because it’s good for the employees. And if it’s good for the employees, it’s good for the clients.”

One method that emerged for getting there is a four-day work week, something that has been tried, with some success, in Europe, but not so much in the U.S.

“Every company had an identity before they went remote and hybrid, and now you add to that the complexity of remote workers and hybrid workers, and they have to think of creative ways to preserve the culture that they have.”

At the heart of the initiative is effective communication about all aspects of the new system, from the nuances of the buddy system to what is expected in terms of productivity, said Sambor, noting that it was made clear that team members would be doing the same amount of work, but in fewer days.

“The best rule of thumb is to set the standards that you’re trying to accomplish,” she noted. “If you have a full-time staff, and they’re taking 100 calls a day, and that’s what you expect from them, when they go to a four-day work week, we’re still expecting them to take 500 phone calls.”

But the tradeoff — more work in less time for that three-day weekend — has been enthusiastically accepted.

“Everyone has a three-day weekend, which has improved morale exponentially and improved work-life balance for everyone,” Sambor said. “The positivity in the office and the energy have completely changed.”

Long agreed.

Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts says employees at PeoplesBank have come to appreciate an organization that allows them some flexibility.

“One thing we have really noticed is the attitude of the employees in the office is so much more positive,” he told BusinessWest. “People seem to more energized, more excited — they tell stories about what they did on their day off.”

And while the new system is set and now policy at Axia, this is still a learning process, he noted, adding the company has “stubbed its toe” a few times, but there’s been nothing to make it second-guess this huge decision.


Remote Possibilities

That same sentiment seems to apply to the companies that have fully embraced remote work and hybrid schedules.

Giombetti introduced remote work before the pandemic, said O’Neil, adding that it works with clients across the country, many of whom it simply cannot meet in person.

“While some companies were forced into remote work and a virtual workspace, we were honing it,” he explained, adding that such arrangements work for clients and employees alike.

Especially the four-and-a-half-day workweek, which has been in place for several years now, he said, and helps employees as they seek to achieve work-life balance.

As for the clients Giombetti is working with, many are doing some honing of their own when it comes to policies regarding where and how people work.

Like the managers at Axia, O’Neil said that, as companies look to embrace different schedules and policies, the best course is to effectively communicate with employees and job candidates alike about what they should expect — and what is expected of them.

“This could include, but is not limited to, goals, core hours of work, mandatory meetings, mandatory check-ins, and what it means to maintain their corporate culture, too,” he said. “Every company had an identity before they went remote and hybrid, and now you add to that the complexity of remote workers and hybrid workers, and they have to think of creative ways to preserve the culture that they have.”

Remote work has certainly become part of the workplace equation at Holyoke-based PeoplesBank.

“Everyone has certain days that they’re remote every week, but if something comes up and they have to change it, we’re totally flexible to that because everyone has a different lifestyle.”

With more than 325 employees, the bank has a large number of front-facing employees, such as bankers and branch managers, for which remote work is not an option, said Amy Roberts, executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer. However, for others, the bank has adopted policies that enable such employees to work a hybrid schedule, with most in the office at least a few days a week.

“We have some people who prefer to be in the office,” she continued. “But the hybrid choice is very popular for those positions where we offer it.” 

And while having this flexibility to work a few days a week is appreciated by existing employees, the bank is not moving in the direction of offering fully remote work, with the exception of a few specific positions. “We’ve probably lost a few candidates because they are looking for fully remote,” she said. “On the other hand, people have absolutely remarked that they appreciate coming to an organization that allows them some flexibility.”

Those same sentiments have been expressed at ArchitectureEL, said Lapierre-Houle, adding that the company was, like most, fully remote during the pandemic but has since embraced hybrid schedules to help maintain the concept of teamwork, which is critical in architecture. Most are in the office on Mondays, when there are all-office meetings, she told BusinessWest, while Fridays, as noted earlier, are quiet.

Overall, she said, flexibility is the driving force behind the policy.

“Everyone has certain days that they’re remote every week, but if something comes up and they have to change it, we’re totally flexible to that because everyone has a different lifestyle,” she explained. “We’re super flexible about it.”


Employment Special Coverage

Coping with the Elements

Allison Ebner

Allison Ebner says there is a good deal of tension between employees and employers in the workplace today.


Allison Ebner counts herself a fan of the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch, which chronicles the lives of crews fishing for king and snow crab in Alaska, with that name effectively communicating just how dangerous a profession this is.

And Ebner, who took the helm at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast earlier this year, can find seemingly endless parallels between the dangers of crab fishing in the Bering Sea and the perils of managing the modern workplace.

With the former, it’s gale-force winds, rogue waves, ice formations, and dealing with greenhorns. With the latter, well … it’s everything from new regulations like family medical leave to coping with heightened expectations among employees concerning remote work, hybrid schedules, and more, to the demands of the younger generations.

In both cases, things come at leaders quickly and with great force, Ebner said. They must be as ready as they can be for whatever might hit them and then able to cope with the rough seas, whether they’re of the literal or figurative variety.

“It’s difficult … if you’re a Baby Boomer C-suite executive and you’re trying to get your arms around this workforce, it’s a bear,” she told BusinessWest, adding that, over the past few years, there have been even more challenges heaped upon business owners and managers. These include everything from less tolerance of differing opinions (on everything from science to politics) to an apparent gulf between employees and employers when it comes to pre-pandemic levels of production and results, and whether businesses should be back there by now.

“There’s a very, very big Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots thing happening here — there’s tension between employers and employees,” she explained. “First, there was the Great Resignation, then there was quiet quitting, and now there is a great divide: employers’ expectations are coming back to pre-COVID expectations, but employees are not coming back to work with that same mindset.”

“It’s difficult … if you’re a Baby Boomer C-suite executive and you’re trying to get your arms around this workforce, it’s a bear.”

As for that lack of tolerance for differing opinions, it’s showing up in a rise of calls to EANE’s hotline that fall into the broad category of employee relations, said Ebner, who described them this way: “I have an employee who has done, or is doing, this; what do I do about it?”

She noted that “there’s a lot of workplace-respect things happening today; we seem to, as a general society, have lost our ability to get along with one another to some regard. And I think that translates to the workplace; there’s less tolerance for someone who doesn’t think as I do or believe exactly the same things I do.”

As a result, EANE has been doing considerably more workplace-respect and conflict-resolution training these days, but the underlying whitewater remains.

“There’s no happy medium, so there’s a lot of tension,” she went on, adding that, with what is shaping up to be an epic presidential race this year, this tension will only rise as 2024 progresses, probably creating more employee-relations-related calls to the hotline.

Overall, in this climate and at this time of seemingly constant change, employers must put a premium on communication and, especially, training their mid-managers, what Ebner called their “people leaders.”

“These are the mid-level managers that have been ignored for years,” she said. “They’ve been ignored, they haven’t been trained, and they’re just sort of hanging out there. They need to be focused on; this is how organizations are going to be successful. They’re closest to the money — the money is your employees; you can’t function without them.”

For this issue’s focus on employment, BusinessWest talked with Ebner about the forces rocking the boat that is the modern workplace and what can be expected in the months to come.


Riding the Waves

Returning to Deadliest Catch, Ebner explained that, while the boat captains captured on the show possess many admirable qualities, flexibility, a willingness to compromise, and even communication are generally not among them.

And these are traits that today’s business managers certainly need, she went on, adding that, without them, life is going to be much more difficult and stressful — as if it weren’t already difficult and stressful enough, for those reasons above, many of which started during, or were accelerated by, the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of workplace-respect things happening today; we seem to, as a general society, have lost our ability to get along with one another to some regard. And I think that translates to the workplace; there’s less tolerance for someone who doesn’t think as I do or believe exactly the same things I do.”

Return to work, or RTW — another acronym that has worked its way into the lexicon — is just part of it.

The larger piece involves who’s holding the cards in the workplace today, she went on, adding that, during COVID and the height of the workforce crisis that followed, it was clearly employees that were driving the boat. Many think they still have the upper hand, but, increasingly, employers believe they are back in control.

And that’s where the rock-’em-sock-’em turmoil comes in.

“With COVID, we kind of dropped all of our performance-management standards, and now, employers are trying to bring those back,” Ebner explained. “They’re saying, ‘you can’t call out four times and violate our attendance policy and still have a job.’ During COVID, you could, and you could post-COVID the past few years because the job market was so tight.

“Now, that’s settled down a little bit, so employers are trying to rein things in a little bit, and employees are very resistant to that,” she went on. “We see it with return to work … you see it nationally with large corporations that are trying to bring their employees back, some more successfully than others. Employees want their work-life balance, they want that flexibility, and they expect it.

“They have higher expectations from their employers because they got more during these past three years and they have more negotiating power, and they want to keep that,” she continued. “But employers are saying, ‘we have a business to run here, the economy’s tough, it’s getting more competitive, and we’ve got to buckle down.’”

This general difference of opinion is contributing to the uptick in employee-relations matters, said Ebner, adding that things have been at a slow boil since last summer, but they’ve been heating up in recent months.

And this is just one of the dynamics creating more challenges in the workplace, adding that relatively new regulations, such as family medical leave and changing demographics within the workforce — with Baby Boomers moving into retirement, Gen Xers on the downside, and Gen Y and Gen Z “taking over” — are among the others.

“They have higher expectations from their employers because they got more during these past three years and they have more negotiating power, and they want to keep that. But employers are saying, ‘we have a business to run here, the economy’s tough, it’s getting more competitive, and we’ve got to buckle down.’”

“We have to be mindful of who’s in the workplace today,” she said. “And if you look at five, 10, 15 years down the road, most companies are doing strategic planning and predicting the future … and it’s Millennials and Zoomers, and that’s a real mindset shift for a lot of the C-suite people we talk to, and they are extremely unhappy about it.”

They’re not happy because what they’ve done for benefits and the larger employee value proposition (EVP) was much different for the work-first, family-second Baby Boomers than it is for the younger generations, who have different priorities and are not shy about communicating them.

“It’s a reality, but it’s also a slap in the face for many,” she said, referring, again, to older, Baby Boom-generation leaders. “But there is no choice; the younger generations are here, they are dominating, and they are the future; we don’t have the robots yet that you can program.”

In this environment, the managers that are thriving (and, yes, that’s a relative term) are those who can communicate with their employees and train those that Ebner calls “people leaders.”

“It’s all about expectations, and the employer who sits down with their team and communicates what is expected will fare better in this environment,” she said.

“The number-one thing employers can do right now to help themselves is train their people leaders; they’re the ones delivering the message inside the organization regarding expectations and performance metrics,” she added. “They are the conduit; they are the veins that run through the organization where everything flows through. Good people leaders have good communications skills, and they help set expectations. And it’s a two-way street now; the employee feedback gets to the leadership of an organization through the people leaders.”

All this points to a need for more professional development in the workplace, she said, adding that employees are asking for it, if not demanding it, and employers should want to provide it.


The Sea Suite

Reflecting on the current scene in the workplace, Ebner said that many of the Baby Boom-aged HR professionals she knows say they can’t wait to retire.

“They’re kind of done; they’re ready,” she told BusinessWest. “They’re not ready for the brave new world we’re in.”

Those sentiments speak to how challenging the workforce has become in recent years, a pattern that will likely only accelerate in the future, a reality that brings still more comparisons to Deadliest Catch.

There is nothing easy about catching king crab in the Bering Sea. And these days, there’s nothing easy about managing a workforce. It all comes down to being ready for whatever might come at you.

Healthcare News Special Coverage

Bridging the Gap

By Emily Thurlow

With classic Christmas carols softly emanating from a TV across the room and an Irish wolfhound named Veren panting rhythmically a short distance behind her, Barbara Chiampa pedaled a stationary bicycle on a recent afternoon at Mont Marie Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center’s therapy gym.

With guidance from Reliant Rehabilitation physical therapy assistant Tara McCauley, Chiampa was working on improving her balance and walking. After noting improvement in her gait and movement with a handheld assist, Chiampa paused for a few kisses from Veren, a 2-year-old therapy dog.

The staff at the Holyoke facility benefits from the canine too, said his handler, registered occupational therapist Sylvia Korza of Reliant Rehabilitation. “He comes to work with me, and he loves everybody. He’s great for therapy — even the staff. He helps lift everyone’s mood.”

The gym, which was expanded in 2016, features several pieces of equipment dedicated to improving mobility, including parallel bars and practice stairs. Beyond the machines, the therapy gym offers opportunities for McCauley and Korza to customize regimens that are tailored to the specific needs of patients recovering from medical procedures, injuries, or illnesses.

The therapy offered at the center’s gym is one of multiple subacute rehabilitation care services offered at the 84-bed Mont Marie facility, which was built in 1962 and formerly owned and operated by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 2014, Mont Marie was purchased by Tryko Partners, which is headquartered in New Jersey, and is managed by its healthcare subsidiary, Marquis Health Consulting Services. Mont Marie is one of 10 of Marquis’ facilities in Massachusetts.

In recent years, the licensed nursing facility’s short-term rehabilitation care services have continued to grow, adding new programs and certifications, to meet the growing needs of the community.

A need for subacute or short-term rehabilitative care can emerge after a hospital stay for hip surgery or a stroke, or if an individual needs some physical strengthening or medication management, said Natasha Pieciak, administrator at Mont Marie.

“Baby Boomers are getting older, so as the population ages, there’s more of a demand for supportive services. We’re not a hospital — we’re kind of like a step down; we’re supportive services to bridge that gap between home-care services and the hospital.”

Initially, the 26-bed first floor was dedicated to this service, but it has since expanded to the 29-bed second floor as well. At times, admissions have jumped as high as 50 per month.

“There are a lot of factors that influence this growth,” said Pieciak, who has served as administrator of the center since September 2022. “Baby Boomers are getting older, so as the population ages, there’s more of a demand for supportive services. We’re not a hospital — we’re kind of like a step down; we’re supportive services to bridge that gap between home-care services and the hospital.

“With the aging population, I think these services become more needed out in the community, so we’re here to support people in that way, so they can be successful at home. People want to be at home, so we’re really here to try to support them to get them ready to do that.”

Barbara Chiampa

Barbara Chiampa pedals an exercise bicycle at Mont Marie Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Holyoke.

Through Mont Marie’s partnerships with Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and Holyoke Medical Center, as well as referrals from Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Pieciak said Mont Marie has been made aware of the growing demand for these rehabilitative services.

“We work closely with our partners within the hospital systems; we collaborate,” she said. “With Baystate, for example, we have weekly calls with their accountable-care organization management team, who will follow a patient from hospital to home, and we communicate with them, and they tell us what they’re seeing, what their needs are. We’re just really building that relationship and working with them to help identify and meet the needs that we’re seeing out in the community.”

“The goal of these specialty programs is to educate and train the residents how to manage and live with their conditions.”

In working with Baystate, Pieciak said Mont Marie has become one of two skilled-nursing facilities that have qualified for a waiver for the three-day requirement under the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The waiver eliminates the requirement to have a three-day inpatient hospital stay prior to a Medicare-covered, post-hospital, extended-care service.

What this means, Pieciak explained, is that, if a patient is in a hospital emergency department but don’t have a three-day stay, instead of going back home and potentially falling or fracturing a hip, they could go to Mont Marie as long as they meet a skilled need.

“This is huge because there’s a gap there,” she said. “Residents would go home and could potentially have worse outcomes. What we’re doing is bridging that gap from hospital to home.”

In addition to physical and occupational therapies, Mont Marie’s subacute rehab offers speech therapy up to seven days a week.


Life Goals

Within its major focus on subacute rehabilitation care, Mont Marie offers three specialty programs: cardiopulmonary, chronic kidney disease management, and heart failure.

“The goal of these specialty programs is to educate and train the residents how to manage and live with their conditions,” Pieciak said.

Natasha Pieciak

Natasha Pieciak says Mont Marie works closely with its partners within hospital systems.

The cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program is physician-led under the direction of a pulmonologist and focuses on helping patients achieve the most active life possible despite any physical limitations and/or cardiopulmonary diagnoses. The program, which is geared toward individuals with diagnoses of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), post-lung transplants, emphysema, and acute respiratory failure, offers access to lab and radiology services, tracheostomy care and management, nebulizer therapies, bladder scanning, and several oxygen therapies, including liquid nitrogen.

The renal program is focused on reducing symptoms of chronic kidney disease, increasing a patient’s quality of life, and promoting independence. Mont Marie offers onsite dialysis provided by American Renal Associates, consultative visits by staff nephrologists, diabetic management and education, a monthly support group, and health coaching.

In October, Mont Marie received its skilled-nursing facility heart-failure certification from the American Heart Assoc. (AHA). In order to be considered eligible for this certification, facilities must be located in the U.S. or a U.S. territory and implement a heart-failure program that uses a standardized method of delivering clinical care based on current evidence-based guidelines.

“This was a huge accomplishment,” Pieciak said. “There are very few facilities that are credentialed. The American Heart Association has armed us with innovative methods and additional tools so that we can be trailblazers and give our heart-failure patients the best care.”

The vetting provides an evidence-based framework for evaluating skilled-nursing facilities against the AHA’s science-based requirements for heart failure patients, including care coordination, clinical management, quality improvement, program management, and patient and caregiver education and support.

According to the AHA, nearly one in four heart failure patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, and approximately half are readmitted within six months. It has also been suggested that about 25% of readmissions may be preventable.

“We’re trying to get ahead of hospital readmissions,” said Raymonda Sample, the lead for the heart-failure program and unit manager.

With the certification, Mont Marie has been provided with access to centers on treating heart failure and its co-morbidities.

Sample noted that one of the biggest benefits to the staff’s education on the heart-failure program is being able to educate patients on how they can live more independently with fewer flareups of their disease.

To that end, Mont Marie uses what’s called a ‘zone tool.’ The traffic-light color-coded guide indicates an all-clear, or green, when a patient has no shortness of breath; chest pain; swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, or stomach; or weight gain of more than two pounds. It’s time to call a doctor if a patient is in the so-called warning (yellow) zone, when they’re experiencing dizziness; dry, hacking cough; more shortness of breath; uneasy feelings; no energy; difficulty breathing when lying down; swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, or stomach; or weight gain of three or more pounds in one day or five pounds in one week.

A medical alert, or red zone, is when the previous symptoms have been exacerbated and a patient is having a hard time breathing or is experiencing unrelieved shortness of breath while sitting still, chest pain, or confusion.

In addition to this tool, Sample has created an entire guide board for staff that she also uses to educate family members of patients. The tool helps provide a better continuity of care, she explained.

“With this education, we are able to identify how the patient is feeling for the day,” she said. “If say, the patient is in the middle of therapy and they’re feeling short of breath, or telling the therapist maybe they haven’t eaten much in the last couple of days, or not sleeping well — there’s a sort of board out there where you can see the different signs and symptoms of heart failure.”


Safe at Home

Even though a patient has a plan in place to be discharged from the facility following treatment at Mont Marie, care doesn’t end at the door.

“When we discharge patients, we do follow-up calls with the patient just to find out how the transition back home goes, the home care services … we make sure they’re seen by their primary-care physician within 10 days, and if they don’t have a scale, we make sure we send them home with one,” Sample said. “This is so both our patients and the staff recognize the signs and symptoms of heart failure, so we can try to avoid rehospitalization.”

Law Special Coverage

Guilty by Association

By Trevor Brice, Esq.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment. However, the ADA does not require an employer to assist — or in other words, accommodate — a person without a disability due to that person’s association with someone with a disability.

Still, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee or applicant because of that person’s association with someone with a disability. This is what is called ‘associational discrimination,’ which, in the below case, was due to another’s disability under the ADA.

On Sept. 19, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), announced that it had sued a private school for associational discrimination under the ADA. According to the EEOC’s announcement, the school allegedly discriminated against one of its teachers by refusing to renew her contract over her daughter’s disability.

Trevor Brice

Trevor Brice

“An employer cannot discriminate against an employee or applicant because of that person’s association with someone with a disability. This is what is called ‘associational discrimination.’”

This was “precisely the kind of conduct the ADA’s associational-discrimination provision was intended to prohibit,” said Rosemarie Rhodes, EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office director. On Dec. 15, the EEOC announced that the matter had been settled for just over $85,000 by the private school, with the school to pay $50,858 in back pay, $4,428 in interest on the back pay, and $30,000 in non-wage damages.

This settlement brings associational-discrimination enforcement into the limelight and presents more scenarios for employers to look out for and train their employees on for the new year.


Associational Discrimination and the ADA

Associational discrimination based on another’s disability requires “that (1) the employee was qualified for the job at the time of the adverse employment action, (2) that the employee was subjected to an adverse employment action, (3) that the employer knew at the time of the adverse employment action that the employee had a relative or associate with a disability, and (4) that the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances raising a reasonable inference that the disability of the relative or associate was a determining factor in the employer’s decision” (Carey v. AB Car Rental Servs. Inc.).

The EEOC, in its announcement, stated that the school was aware of the teacher’s daughter’s disability and that it decided to not renew the teacher’s contract because it assumed (without investigation, or even asking the teacher) that her daughter’s disability, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, would undermine the teacher’s focus and commitment to her job. The school instead decided to renew the contracts of other teachers who had less experience and tenure than the teacher whose daughter had a disability.

In its complaint, the EEOC pleaded the requirements of an associational-discrimination claim based on disability through the circumstances described in its announcement. The teacher performed her job satisfactorily, according to the EEOC, making her qualified for the job at the time the private school refused to renew her contract. In order to not be qualified for her job, the school would have had to demonstrate the teacher had performance deficiencies or otherwise could not perform the essential functions of her job.

Further, the private school subjected the teacher to an adverse employment action by not renewing her employment contract. An adverse employment action can be any action by an employer that takes away a benefit of an employee’s employment, e.g. taking away a company car, suspension from employment, termination, etc.

“Without both knowledge and a reasonable inference, associational discrimination will most likely be unactionable. Nevertheless, it is important to stress to employees that discrimination and harassment based on protected class is prohibited, no matter the circumstance.”

Finally, the EEOC pleaded that the private school knew of the teacher’s daughter’s disability and allegedly specifically cited that reason for not renewing the teacher’s contract, making for the reasonable inference that the teacher’s daughter’s disability was a determining factor in its decision. As such, the EEOC met its burden for pleading its case of associational discrimination based on disability, which most likely prompted the private school to settle the claims.


Pitfalls of Associational Discrimination

As shown by the EEOC’s enforcement action, associational-discrimination claims are actionable claims that can cost employers a substantial amount of money. The pitfalls of these claims are that they are not the easiest to catch. For example, it is comparatively easier to catch when there is direct discrimination (e.g. a racial remark, comment against a disability) than to read into the subtext of a conversation that is deprecating to an associate of an employee who is part of a protected class.

However, there are ways to teach this kind of discrimination and harassment to frontline employees and make them aware enough of an associational-discrimination or harassment issue to report it.

First, employees should be aware that discrimination or harassment based on protected class (e.g. race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, etc.) is prohibited. Along these lines, it is equally prohibited to discriminate or harass another employee based on the protected characteristics of someone with whom the employee associates. For example, it is illegal to use the knowledge that an employee has Jewish friends to discriminate against that employee and subject him to adverse employment actions based on that knowledge.

Second, it is important to stress that it is the knowledge of the employee’s associates’ protected classes that makes associational discrimination actionable. An offhand comment by an employee that happens to relate to an employee’s associates’ or relatives’ protected class will not necessarily implicate associational discrimination, but making the same comment and directly referencing the associate or relative and their protected class will make for this implication. In this sense, if it is discriminatory or harassing to the associate or relative, it will most likely be discriminatory or harassing to the employee.

If cornerstones of associational discrimination like these are taught and enforced, it will be less likely that an employer will be subject to the same fate as the above-referenced private school.



Associational discrimination can raise its head in a variety of circumstances, including the contract-renewal scenario above; hiring, termination, and other employment decisions; as well as discriminatory and harassing behaviors from employees.

Though it is more difficult to catch than scenarios in which discrimination or harassment based on protected class is direct, the pivotal elements of associational discrimination are knowledge of the associates’ or relatives’ protected class and the reasonable inference that the knowledge was a determining factor in the adverse employment decision. Without both knowledge and a reasonable inference, associational discrimination will most likely be unactionable. Nevertheless, it is important to stress to employees that discrimination and harassment based on protected class is prohibited, no matter the circumstance.

Further, a related claim to associational discrimination is a retaliation claim for reporting discrimination or harassment perpetrated against another employee. In this scenario, an employee reports that another employee is being discriminated against because of their protected class, and then the reporting employee is subjected to an adverse employment action. This kind of ‘associational’ activity by employees is protected, and an employer can be subjected to legal action if the report is not handled properly.

As associational discrimination and related retaliation can be difficult to detect, it is prudent to contact legal counsel in order to avoid any potential liability and train staff to recognize and report associational-discrimination scenarios.


Trevor Brice is an attorney who specializes in labor and employment-law matters at the Royal Law Firm LLP, a woman-owned, women-managed corporate law firm that is certified as a women’s business enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office, the National Assoc. of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.