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Life in Limbo

It was becoming clear weeks ago that the novel coronavirus would have some sort of economic impact once it washed ashore in the U.S. — but it’s still not clear, and perhaps won’t be for some time, how severe and wide-ranging the damage could be, as people cancel travel plans, curtail business operations, shut down college campuses, and take any number of other actions to stay safe. It’s a fast-moving story, and one that’s only beginning.

The first confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus had barely shown up in the U.S. when some of Bob Nakosteen’s students in an online graduate economics course started dropping the course because they were dealing with a more immediate issue: supply-chain interruptions in their own companies.

“These companies have supply chains that stretch into China, and, well … the word ‘disruptive’ doesn’t even capture it,” Nakosteen said. “Those chains have been completely severed. These people are absolutely in crisis mode.

“A situation like this interacts with the ethic of lean production,” he went on. “People keep limited inventories — and that’s great as long as there’s a supply chain that’s frictionless and reliable. As soon as you get a disruption in the supply chain, which could happen because of a strike, because of a virus, for any number of reasons, there’s no inventory buffer. It doesn’t cause delayed difficulty to the firm; it causes an immediate one. And that’s what you’ve got now.”

Editor’s Note:

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting this region and its business community in ways that are far-reaching and unprecedented. Visit COVID-19 News & Updates  and opt into BusinessWest Daily News to stay informed with daily updates.

More than a week has passed since we spoke with Nakosteen — a professor and chair of the Department of Operations and Information Management at Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst — for this story, meaning another week for the supply-chain situation for manufacturers and other companies to deteriorate.

In fact, when it comes to the economic impact of the virus that causes the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, now officially a pandemic, virtually everything has only gotten worse.

“We have to assume everything will be affected. Airlines are experiencing reduced demand, cancelling hundreds and thousands of flights,” he said, noting that reduced tourism will hit numerous sectors, from hotels and restaurants to ground transportation and convention halls, that rely on travelers.

“How many firms are curtailing business travel? The NCAA now plans to play playing games with empty stands,” he went on, a decision that became official soon after — not to mention the NBA suspending its season outright. “What happens to the people who provide parking and concessions? Now multiply that over hundreds or thousands of events that are scheduled to take place over the next couple of months. It’s going to have an economic effect.”

UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst is one of several area colleges and universities that are sending students home and will conduct remote classes only for the time being.

Nakosteen’s own campus is certainly feeling that impact. The day before BusinessWest went to press, the five campuses in the UMass system suspended in-person instruction and will transition to online course delivery, at least through early April and perhaps beyond. That followed a similar move by Amherst College, whose president, Carolyn Martin, told students the college was taking to heart the announcement by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that the U.S. is past the point of totally containing COVID-19. Other area colleges have since followed suit, or are considering their options.

“While there continue to be no reported cases of the virus on our campus, we need to focus on mitigating its possible effects,” she said, using language that will no doubt be similar to the statements other colleges, in Massachusetts and across the U.S., are currently preparing. “We know that many people will travel widely during spring break, no matter how hard we try to discourage it. The risk of having hundreds of people return from their travels to the campus is too great. The best time to act in ways that slow the spread of the virus is now.”

While all travel is slowing — for example, the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut have both curtailed out-of-state business travel by government employees, and President Trump issued a European travel ban — Don Anderson, owner of the Cruise Store in East Longmeadow, has seen vacation travel take a major hit.

“We’re a society where, when you’re growing up, you eat your meal, and then you get your dessert. Now we have a situation where people are not having their dessert — their vacation,” he told BusinessWest. “Imagine kids not going to the islands or not going to a park, to the annual parade, not going anywhere. We are a society that works our butts off, we put in overtime, so we can have our time off. To have a year with no time off, that’s not who we are. As Americans, we want our vacation, we want our escape, so we can recharge and come back and work our butts off again.”

But they’re increasingly calling off those vacations, even though Fauci told reporters last week that cruise ships, with all the precautions they’re taking (more on that later), are safe for healthy young people.

“These companies have supply chains that stretch into China, and, well … the word ‘disruptive’ doesn’t even capture it. Those chains have been completely severed. These people are absolutely in crisis mode.”

“The bottom line is, we are unintentionally punishing ourselves by not having an escape. A good portion of our customers are going on trips, but many are not,” Anderson said, adding that he expects the industry to recover after the crisis is over. “That’s what we’re all hoping. Otherwise, it’s a dire situation for the industry and even more so for the economies that travel impacts directly and indirectly, including the United States.”

For now, though, businesses of all kinds are in a sort of limbo, bearing the initial brunt of an economic storm spreading as quickly as coronavirus itself — no one really sure how severe it will get, and when it will turn around.

Sobering Education

Many companies, from small outfits with a few employees to regional giants, are grappling with similar questions about what to do if the virus threatens their workforce. On that upper end, size-wise, is MassMutual in Springfield, which has certainly talked strategy in recent days.

“MassMutual is taking appropriate action to protect the health of our employees, their families, and our community and assure the continuity of our business operations,” Laura Crisco, head of Media Relations and Strategic Communications, told BusinessWest. “This includes limiting non-essential domestic and international business travel and ensuring employees are prepared to work remotely, including proactively testing work-from-home capabilities.”

In the meantime, MassMutual is limiting non-essential guests at its offices, enhancing cleaning protocols at its facilities, and limiting large-scale meetings, she added. “We are continuously monitoring this evolving situation, reassessing our approach, and staying in close communication with our employees.”

Most importantly, Crisco said, anyone who is sick is encouraged to stay home, and the company is also communicating basic guidance on how to prevent the spread of germs, such as thorough hand washing, using hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching faces with unwashed hands, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces.

Kevin Day, president of Florence Bank, told BusinessWest the institution has disaster plans in place for a host of circumstances, from epidemics to natural disasters, and has developed strategies for meeting basic customer needs in case staffing is reduced.

Bob Nakosteen

“As soon as you get a disruption in the supply chain, which could happen because of a strike, because of a virus, for any number of reasons, there’s no inventory buffer. It doesn’t cause delayed difficulty to the firm; it causes an immediate one.”

“We just checked with all our managers and asked, ‘are we comfortable that everyone is cross-trained enough, so that, if your area was out, we could function?’ Pretty much everyone said, ‘yes, we have the plans right here, we know exactly what we’d do.’

He understands, however, that no one can anticipate the extent of the crisis quite yet.

“It’s not like we haven’t seen challenges in the past. Whatever challenge is presented, we’ve just got to get the right people in the building together and think about how to continue to do what we do, which is open the door and serve the customers. We have those things in place,” Day said. “As it ramps up, and all of a sudden your employees start coming down with it, the escalation would get much greater, and you might have to take more draconian steps.”

‘Draconian’ might be a word some people used when they first heard about the college shutdowns, but there’s a logic behind that move.

“While at this time there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our campus or in the surrounding community, we are taking these steps as a precautionary measure to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff,” Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor of UMass Amherst, said in a statement to students. “By reducing population density on campus, we will enable the social distancing that will mitigate the spread of the virus. There is presently no evidence that our campus is unsafe, but our transition to remote learning is intended to create a safer environment for all — for the students who return home and the faculty and staff who remain.”

He conceded that the move is a massive disruption for students and families, but said the university is committed to helping those with the greatest needs on an individual basis. Meanwhile, the Provost’s office is working with the deans to identify laboratory, studio, and capstone courses where face-to-face instruction is essential, and students in these courses will be notified whether they can return to campus after spring break.

At the same time, Martin said Amherst College will consider making exceptions for students who say it’s impossible to find another place to stay.

“It saddens us to be taking these measures,” she added. “It will be hard to give up, even temporarily, the close colloquy and individual attention that defines Amherst College, but our faculty and staff will make this change rewarding in its own way, and we will have acted in one another’s best interests.”

Elementary-, middle- and high schools may close as well, after Gov. Charlie Baker, as part of his emergency declaration last week, freed school districts from mandatory-days rules, so that they have the flexibility to make decisions on temporary closures due to coronavirus.

Specifically, the longest any school district will be required to go is its already-scheduled 185th day. No schools will be required to be in session after June 30. Schools may also disregard all attendance data for the remainder of the school year.

Reaction or Overreaction?

While some economic impacts may be inevitable, Anderson questioned whether some businesses are being hurt more than others based on, in his case, media spin that has focused on a couple of recent outbreaks on cruise ships.

“Honestly, I’m more concerned walking into the supermarket — that tomato I’m grabbing or fresh produce I’m purchasing, I don’t know how many people before me have touched it. I don’t know who’s touching the elevator button. I don’t know who entered their pin number on the debit/credit-card reader. Even when we voted, everyone who used the polling booth shared the same pens,” he said, adding quickly that election officials in East Longmeadow, where he is a Town Council member, did occasionally wipe down the voting surfaces and pens, as did other communities.

“What we do know is there’s been well over 20,000 deaths of American citizens from the flu this season alone, but I’m not seeing large, front-page stories about that,” Anderson noted. “Why aren’t there long lines out of the local CVS or Walgreens to get the flu vaccine?”

Dr. Robert Roose

Dr. Robert Roose

“We are regularly in touch with the state Department of Health as well as monitoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. That’s important to ensure all of our activities are aligned with the latest data and resources.”

The key, he said, is a balanced and measured response — and for people to use healthy practices all the time. As one example, he noted the hand-washing stations at the entrance of all restaurants on cruise ships. While at least two cruise lines have temporarily suspended voyages, those still operating strictly follow those protocols.

“You have dedicated crew reminding everyone and watching so you wash your hands before going in,” he said. “It’s not something you see in stateside restaurants. But on cruise ships, you have to wash your hands. These washing stations were a consequence years ago of the norovirus impacting a small number of cruise-ship passengers. As a result, the incidences onboard ships has lowered.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Travel Assoc. President and CEO Roger Dow worried about bold moves like barring European travel. “Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel,” Dow said in a statement.

While many businesses struggle with the economic impact of the novel coronavirus and the anxiety it’s causing among Americans, others see it as a chance to expand their services.

For example, the Springfield-based law firm Bulkley Richardson launched a COVID-19 response team last week comprised of attorneys in the areas of business, finance, employment, schools, healthcare, and cybersecurity. Understanding that each business will be affected differently, the firm noted that taking proactive measures may help minimize the risk of business interruptions, and the COVID-19 response team has developed — and posted on its website — a catalog of issues to be considered by each business owner or manager.

Meanwhile, Associated Industries of Massachusetts published an expansive guide to employment-law issues that might arise due to the virus, dealing with everything from quarantines and temporary shutdowns to remote work and employee privacy issues. That guide is available at aimnet.org/blog/the-employers-guide-to-covid-19. John Gannon, a partner with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, also answers some relevant questions in this issue.

Righting the ship if COVID-19 sparks an actual recession could be difficult, for a number of reasons, writes Annie Lowrey, who covers economic policy for the Atlantic. She notes several reasons why a coronavirus recession could be difficult to reverse in the short term, including its uncertainty, demand and supply shocks at the same time (that supply-chain issue again), political polarization in the U.S., the global nature of COVID-19, and the fact that monetary policy is near exhaustion, as the Federal Reserve has already cut rates to near-historic lows, leaving little room to maneuver in the coming months

“They really don’t have much space to cut,” Nakosteen added. “Normally when the economy runs into trouble, the Federal Reserve runs in to the rescue. The problem now is we don’t have much room to rescue.”

He also cited the psychological factor that can quickly turn economic anxiety into something worse. “People say, ‘oh my God,’ they start drawing in their tentacles, and that’s when you have a recession.”

Lives in the Balance

None of this is to suggest that the economic impacts of COVID-19 outweigh the human ones. This is, foremost, a health crisis, one the healthcare community, particularly hospitals, are bracing for.

“We have an emergency preparedness committee, but those policies are sort of general,” said Dr. Joanne Levin, medical director of Infection Prevention at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. “We’ve had a lot of incidents in the past decade — we’ve prepared for Ebola, measles, H1N1, a lot of things. But each epidemic is different in how it’s transmitted and what to watch for. With each epidemic, we have to go through the emergency preparation plan and figure things out.”

Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center, echoed that idea. “We have a standard infection-control committee and a plan that we would activate whenever we have a surge of infectious-disease patients,” he told BusinessWest. “This particular situation is rapidly evolving. We are regularly in touch with the state Department of Health as well as monitoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. That’s important to ensure all of our activities are aligned with the latest data and resources.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) continues to offer guidance to the public at www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus. It’s also urging older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and events, while individuals who live in households with vulnerable people, like elderly parents, should also consider avoiding crowds. The DPH is also issuing guidance to long-term-care facilities, where sick visitors could endanger dozens of people very quickly.

Still, coronavirus is also an economic story, one with a plot that’s only beginning to take shape. It also may be a long story, with no end in sight.

“We’re in a position where we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but we can speculate on what parts of the economy are going to be affected,” Nakosteen said. “We’re all watching it play out without a whole lot of idea how it will play out.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Court Dockets

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.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

American Builders & Contractors Supply Co. Inc. d/b/a ABC Supply Co. Inc. v. Cole Home Improvement, LLC; Stephen D. Cole a/k/a Stephen Cole a/k/a Steve Cole; and Lincoln Cole a/k/a Lincoln P. Cole

Allegation: Breach of contract for goods sold and delivered, breach of personal guaranty: $19,013.57

Filed: 1/30/20

 

Rhonda Skinner v. Family Dollar Stores of Massachusetts, LLC and Congregation Sons of Zion Inc. of Holyoke

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $24,000

Filed: 2/6/20

 

Luis Vazquez v. K & D Auto

Allegation: Sale of defective vehicle, unfair and deceptive business practices: $3,475.27

Filed: 2/6/20

 

Margarita Casillas v. Walmart Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $7,016.72

Filed: 2/12/20

 

Edward F. Corcoran Plumbing & Heating Co. Inc. v. 360 laundry, LLC

Allegation: Breach of contract for labor and materials: $15,446.12

Filed: 2/21/20

 

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Jason Codding v. Holyoke Mall Co., LP

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $25,000

Filed: 1/17/20

 

Tammy Isaac-Brown v. Cumberland Farms of Massachusetts Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $100,000

Filed: 1/21/20

 

Gaetano “Guy” Santaniello v. Kane Scrap Iron & Metal Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $200,000

Filed: 1/21/20

 

Joseph S. Puc v. Stuart Hershman, M.D.; Shivam Narendra Upadhyaya, M.D.; Dana R. Sajed, M.D.; and the Massachusetts General Hospital Inc.

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $50,000+

Filed: 1/22/20

 

Kristen Fay v. Walmart Stores East, LP; WSE Management, LLC; and Walmart

Allegation: Employment discrimination

Filed: 1/23/20

 

Richard M. Green Jr. v. the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $510,000

Filed: 1/30/20

 

Irene Kathuria v. Dental Dreams, LLC and Sameera Houssain

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $120,000+

Filed: 2/4/20

 

Commerce Insurance Co. a/s/o Janette Vega v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence: $6,592.36

Filed: 2/5/20

 

NMD Inc. d/b/a A & M Landscaping v. JGS Lifecare Corp. f/k/a Jewish Geriatric Services Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: 44,802.50+

Filed: 2/5/20

 

Zachary Charbonneau v. PM Auto Transport Inc. and Matthew S. Hoydilla

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $64,308.75

Filed: 2/5/20

Coronavirus

Coronavirus in the Workplace

By John Gannon and Andrew Adams

John S. Gannon

John S. Gannon

Andrew Adams

Andrew Adams

For those of you not living under a rock or in Antarctica, COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), has become a topic of everyday discourse. As the number of reported COVID-19 cases rise, so do the concerns for businesses and their employees.

Employers are wondering what, if anything, they can do to help their workplace remain safe. At the same time, employees may fear coming into the office and working alongside sick colleagues or customers. Can these folks stay home? Can employers force them to stay home? Do businesses have to pay employees who stay home? Should they pay them? These are some of the questions we tried to answer during this rapidly evolving situation.

How Does Coronavirus Relate to Workplace Laws?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Several years ago, the EEOC put out guidance explaining that the ADA is relevant for employers to consider during pandemic preparation because it regulates the types of questions and actions employers can take when dealing with employees suffering from medical impairments.

“Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than usual.”

Recently, the EEOC referenced this guidance when discussing coronavirus, and also stated that the guidance does not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about steps employers should take regarding coronavirus.

CDC’s Recommended Strategies for Employers

The CDC’s “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers” lists several suggestions for employers to implement in their practices. We summarize the most relevant recommendations below:

• Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.

• Ensure sick-leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance. Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than usual.

• Separate sick employees. Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.

• Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees. The CDC recommends that employers provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace, and instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% to 95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• Advise employees to take certain steps before traveling, including checking the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which employees will travel.

• Employees who are well but have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

• If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA.

Some Questions and Answers

Here are some of the most common questions we have been getting from businesses in connection with the coronavirus outbreak:

Can employers ask for more information from employees who call out sick? Yes, employers can ask employees if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, as long as they treat all information about sickness as confidential.

Can employers request that employees stay home if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms? Yes, but employers should consider whether they will pay employees who are asked to stay home due to possible coronavirus exposure. Also, absenteeism policies should be relaxed if you require an employee to remain at home, or if the employee is required to stay at home due to a mandatory requirement. Employers should be mindful of employment laws that speak to sick-time usage, including the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law.

When an employee returns from travel during a pandemic, must an employer wait until the employee develops influenza symptoms to ask questions about exposure to pandemic influenza during the trip? No. If the CDC or state or local public health officials recommend that people who visit specified locations remain at home for several days until it is clear they do not have pandemic influenza symptoms, an employer may ask whether employees are returning from these locations, even if the travel was personal.

May an employer encourage employees to telework (i.e., work from an alternative location such as home) as an infection-control strategy during a pandemic? Yes. The EEOC states that telework is an effective infection-control strategy. In addition, employees with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications of coronavirus may request telework as a reasonable accommodation to reduce their chances of infection.

Do we have to pay employees who stay home sick? As a general rule, non-exempt/hourly employees are only required to be paid for any time they perform work. If a non-exempt employee is required by you or a public health authority to stay home, they do not need to be compensated for that time, unless they have company-provided sick-time benefits. However, businesses need to consider fairness in this situation.

Employers should encourage the use of unused vacation or personal time if the employee is out of sick time, and also be wary of employee morale problems that could arise if employees are required to remain out of the office and are forced to go without pay. This is especially true given the comments that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have made regarding the need for American businesses to step up and pay workers for time out that may be occasioned in a pandemic scenario.

In short, employers without telecommuting options should consider paying employees for time spent under self-quarantine, even if the employee is out of sick-time benefits. Employers should also remember that their exempt employees should be paid full salaries if they perform any work during a work week, even if it is done at home.

Employers should be carefully monitoring the CDC website for updates and information. In addition, now is a good time to review your company sick-leave policy and consider whether you will allow for more time off during pandemics. We also recommend that employers consult with labor and employment counsel on this complex situation if they are planning to take action against sick employees or instituting any new policies.

John Gannon is a partner with Springfield-based Skoler, Abbott & Presser. He specializes in employment law and regularly counsels employers on compliance with state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He is a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations. Andrew Adams is an associate with the firm and specializes in labor and employment law; (413) 737-4753.

Court Dockets

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

Tareka Leialoha v. Bel-White Trust

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $43,112.42

Filed: 1/7/20

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Debra Gagnon as personal representative of the estate of Jean v. Schouler v. New England Health Center, LLC; Synergy Health Center, LLC; and Next Step Healthcare, LLC

Allegation: Malpractice, nursing-home negligence causing injury: $123,113

Filed: 2/13/20

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Manuel Batson Jr. v. Nini’s Italian Cuisine and Lounge Inc. and Nini’s Real Estate, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $7,157,57

Filed: 2/13/20

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Vanessa Brower v. Amherst Nursing Home Inc. d/b/a Center for Extended Care at Amherst

Allegation: Wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, interference: $25,000+

Filed: 2/5/20

Rosemary Eads v. Echo Hill Townhouse Condominium Trust and Structural Preservation Systems, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $36,174.22

Filed: 2/3/20

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Richard Sabonis v. Bedard Sheet Metal Co. Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; multiple dog bites causing injury

Filed: 1/30/20

F. Michael Joseph, Esq. v. Michael B’Shara a/k/a Michael D. B’Shara and Michael’s Pasta-in-the-Pan Inc.

Allegation: Unpaid attorney services: $10,375

Filed: 2/11/20

Court Dockets

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.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Marvin Jordan v. Prevalent Transport Inc. and Sergey Kucherenko

Allegation: Violation of wage-and-hour laws: $2,783.75

Filed: 11/12/19

E.B. Thomsen Inc. d/b/a Thomsen Food Service v. Eight Eight One Entertainment Inc. d/b/a the Tap Room Grill and John Siniscalchi

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $13,203.58

Filed: 11/13/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Tyra Dixon v. Michael Kors Retail Inc. and Cesar Delaza

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 11/12/19

Zena Sky Perez v. Rocky’s Ace Hardware Inc. and Mitchell Johnson

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 11/12/19

Elizabeth Sullivan, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated v. Med Express Urgent Care, P.C. Massachusetts

Allegations: Unpaid wages: $50,000+

Filed: 11/12/19

Thomas Graziano v. Meredith Corp. d/b/a Western Massachusetts News, Raymond S. Hershel, and David A. Madsen

Allegation: Defamation, employment loss, wage loss, emotional distress, damage to reputation: $489,500

Filed: 11/12/19

FCIA Management Co. Inc. v. Turley Publications Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract, failure to provide services paid for: $37,996.03

Filed: 11/13/19

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Commerce Insurance Co. a/s/o Elena Volpe v. Jeffrey Miller d/b/a Cosmic Cab Co. and Daniel Hale

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $9,062.88

Filed: 11/1/19

Edgardo Cancel v. Corps Logistics Inc. and James Duffney individually

Allegation: Non-payment of wages, breach of contract, retaliation, violation of overtime laws: $2,516

Filed: 11/19/19

PALMER DISTRICT COURT

Christopher Shalvoy v. Custom Creations Enterprises, LLC and Custom Creations Inc.

Allegation: Defendants misclassified plaintiff as an independent contractor: $8,262

Filed: 11/4/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Brenda McNair v. Knight Associates Realty Inc. and Meadow Village, LLC

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $34,664.53

Filed: 11/22/19

Company Notebook

City, MGM Springfield Win Economic-development Award

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield and the city of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) have received a 2019 Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for the MGM Springfield project. The award was presented by the IEDC last month at its annual conference in October in Indianapolis. The Gold Excellence in Public-Private Partnership Award was presented to Brian Connors, the city’s deputy director of Economic Development, and was the only award category highlighted during the conference keynote event. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative development projects that have significantly enhanced revitalizations. OPED’s team was led through the MGM Springfield project by now-retired Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, and also included Phillip Dromey, deputy director of Planning, and Scott Hanson, principal planner. The MGM Springfield project represented a $960 million private investment, resulting in several new-to-market amenities, including a downtown movie theater, bowling alley, ice-skating rink, four-star hotel, and several new retail and restaurant offerings. In addition, MGM’s commitment to populate existing offsite entertainment facilities became another highlight to economic spinoff, as did the commitment to $50 million each year in spending with local vendors. The project has created several thousand construction and permanent jobs and greatly enhanced local revenues, which helped fund additional public-safety, early-education, and park improvements.

United Personnel Named Among Top 100 Women-led Businesses In Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel announced it has been named one of the top 100 women-led businesses in Massachusetts by the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that supports female business owners. The list, published in the Boston Globe, was developed based on revenue, number of full-time employees in the state, team diversity, and innovation. The rankings feature a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, business services, healthcare, education, human services, and retail. United Personnel was number 75 on the list, and was one of only two companies based in Western Mass. represented. Focused on helping to connect people with job openings at local companies, United Personnel has seen decades of success as a women-led organization. Founded by Mary Ellen Scott in 1984 with her late husband, Jay Canavan, United Personnel is now on its second generation of female leadership under President Tricia Canavan.

Hampshire College Maintains Accreditation, Advances Plans

AMHERST — Hampshire College remains in compliance and will continue its accreditation, according to a vote by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) at its meeting on Nov. 22. NECHE reviewed Hampshire’s progress report and five-year plans before acting to continue the college’s accreditation. The commissioners lifted their notation on Hampshire’s compliance with the standard of organization and governance, citing significant progress in this area. NECHE recognized such progress as the hiring of a new president, substantial achievements with respect to good practices for governing boards, and considerable progress in realistic planning with respect to enrollment, fundraising, and finances. The commissioners continued Hampshire’s notation on the standard of institutional resources and asked the college for a full progress report in two years, in December 2021. A team of Hampshire College administrators and trustees, led by Wingenbach and board chair Luis Hernandez, met with the NECHE commissioners on Nov. 21 and reported that Hampshire’s leadership is secure and its board of trustees governance is strong. The college is actively recruiting new students for 2020, its 50th-anniversary year, as it plans to rebuild to full enrollment by 2023-24. The college has also been conducting a rapid, community-wide process to reinvent its curriculum and student experience. In the coming months, Hampshire will draw on the continued support of its alumni, donors, friends, and community members to meet admissions and fundraising goals. Hampshire College also kicked off a major capital campaign, announcing it has already raised $11.2 million in gifts toward its campaign goal of $60 million by 2024. “Change in the Making: A Campaign for Hampshire” is currently led by four alumni co-chairs: Ken Burns (’71), award-winning documentary filmmaker; Gail Caulkins (’73), president of the Greenacre Foundation and former Hampshire College trustee; Lucy Ann McFadden (’70), retired astrophysicist, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, and a member of the Hampshire board of trustees and chair of its advancement committee; and Julie Schecter (’71), director and trustee of numerous organizations, including the SHIFT Foundation, co-founder of Hampshire’s Ethics and the Common Good program, vice chair of Hampshire’s board of trustees, and chair of its trusteeship and governance committee. The co-chairs are working actively to secure additional major gifts, supported by a campaign council, a diverse group of volunteers that represents the board of trustees, major donors, college leaders, faculty, staff, students, and parents. The campaign is administered by Chief Advancement Officer Jennifer Chrisler and the college’s Advancement Division staff.

People’s United Bank to Close Three Springfield-area Branches

SPRINGFIELD — Following its acquisition of United Bank, People’s United Bank plans to close three Springfield-area branches in April, all of them because they are near other People’s United locations. The closures include the former United branch at 1355 Boston Road in Springfield, the former United Branch at 1414 Main St. in Springfield, and a former Farmington Bank location at 85 Elm St. in West Springfield that People’s United acquired in 2018. All employees have been offered jobs at other People’s United offices. People’s United Financial announced in July it was purchasing United Financial Bancorp for $759 million.

Elms College Ranked in Top 15% of State’s Best Schools for Veterans

CHICOPEE — Elms College ranks in the top 15% of 2020 Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, according to data-analytics company College Factual. The college is also in the top 15% of colleges and universities in the company’s national rankings. In the list of Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, Elms College was rated ninth out of 70 higher-education institutions for veteran friendliness as reviewed by College Factual. Elms improved its standing five slots over last year’s 14th position. According to College Factual’s national list, Elms College moved from the top 25% to the top 15% with a rating of 214 out of 1,751 institutions, improving its position by 225 slots over last year’s standing at 439. This list highlights colleges and universities that are working hard to provide quality educational outcomes to veterans, active-duty military students, and their families, College Factual stated. Some of the factors taken into account by College Factual include affordability to veterans, support services, and resources specific to the needs of veterans, whether they are traditional or non-traditional students.

UMassFive Opens Branch at Northampton VA Medical Center

NORTHAMPTON — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union introduced its newest branch location at the Northampton VA Medical Center. As of October, the Northampton VAF Federal Credit Union has formally merged with UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, and former Northampton VAF members have transitioned to banking with UMassFive. With this merger, current employees of the Northampton VA Medical Center and their immediate family members are now eligible for UMassFive membership. Along with the merger, the existing credit-union branch located in Building 1, Room B204 of the Northampton VA Medical Center has been completely renovated. The new, open floor plan includes seated service areas where UMassFive representatives can provide members access to a range of credit-union products and services, including checking, auto loans, home-equity loans, solar loans, mortgages, credit cards, and investment guidance. The space also now features a video teller machine that can be accessed in the branch entryway, and allows members to perform video transactions with UMassFive tellers, even while the branch is closed. As with other UMassFive locations, members at the Northampton VA branch will have access to free financial workshops on topics like budgeting essentials, homebuying, identity theft, and planning for retirement. The hours for this new UMassFive branch are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Off-hours access to the lobby video teller machine are available when the building and basement are open, and during regular video-teller hours. Any credit or debit card may be swiped for after-hours entry.

Freedom Credit Union Launches Cherish the Children Campaign

SPRINGFIELD — To a child in need, one special gift can be a holiday wish come true. That’s the spirit behind Freedom Credit Union’s 12th annual Cherish the Children campaign, which provides presents to hundreds of local children in time for the holidays. Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered on Main Street in Springfield and serving members throughout Western Mass. through 10 additional branches, will host this year’s endeavor through Dec. 23. Equipped with ‘wish lists’ of names, ages, and gift ideas from the local area offices of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), FCU aims to provide gifts for a total of 600 children in need. From the wish lists, FCU has produced a tag for each child, which they will place on holiday trees at all Freedom branches, excluding the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. Employees and members are encouraged to choose one or more tags from a tree, purchase the item the child has requested, bring it to the branch (unwrapped and with tag attached), and place it under the tree. Monetary donations are also welcome, as FCU’s own ‘elves’ will be going on a festive shopping spree at local stores that provide them a discount for this campaign.

Yankee Home Improvement Holds Annual Food Drive

CHICOPEE — For the second year in a row, Yankee Home is engaging customers in a pay-it-forward event to provide food for those in need this holiday season. For every non-perishable food item donated, Yankee Home will give customers 1% off the cost of their home-improvement service, up to 10%. All food items will be donated to Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts that works to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste in the community. Through the end of December, Yankee Home will be accepting non-perishable food items Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its 36 Justin Dr. headquarters in Chicopee. While the discount is capped at 10% of the total cost of the service, people are encouraged to donate as much as they can. The discount applies to installed, new work only. A Yankee Home specialist can provide complete details.

Florence Bank Receives Award From U.S. Small Business Administration

FLORENCE — Florence Bank was recently recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the Western Massachusetts Third Party Lender of the Year for loans the bank administers to small businesses in the area. Michael Davey and Erin Couture, both vice presidents and commercial loan officers with the bank, accepted the award on Nov. 8 at an event held during SBA’s annual meeting at Clark University in Worcester. Davey explained that third-party loans, called SBA 504 loans, are offered by the bank in collaboration with certified development corporations such as Granite State Development Corp., Bay Colony Development Corp., and BDC Capital/CDC New England. He said the program allows small-business owners who might be lacking the traditional 20% down payment to purchase business property with only 10% down, while also reducing the bank’s exposure to risk.

Court Dockets

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

The Freeman Manufacturing & Supply Co. v. Diecutting Tooling Services Inc.

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $8,486.23

Filed: 10/28/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Lloyd Bowser v. FIC Restaurants Inc. and SIC Property, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $257,366.03

Filed: 10/17/19

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Perkins Paper, LLC v. Stone & Skillet, LLC; Dan Crothers a/k/a Daniel Ryan Crothers a/k/a Daniel R. Crothers; and Kyle Meekins a/k/a Kyle Lennon Meekins a/k/a Kyle L. Meekins

Allegation: Failure to make further payments in accordance with contract: $57,660.05

Filed: 10/18/2019

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Kristine Mitchell v. 61 Cooper Street Operations, LLC and Genesis Healthcare, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $76,222.96

Filed: 10/15/2019

The estate of Mary Garibian and Sarkis Garibian v. East Longmeadow Nursing Home Inc. d/b/a East Longmeadow Skilled Nursing Center and other unnamed employees

Allegation: Medical malpractice

Filed: 10/15/2019

Gary Nault v. LLMT, LLC

Allegation: Balance due on uncompleted project, services, labor, and materials: $33,333

Filed: 10/18/2019

Guns Inc. et al v. Mass Gun Shop d/b/a Pioneer Valley Arms

Allegation: Fraud/interference with business, conversion, intentional interference with advantageous business and contractual relationships

Filed: 10/21/2019

Sertex, LLC v. Westfield Gas and Electric Light Department, et al

Allegation: Breach of non-raiding agreement by hiring one of Sertex’s key technical employees

Filed: 10/21/2019

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Split Excvating Inc. v. Silverman Realty Group Inc. and Haven Plaza East, LP

Allegation: Fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, negligence: $59,745.25

Filed: 10/22/19

Lisa Thibodeau v. PBHQ Whitney Inc.; Colebrook Management, LLC; and G & H Landscaping Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $250,000

Filed: 10/23/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Carl Lehberger v. David W. Berry Jr., Bruce Cooper, and Berry Construction Group, LLC

Allegation: Assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, property damage/loss: $7,738.86+

Filed: 10/9/19

Court Dockets

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
Carmen Lopez v. Gleason Johndrow Landscaping Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $5,729+
Filed: 10/11/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT
Christian Goodchild v. Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital, Dr. John Benson, and Dr. Kira Randall
Allegation: Negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress: $37,500
Filed: 8/23/19

Tricia Torrey v. United Personnel Services Inc. and James Kervick
Allegation: Employment discrimination: $70,000
Filed: 9/12/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Kathleen Rapoza and Joseph Rapoza v. Bond Street Development
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $219,026.03
Filed: 10/3/2019

Smith & Wesson Inc. v. Frontier Enterprises, LLC
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $47,433.88
Filed: 10/4/2019

Heritier Kampew v. Balise Motor Sales Co. Inc.
Allegation: Fraud, emotional distress, defamation: $100,000
Filed: 10/7/2019

Michelle Magner v. Balise Motor Sales Co., James E. Balise Jr., and Timothy Ingerson
Allegation: Employment contract: $25,000
Filed: 10/7/2019

Jonathan Crothers, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Crosstown Courier Service Inc. and Christopher J. Noyes
Allegation: Money owed for labor and services: $25,000+
Filed: 10/15/2019

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Mason Woolley v. Smith College and Hampshire College
Allegation: Breach of contract, violation of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment: $32,500
Filed: 10/8/19

PALMER DISTRICT COURT
Daniel Narreau v. Zoetis Inc.
Allegation: Breach of contract, negligence, gross negligence, animal cruelty, negligent design and manufacturing: $7,000
Filed: 10/15/2019

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT
John Deere Construction & Forestry Co. v. Joshua A. Ayotte d/b/a Ayotte Tree Services
Allegation: Default on loan for equipment purchased: $13,540.02
Filed: 9/3/19

Court Dockets

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.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
Anna Coriano v. Chapin Laurel, LLC; Atlas Property Management Inc.; and Ilya Shnayder
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $2,094
Filed: 8/12/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Crystal Rodriguez v. Big Y Foods
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $11,903.08
Filed: 7/26/19

Ted Decosmo v. MGM Springfield, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: $25,000+
Filed: 7/29/19

Carlos Santiago v. Wil-Sites Truck Lines, LLC and Top Truck Services Corp.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $288,000
Filed: 7/29/19

F.P. McNamara Rubbish Removal Inc. v. Joseph Freedman Co. Inc. and Stevens Street Realty Inc.
Allegation: Nuisance, negligence, trespass: $25,000+
Filed: 7/30/19

NMD Inc. d/b/a A&M Landscaping v. Wingate Healthcare Inc., SRC East Longmeadow Inc. d/b/a Wingate at East Longmeadow, and SRC Springfield Inc. d/b/a Wingate at Springfield
Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: $55,245
Filed: 7/31/19

Anileda Tudisco v. Riverside Park Enterprises d/b/a Six Flags New England
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury, breach of warranty: $368,132
Filed: 8/2/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Jehann Elbisi v. Related Village Park, LLC
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $6,388
Filed: 8/7/19

Kate Faulkner v. Double Edge Theatre Productions Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $233,202.13
Filed: 8/9/19

PALMER DISTRICT COURT
QuadGraphics Inc. v. Turley Publications Inc.
Allegation: Balance due for marketing and printing services rendered: $4,795
Filed: 8/23/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT
Saltine Warrior Inc. v. C and C Contractors, LLC and Reginald Cole
Allegation: Breach of contract, unpaid bills: $7,572.34
Filed: 8/7/19

Court Dockets

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

Lazarito Martinez v. Diane Rose and the May Institute

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $3,435

Filed: 7/2/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Barbara Sullivan v. Healthcare Services Group Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $700,000

Filed: 6/27/19

Robert T. Akey v. Meadowview Manor Condominium Trust, Steve Moran, and Noreen Nowak-Moran

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $16,234.78

Filed: 7/3/19

Chrysta Marini v. Demetrious Konstantopoulos and Demetrious Konstantopoulis d/b/a Castaways

Allegation: Assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress

Filed: 7/3/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Catherine Kelly v. L & J Properties, LLC and Q & M Christy’s Inc. d/b/a A Bica Bar & Grill

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $28,496.94

Filed: 6/20/19

Stacey Hathaway v. Eastern States Exposition and Donna Woolam

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $450,000

Filed: 6/21/19

Yvette Frisby v. City of Springfield

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $9,476.80

Filed: 6/21/19

NGM Insurance Co. as subrogee of Beverly A. Scott and James Scott v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence: $12,420.17

Filed: 6/27/19

Steven S. Follett and Caitlin C. Follett v. Dan Roulier & Associates Inc., the Joseph J. Mottes Co., and Becker Construction Co.

Allegation: Breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, breach of implied warranty of habitability, breach of express warranty: $250,000

Filed: 7/1/19

International Container Co., LLC v. Sheboygan Paint Co.

Allegation: Breach of contract: $1,000,000+

Filed: 7/2/19

Systemart, LLC v. Cloudbourne Global Inc. f/k/a Ospyn Technologies Inc.

Allegation: Balance owed for staffing services: $39,337.88

Filed: 7/3/19

Syme Inc. d/b/a Packaging Specialties Inc. v. BKA Inc. d/b/a Custom Pak Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract: $109,853.04

Filed: 7/3/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

David S. Reid v. Louis S. Strauss, M.D.

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $505,100+

Filed: 6/21/19

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