Primary and secondary schools in Massachusetts face an ever expanding set of increasingly complex legal obligations. Mirick O’Connell’s Education Attorneys partner with our school clients to provide timely, cost-efficient advice and representation to assist them in delivering educational services to their students. Our school clients include municipal and regional school districts, charter schools, collaboratives and private schools.
Labor and Employment
Our School Law Team advises our clients on all labor and employment matters. We regularly assist them with issues involving labor relations and personnel issues.
- collective bargaining
- grievance arbitration
- unfair labor practices
- leaves of absence
- compliance with state certification requirements
- non-renewal of teachers without professional teacher status
- managing employees with medical conditions
- sexual harassment investigations
- wage and hour laws
- drafting of employment policies
- employment agreements for non-union employees
We are one of only a few Massachusetts law firms with an education law practice that also maintains an extensive employee benefits practice.
Our Education Lawyers represent our clients when they are the subject of governmental investigations and defend them against claims before state and federal agencies and courts and in arbitration, including:
- United States Department of Education
- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
- Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations
- American Arbitration Association
- Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- United States Department of Labor
- Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
- state and federal courts
We have also successfully negotiated numerous union concessions to help our clients manage their budgets and further their educational vision, prevailed at arbitrations involving both contract interpretation and disciplinary grievances, and accomplished the removal of non-performing employees in a manner that avoided legal action against the client.
As General Counsel, we routinely advise our public school districts on issues such as:
- School Committee Policies
- Interpretations of Chapter 71
- Open Meeting Law
- Public Records Law
- Conflict of Interest Law
- public procurement requirements and the budget process
Serving as General Counsel, we have recently advised clients in connection with amendments to their regional school district agreements, superintendency union agreements and the use of executive session. We have also negotiated vendor contracts such as school bus service and food service contracts.
Student Rights, Policies and Discipline
Our Education Lawyers advise our clients on issues of student rights, student discipline and student handbooks. As well, we routinely advise clients on matters involving:
- allegations of sexual harassment against other students
- student records
- discipline for violence
- drug/alcohol use
- participation in student activities
Our recent engagements include the expulsion of students for the use of drugs on a school field trip, the analysis of a school district’s potential liability for students’ participation in an
out-of-state academic competition and the determination of the permissible scope of drug testing at school-related activities.
Our School Construction Lawyers have extensive experience in advising public school districts regarding school building projects from the appointment of an Owner’s Project Manager through the resolution of post-construction warranty claims. We counsel clients and draft and negotiate contracts associated with the hiring of architects under the Designer Selection law, the pre-qualification of bidders, and the award of general contracts for construction. We also represent our clients in project closeout issues and, when necessary, pursue warranty claims and surety payment on performance bonds.
We have recently advised and represented clients in connection with both new building and school renovation/expansion projects.
Mirick O’Connell’s Special Education Lawyers represent and advise our clients on special education matters with a full understanding of the difficult dynamic that exists among our clients’ limited resources, their legal obligations and the ongoing relationship between the school district and the student and the student’s family.
Our Special Education Lawyers focus on providing pragmatic advice and early resolution of these disputes. When this approach is not successful in accomplishing our clients’ goals, we aggressively represent their interests before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals and in court as appropriate. We also counsel our clients on related issues under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
e-Alert: Handling Public Comment and Public Records Requests in Light of Critical Race Theory, COVID-19 and Other Contentious Issues[ read full story ]
e-Alert: Supreme Court Finds School District Violated First Amendment for Off-Campus Speech[ read full story ]
e-Alert: Remote Public Meetings Authorized Through April of 2022[ read full story ]
Amanda Baer Named Partner[ read full story ]
PODCAST: Marc Terry discusses Reopening of Public Schools during COVID-19 Pandemic[ read full story ]
e-Alert: The Next Phase in the COVID-19 Battle for School Districts: Budget Cuts, Furloughs, Layoffs and Collective Bargaining[ read full story ]
PODCAST: Marc Terry discusses School Law and COVID-19 (4.3.20)[ read full story ]
e-Alert: Extended Closure due to COVID-19 Raises Multiple Issues for Schools[ read full story ]
Mirick O'Connell Featured in Worcester Telegram[ read full story ]
Worcester Chamber Salutes Mirick O'Connell on 100 Years of Excellence[ read full story ]
Mirick O'Connell Celebrates 100th Anniversary![ read full story ]
Juneteenth and the School Year Calendar5/4/2021[ read full story ]
Governor Files Bill to Help Delay Town Meeting Season During COVID-19 Emergency03/16/2020[ read full story ]
e-Alert: Decision in Spaulding v. Town of Natick School Committee is a Message to All School Committees3/15/2019[ read full story ]
e-Alert: Federal District Court Ruling Raises Questions About Secret Audio Recordings of Public Officials1/14/2019[ read full story ]
Student Free Speech Rights09/20/2017[ read full story ]
e-Alert: What Should School Districts do When ICE Comes Knocking?4/18/2017[ read full story ]
Quick Hits from the National COSA Conference04/07/2017[ read full story ]
Navigating Pay Transparency Laws: What Employers Need to Know
Over the last several years, in an effort to close the gender pay gap, several states and localities across the country have enacted pay transparency laws that, generally, require employers of certain sizes with employees in those locations to disclose …[ load webpage to read more ]
Private Employers Take Note: Overbroad Non-Disparagement & Confidentiality Restrictions in Severance Agreements Run Afoul of the National Labor Relations Act
As many employers well know, it is customary to include non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions in severance agreements that prohibit departing employees from (i) making disparaging, critical, or otherwise detrimental comments concerning the employer and (ii) disclosing information concerning the substance, …[ load webpage to read more ]
Is Your Company in Compliance With Executive Order 13706?
In September 2015, Executive Order 13706 was signed, requiring employers that enter into covered contracts with the federal government to provide covered employees with up to seven days (56 hours) of paid sick leave annually, including paid leave allowing for …[ load webpage to read more ]
SJC Finds Public Meeting Comment Restrictions Unconstitutional
Government boards and committees should review their public comment policies following a decision this week by the Supreme Judicial Court holding that a “civility code” violated the Massachusetts Constitution’s Declaration of Rights and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. In Barron v. …[ load webpage to read more ]
The FTC’s Proposed Ban On Noncompetes – Predictions
Following his election, President Biden issued “The Biden Plan for Strengthening Worker Organizing, Collective Bargaining and Unions,” in which he promised to work with Congress to “eliminate all non-compete agreements” with very limited exceptions. While a bipartisan bill, the Workforce …[ load webpage to read more ]
Update Policies to Comply with the Massachusetts CROWN Act
At the end of October 2022, the Massachusetts Act Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural and Protective Hairstyles (the “CROWN Act”) went into effect. The CROWN Act expands the definition of “race” under Chapter 151B to include “traits historically associated with …[ load webpage to read more ]
2023 Changes in Massachusetts Employment Laws
Beginning January 1, 2023, changes to the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law, retail premium pay, and Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law take effect. Changes to Minimum Wage & Premium Pay Changes to Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) …[ load webpage to read more ]
Employers Must Remember Their Obligations under the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (the “Act”), which went into effect on April 1, 2018, amended Massachusetts General Law c. 151B to include “pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy, including, but not limited to, lactation, or the need …[ load webpage to read more ]
DOL Proposes to Revert the Independent Contractor Analysis to the Employee-Friendly Totality-Of-The-Circumstances Analysis
On October 11, 2022, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a new proposed rule, entitled “Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” for determining whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee under the Fair Labor …[ load webpage to read more ]
EEOC Issues Updated Guidance Regarding COVID Screening by Employers
On July 12, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued updated guidance for employers regarding COVID-19 testing and accommodations. Perhaps most impactful, the EEOC altered its position regarding employers testing employees for COVID-19 as part of a mandatory screening prior …[ load webpage to read more ]