State Labor Agency Agrees With Attorney Hykel That State Unlawfully Interfered With Rights of Employees Represented by SEIU 509.

April 12, 2018

A hearing officer with the Commonwealth's Department of Labor Relations has ruled that managers at the State’s MassHealth Office in Taunton violated the law by threatening employees who criticized supervisors. Attorney Jim Hykel represented SEIU Local 509 throughout the proceedings. Pyle Rome partner Kate Shea is the General Counsel of Local 509.

In December 2015, Director Diane Pixley began working at the Taunton MassHealth Enrollment Center and almost immediately began violating employee rights. In February 2016, the Union held its first union membership meeting after she was Director. Pixley repeatedly walked past the meeting, looking in and scanning the room. A month later, Pixley illegally threatened the Union shop stewards with an investigation and possible discipline because of she believed mean things were said at that meeting about supervisors. SEIU Local 509 Lead Internal Organizer Jennifer Doe repeatedly protested these threats and interference with employee rights. Instead of heeding Doe's sage advice, Pixley doubled down, assuring the shop stewards present that she would investigate and discipline employees for what they said.

In October 2016, Pixley again stood outside a room where a union shop steward met with a member. Pixley stood outside the room, staring at them for half a minute while the steward tried to privately advise the member of her rights.

The Union filed a charge with the Department of Labor Relations, alleging that Pixley's actions violated state law protecting the right of employees to engage in union-related activity. After a full hearing, the DLR hearing officer found that Pixley violated employee rights to engage in protected activity without interference or threats from management. He agreed that the manager's repeated surveillance of union meetings, and threats to investigate union meetings, was unlawful. The hearing officer directed the State to remedy these unlawful acts by posting notices to employees acknowledging that the State violated the law and assuring employees that it will not engage in this illegal conduct again.

Related Attorney: 
James Hykel
Related Attorney: 
Katherine D. Shea
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