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Law of the Land Can Live in Another State

Published:  November 6, 2017

U.S District Court Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein, has ruled that personal jurisdiction was present between an employee of New York who worked remotely from her home in Massachusetts.

Plaintiff worked as an agent for Defendant’s literary agency based out of New York. Plaintiff agreed to a commission based pay structure which was determined by the amount of authors she brought to the agency.  At some point during her employment, Plaintiff’s living arrangements changed and she moved to Massachusetts.  Plaintiff became a remote worker and continued employment with Defendant working out of her home in Massachusetts.  Eventually Plaintiff sought new employment and at the time of her resignation she claimed to be owed compensation above what Defendant had provided her with.  Defendant cited a section of New York law that allowed them to restrict Plaintiffs compensation and argued said law should govern this case.  Plaintiff subsequently filed an action in Massachusetts Federal Court claiming violation of Massachusetts Wage Act along with a claim of violation of New York’s wage theft prevention statute.  Specifically, Plaintiff argued that she was a Massachusetts employee at the time of her resignation and therefore Massachusetts law should apply.

Defendants’ argued, in their motion to dismiss, that the factors required between New York and Massachusetts, to establish personal jurisdiction were not present and therefore the case should be dismissed.

In a decisive decision, Judge Judith G. Dein, found that in this case Massachusetts has personal jurisdiction over the Defendants and allowed Plaintiff’s claim to proceed.  The judge noted that Defendant’s decision to continue Plaintiff’s employment, knowing that her residence was now in Massachusetts, established two prongs of the minimum contacts requirement. Dein further found that no significant burden exists on the Defendants to defend this action in Massachusetts.  Based on all these factors Judge Dein concluded that minimum contacts exist and therefore Massachusetts has personal jurisdiction over this matter.

However, notwithstanding Judge Dein’s ruling, Plaintiff acknowledges that the critical issue of whether Massachusetts law applies still must be determined.  As an employer, this case may result in an increased exposure to liability based on the applicable laws of the state in which a remote worker resides.

Should you have questions on this topic or other labor or employment related matters please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.

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