Massachusetts Court Overturns Discriminatory Responsible Employer Ordinance

A Massachusetts Federal District Court Feb. 1 invalidated a “responsible employer ordinance” (REO) in Quincy, Mass., that contained prerequisites which would limit the ability of merit shop contractors to win public works projects.

The responsible employer ordinance instituted by the City of Quincy also contained requirements that employers must maintain an apprenticeship program approved by the Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Standards before being eligible to work on city projects.  The Merit Construction Alliance and several contractors successfully argued that this requirement represented a violation of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”).

“This is yet another clear, strong court ruling that the government mandates contained in Responsible Employer Ordinances are illegal,” said ABC Massachusetts Chapter President, Greg Beeman. “We hope this decision will mean more focus on growing and strengthening apprentice training, which ABC strongly supports, rather than on ill-conceived and restrictive government policies.”

This is the third REO to be struck down by the courts since 2011.  In April 2012, the courts overturned an REO in Quincy, Mass., and in 2011 a similar decision was made in Fall River, Mass.