A. Davis, J.
Regarding Motion for Summary Judgment by The Massachusetts
Historical Commission (Docket No. 15.0):
an action in which plaintiff Michaela Jergensen ("
Plaintiff") seeks damages and other compensation based
on the allegation that she was misclassified as an
independent contractor by defendant Massachusetts Historical
Commission (the " Commission") in the 2010-2013
timeframe. The material facts, which are effectively
undisputed, are as follows.
Commission is a division of the Office of the Massachusetts
Secretary of State that was created in 1963. See G.L.c. 9,
§ 26 et seq. Its official duties include, among other
things, administration of the National Register program and
the State Register of Historic Places in Massachusetts;
administration of the Massachusetts Preservation Projects
Fund; and formal review of state-licensed, funded, and/or
permitted projects, including state historic rehabilitation
tax credit applications, with respect to archeological and
historic preservation issues. Id.
holds a bachelor of science degree in historic preservation
from Roger Williams University. She worked for the Commission
as a " Preservation Planner" from June 2010 through
April 2013 pursuant to a series of written contracts that
explicitly identified her as an independent contractor.
Plaintiff claims, nonetheless, that she was an employee of
the Commission and that, due to her misclassification as an
independent contractor, she was not properly compensated by
the Commission for time that she worked in excess of 40 hours
per week ( i.e., for her overtime). In this action,
Plaintiff has asserted claims against the Commission for
violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L.c. 149, §
148, which requires the timely payment of all wages earned by
an employee (Amended Complaint, Count IV), violation of the
Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law, G.L.c. 149, §
148B, which extends the wage protections afforded to
employees to independent contractors in certain circumstances
( id., Count I), and violation of Section 207 of the
Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et
seq., which requires the payment of compensation for overtime
hours at one-and-a-half times an employee's regular rate
of pay ( id., Count II). The Commission denies
that Plaintiff ever was its employee, and denies any
obligation to pay her any compensation beyond what Plaintiff
previously received under her written employment contracts.
case came before the Court most recently on the
Commission's motion for summary judgment. The Commission
argues, in a nutshell, that Plaintiff's claims against
the Commission under both G.L.c. 149 and 29 U.S.C. § 207
are barred, as a matter of law, by the principle of sovereign
immunity. Plaintiff does not contest, at this juncture, that
her federal law claim under 29 U.S.C. § 207 is barred in
light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in
Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 754, 119 S.Ct. 2240,
144 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999) (" we hold that the States retain
immunity from private suit in their own courts, an immunity
beyond the congressional power to abrogate by Article I
legislation"). She opposes the Commission's motion,
however, with respect to her state law claims under G.L.c.
Court conducted a hearing on the Commission's motion for
summary judgment on September 1, 2016. At the Court's
request, both sides submitted supplemental, post-hearing
legal memoranda addressing the proper interpretation of
G.L.c. 149, § 148. Upon consideration of the various
written submissions of the parties and the oral arguments of
counsel, the Commission's motion will be ALLOWED for the
reasons summarized, briefly, below.
this Commonwealth, " statutes regulating persons and
corporations engaged in trade and industry are ordinarily
construed not to apply to the Commonwealth or its political
subdivisions unless the Legislature has expressly or by clear
implication so provided." Grenier v. Town of
Hubbardston, 7 Mass.App.Ct. 911, 911, 388 N.E.2d 718
(1979) (citations omitted). Massachusetts General Laws c.
149, § 148, is one statute that applies, on its face, to
the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions in certain,
specific circumstances. Section 148 expressly states that its
provisions apply to " every mechanic, workman and
laborer employed" by " the commonwealth, its
departments, officers, boards and commissions, " and
also to " every person employed in any other capacity by
it or them in any penal or charitable institution . . ."
G.L.c. 149, § 148. These categories are not
all-inclusive. Massachusetts law holds (and the parties
agree) that a person holding a professional position with the
" commonwealth, its departments, officers, boards [or]
commissions, " such as the " Preservation
Planner" job that Plaintiff held at the Massachusetts
Historical Commission, does not qualify as a " mechanic,
workman [or] laborer" for purposes of G.L.c. 149, §
148. See Newton v. Comm'r of the Dep't of Youth
Servs., 62 Mass.App.Ct. 343, 348, 816 N.E.2d 993 (2004)
(" [a] 'laborer' ordinarily is a person without
particular training who is employed at manual labor . . .
while 'workmen' and 'mechanics' broadly
embrace those who are skilled users of tools, " quoting
Devney's Case, 223 Mass. 270, 272, 111 N.E. 788
(1916)). See also Tracy v. Cambridge Jr. College,
364 Mass. 367, 375-76, 304 N.E.2d 921 (1973) (a "
nonprofessional, nonsupervisory clerical employee . . .
making only $60 a week and performing the secretarial,
receptionist, stenographic and record keeping functions . . .
can be considered a laborer, workman or mechanic for the
purposes of . . . the Workmen's Compensation Act").
The question then becomes whether Plaintiff qualifies as a
person employed by the Commonwealth " in any other
capacity . . . in any . . . charitable institution . .
."  G.L.c. 149, § 148.
Plaintiff argues otherwise, the Court is persuaded that the
better reasoned conclusion is that the Commission does not
constitute a " charitable institution" for purposes
of G.L.c. 149, § 148. The phrase " charitable
institution" is not defined in G.L.c. 149, but its plain
meaning and its historical origins indicate that it is not
meant to encompass modern-day state agencies and divisions
like the Commission. Rather, the term " charitable
institution" means an " institution" in the
sense of a facility or complex of buildings used to house
people who are in need special services, and "
charitable" in the late Nineteenth Century sense of
almsgiving. Chapter 149, § 148, was enacted over one
hundred years ago (see St. 1909, c. 514, § 112), at a
time when the Commonwealth funded and operated a range of
entities that fairly could be characterized as "
charitable" in nature, including various almshouses and
hospitals, as well as the " Massachusetts asylum for the
blind, " the " asylum for the deaf and dumb in
Hartford, " and the " Massachusetts school for
idiotic and feeble-minded youth" (see St. 1865, c. 35
(state appropriations act, listing various recipients)). See
also Town of Shrewsbury v. City of Worcester, 180
Mass. 38, 39-40, 61 N.E. 260 (1901) (discussing legal effect
of transferring plaintiff's wife from the old "
Worcester Lunatic Hospital" to new " State
Hospital, " and describing the " new place equally
with the old" as " an institution of
charity"). At or around the same time, there existed a
" board of state charities" (later abolished upon
the creation of the " state board of health, lunacy and
charity" (see St. 1879, c. 291, § 1), which later
became the " state board of lunacy and charity"
(see St. 1886, c. 101, § 1)). These boards and entities
were part of a " whole system of . . . public charitable
. . . institutions of the Commonwealth" (see St. 1863,
c. 240, § 4) that, for better or for worse, has not
survived into the present. Their historical imprint, however,
helps to explain the appearance of the phrase "
charitable institution" in the text of G.L.c. 149,
Commission obviously has none of the characteristics of a
Nineteenth Century almshouse, hospital, or " asylum for
the deaf and dumb." It is, instead, a state agency,
created in the Twentieth Century, that is tasked with a
variety of administrative and regulatory responsibilities,
including, perhaps most importantly, cataloging the
Commonwealth's historic assets and ensuring governmental
and third-party compliance with various state and federal
historic preservation laws. See SMF, Plaintiff's
Statement of Additional Material Facts, ¶ ¶ 3-15.
While the Commission's functions--like those of just
about any governmental entity--undoubtedly are undertaken
" for the public good, " they are not enough to
make the Commission a " charitable institution."
See, e.g., New Habitat, Inc. v. Tax Collector of
Cambridge, 451 Mass. 729, 732, 889 N.E.2d 414 (2008)
(" A charitable organization is a literary, benevolent,
charitable or scientific institution or temperance society
incorporated in the commonwealth" and established "
for the benefit of an indefinite number of persons, either by
bringing their minds or hearts under the influence of
education or religion, by relieving their bodies from
disease, suffering or constraint, by assisting them to
establish themselves in life, or by erecting or maintaining
public buildings or works or otherwise lessening the burdens
of government" [internal quotation marks omitted]).
Accordingly, Plaintiff does not qualify as a " person
employed in any other capacity by . . . any . . . charitable
institution" for purposes of G.L.c. 149, § 148, and
her claims against the Commission under G.L.c. 149 are barred
as a matter of law.
foregoing reasons, the Court ALLOWS the Commission's
motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's complaint shall
be dismissed in its entirety, with prejudice.
The facts recited are taken from the
parties' Statement of Material Facts as to Which There Is
No Genuine Issue to be Tried (" SMF, " Docket ...