Bob Shea Featured in Boston.com’s “Job Doc” Column

Bob Shea‘s discussion of the Massachusetts CROWN Act was featured in Boston.com’s “Ask the Job Doc” column. In the column, Bob answers a question about the Massachusetts CROWN Act as follows:

Q:  Can you describe to me what the CROWN Act is?  I thought I had a sound understanding of state laws, including PFML, but this is a new one for me.  Also, does it apply to everyone?  What about independent contractors or temps?  Can you help me understand?

A: The CROWN Act bans discrimination based on a person’s hairstyle, and in particular hair styles that may be associated with race.  Signed into law by Governor Baker, the law became effective on October 24, 2022.  Massachusetts has joined a growing number of states in prohibiting discrimination in schools and workplaces, based on hairstyles that are historically associated with race.

To share more detail, I consulted Robert Shea, a partner at Beck Reed Ridden LLP in Boston.  Shea explains that the “CROWN” in the CROWN Act stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”  Shea further adds, “The Act does not create a new protected class of individuals but rather expands the definition of race across multiple statutes in Massachusetts.”  The primary anti-discrimination statute in Massachusetts, Chapter 151B, now has an expanded definition of racial discrimination, which includes hairstyles that may be “historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, hair length and protective hairstyles.”  More specifically, these hairstyles include braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots or hair coverings.  In the past, workplace dress codes may have forced many men and women to adapt their hairstyles to conform to a dress code, or a health or safety standard.

The CROWN Act applies to employers with 6 or more employees.  Independent contractors and temporary employees can also file a claim against an employer, or a school, citing race, or CROWN Act, discrimination.

In Massachusetts, the CROWN Act was born out of a 2017 policy violation, which occurred at a Massachusetts charter school.  Two sisters were disciplined for wearing braid extensions, which school administrators said was against school policy. This hairstyle had been banned at this charter school at that time and the sisters were barred from several school events.  CROWN Act supporters have expressed concerns about how Black women, in particular, have been treated differently because of their hair styles.  The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the school, based on the school’s policy.

Massachusetts employers should review any related policies and/or handbooks to ensure they are complying with the CROWN Act.  If there are health or safety issues within the workplace (e.g. serving food or operating machinery), an employer may request that hair should be covered or fastened to eliminate health or safety concerns.  However, these requests should be applied consistently, to any employee, based on the role and the job duties.


The column was written by Pattie Hunt Sinacole, CEO and Founder of First Beacon Group LLC.


ob Shea represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. With a comprehensive understanding of this legal landscape, he assists clients in various industries, offering counsel on matters such as discrimination, termination, wage disputes, and compliance issues.

His commitment to finding effective solutions sets him apart. Bob dedicates a substantial part of his practice to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), emphasizing mediation and arbitration as powerful tools to resolve conflicts outside of traditional courtroom proceedings.

Bob’s approach is characterized by a combination of legal expertise, strategic insight, and a keen understanding of his clients’ specific needs. He prioritizes clear communication and collaborative problem-solving, ensuring that each client receives tailored guidance and representation throughout the legal process.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Bob Shea Featured in Boston.com’s “Job Doc” Column

Bob Shea‘s advice to departing employees was featured in Boston.com’s “Ask the Job Doc” column.

In the column, Bob answers a question about whether an employee can quit and then use vacation days as part of the two-week notice period as follows:


I consulted Robert Shea, an experienced employment lawyer and partner at Beck Reed Riden LLP in Boston. Shea shares “It’s a maybe for the vacation time and a no for the sick time. Pay for accrued, unused vacation time is considered as ‘wages’ under Massachusetts state law and must be paid out when you leave the organization. If you prefer to use your accrued vacation during your 10-day notice period, you may be able to do so but your vacation time request presumably will be subject to your employer’s policy for approving vacation time requests. Most employers have a policy that vacation days must be pre-approved before they can be taken. Potentially, your employer may decide not to approve your vacation request because it wants you to be at work during the 10-day notice period to assist in transitioning your job responsibilities.”

With respect to earned sick time, this time is treated differently under Massachusetts law. Shea advises “Massachusetts employers are not required to pay out unused earned sick time at termination. Further, and in response to your specific question, earned sick time is to be used only for one or more of the purposes set forth in the law (e.g., to care for the employee’s physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition) and using it simply to take time off during your 10-day notice period is not one those purposes.”

In short, earned sick time is not an entitlement and there are specific reasons, outlined in the Massachusetts law, which would enable an employee take this time off.


The column was written by Pattie Hunt Sinacole, CEO and Founder of First Beacon Group LLC.

Bob represents clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He focuses a significant portion of his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.