Massachusetts employers have tremendous leeway when deciding to fire an employee, but, under certain circumstances, their actions could become the basis of a wrongful termination claim. State and federal laws prohibit an employer from terminating an employee for unlawful reasons – such as for being a member of a protected class or engaging in protected activities. A claim for wrongful termination can also arise when an employer violates the terms of an employment contract. If you believe that you have been, or are about to be, fired for unlawful reasons, you have rights and should call Rodman Employment Law immediately because employment law claims generally carry strict, and potentially very short, statute of limitations filing deadlines.
Overview of Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Laws
Massachusetts employees generally work under one of two arrangements:
- Employment Contract: Under this arrangement, you would have entered into a contract for employment with your employer the terms of which govern the work relationship. Both parties must comply with all provisions which typically include the duration, salary, performance requirements, bases for termination, and other conditions.
- At-Will Employees: If there is no contract, you are considered an “at-will” worker. Your employer can terminate you at any time, for almost any reason. Company cut backs, layoffs, poor performance, and disciplinary issues are often cited as reasons for termination, all of which may be valid and legitimate or may be an attempt to legitimize a wrongful termination.
Under either employment arrangement, wrongful termination may be actionable under Federal or Massachusetts law if you were fired for such discriminatory reasons as:
- Sex, including pregnancy and similar medical conditions;
- National origin;
- Religion or creed;
- Marital Status;
- Sexual Orientation;
- Gender Identity;
- Criminal Record; or
- Other characteristics as designated by law.
Retaliation and Wrongful Termination
Federal and Massachusetts law also protects you from being terminated in retaliation for engaging in certain protected activities, such as:
- Asserting a legal right, such as filing a wage claim;
- Refusing to engage in illegal activity at the request of your employer;
- Cooperating in an investigation against your employer;
- Filing a claim for harassment;
- Requesting accommodations for religious purposes or a disability;
- Filing a claim for workers’ compensation; or,
- Other protected activities.
If you believe that you have been terminated, or are about to be terminated, for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for engaging in protected activities, please call us for a free evaluation.
Filing a Claim for Wrongful Termination in Massachusetts
Wrongfully terminated employees have the option of pursuing their claims administratively through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or in federal or Massachusetts court. Note that to pursue a claim for discrimination or retaliation in any venue, you must first file with either the EEOC or MCAD, and both the EEOC and MCAD have strict filing deadlines. Contact Rodman Employment Law as soon as possible so that we can evaluate your case and assist you in filing your claims.
Additional Rights in a Wrongful Termination Claim
You have the option of removing your claims from the EEOC or MCAD and pursuing them in court. Again, you have the option of filing under state or federal law. If successful in your wrongful termination case, you may be able to recover:
- Back and/or future pay;
- Attorneys’ fees;
- Punitive damages, where appropriate;
- Damages for emotional distress; and,
- Other amounts depending on the circumstances of your case.
You may also be entitled to reinstatement of your former position, a promotion, or other remedies.
When to Contact a Lawyer
You should reach out to an experienced wrongful termination lawyer as soon as you are fired, or believe you may be fired, for illegal reasons. There are certain deadlines that require you to act quickly:
- Whether you initiate your claim with the EEOC or MCAD, you must file within 300 days from the date that you believe you were the subject of wrongful termination. Your claim is forever barred if you fail to do so.
- There are also deadlines for a lawsuit under Title VII after you exhaust your administrative remedies. You have 90 days to file in state or federal court after you receive an official notice of your right to sue from the EEOC.
- For a case under Massachusetts law, you may sue in court as soon as 30 days after receiving a notice of dismissal from MCAD, but within three years from the date you believe you were discriminated or retaliated against.
Wrongful Termination Resources & Links
Jury awards former MWRA worker $1.2 million for wrongful termination – News article from the Boston Globe about the outcome of a case against the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority for wrongful termination. Complaint was based on the employer’s failure to accommodate the employee’s handicap, interference with medical leave rights, retaliation, and firing the employee for exercising his rights for medical leave.
Wrongful Termination – An article from a non-profit organization, Workplace Fairness, which answers common questions on wrongful termination. Included is defining what is considered wrongful termination and knowing when you have experienced wrongful termination.
Definition of Wrongful Termination – This resource provided by Cornell Law School defines wrongful termination and shares terms which are interchangeable with wrongful termination.
- Employment matters that end up in court result in a median judgement of $200,000.
- 25% of employment cases that end up in court result in a judgement of $500,000 or more.
- Companies in the United States have an 11.7% chance of having an employment charge filed against them. Thus, it is common for people to pursue issues such as wrongful termination.
- In Massachusetts, the following were charges filed during the 2017 fiscal year with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which could also be issues that result in a wrongful termination (note that percentages will add up to more than 100% as charges can include multiple accusations):
- Racial Discrimination which made up 24.5% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Discrimination based on sex which made up 31.1% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Discrimination based on national origin which made up 12.1% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Religious discrimination which made up 7% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Discrimination based on color which made up 4.9% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Retaliation which made up 45.3% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Discrimination based on age which made up 23.4% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Discrimination based on disability which made up 31.1% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Violation of the Equal Pay Act which made up 1.3% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
- Violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Ace of 2008 which made up 0.6% of the charges filed to the EEOC in Massachusetts for the 2017 fiscal year.
 https://www.hiscox.com/documents/The-2015-Hiscox-Guide-to-Employee-Lawsuits-Employee-charge-trends-across-the-United-States.pdf  Ibid.  Ibid.  https://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges_by_state.cfm#centercol  Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.
Discuss Your Case with a Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Lawyer
With such a complicated landscape of rules governing claims and other legal options, you cannot put your legal rights at risk by attempting to represent yourself in a Massachusetts wrongful termination matter. Our attorneys at Rodman Employment Law are dedicated to protecting your interests and seeking a resolution in your favor in an employment dispute. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you navigate the complicated process involved in pursuing a wrongful termination claim, including filing with the relevant agencies or suing in court. At Rodman Employment Law, we are proud to offer solid legal representation that is customized for your needs, and we have more than 70 years of combined experience in employment matters. Please call (617) 820 5250 to reach our office with questions about your situation or to schedule a consultation.