Archives for July 2009

Wrongful Termination Law in Massachusetts

Wrongful termination is a phrase frequently used by employers and employees alike to cover the whole rubric of potential causes of action that an individual could have against the company when he or she is fired.

Wrongful termination means, simply, that there is some kind of legal action that the an employee may take after being let go by an employer.

There are several discrete categories of wrongful termination in Massachusetts. Under the local law, all employees, unless they have a specific contract that they have negotiated with their employer, either in writing or orally, are At-Will employees.  This means they can leave whenever they choose to, or be let go whenever the employer chooses to let them go.  There are a couple of very narrow exceptions to the At-Will rule in Massachusetts that would constitute Wrongful Termination under the States Law. The exceptions are:

  1. A violation of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, meaning an employer, in a typical case, lets an employee go to avoid paying an employee a commission or large sum of compensation that would normally be due.
  2. Another way to violate the At-Will law is if an employer lets someone go in violation of something called the Public Policy Exception. There are very few Public Policy Exceptions. However, if an employee is serving on a jury, testifying in court, or performing some other act that the government wants to protect, the employer can not fire the employee for those actions.
  3. An employer also cannot fire or discharge someone in Massachusetts if they have a contract that provides otherwise. Sometimes employees have an employment contract that says,  for example,  they can only be fired for specific reasons, such as stealing from the employer, insubordination, or committing a crime. Where a company violates those terms, a breach of contract claim can arise in Massachusetts and that would be Wrongful Termination.
  4. The final category for Wrongful Termination involves discrimination cases. In Massachusetts, and under Federal Law, you can not let an employee go or treat them less favorably because of their race, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, handicap status, or genetic disposition.

If any of these factors are in play in your situation when you are let go from work, call me for a consultation.

If you have questions about Massachusetts employment law, consult an qualified Massachusetts employment lawyer before you take action.

Boston employment lawyer, Attorney Jack Merrill provides legal services to employees and employers throughout the Boston metro and Worcester County region including Ashland, Dedham, Framingham, Franklin, Hopkinton, Maynard, Marlborough, Milford, Natick, Needham, Newton, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Waltham, and Worcester, Massachusetts.