If you have been let go from your job recently, but don’t seem to know exactly why, or the explanation you were given doesn’t seem to match your experience at work, it is possible that you have been wrongfully terminated and can bring a claim against your former employer. The following is more information on the laws in Massachusetts regarding wrongful termination as a guide for what to look for in evaluating whether or not you may have a valid claim.
In Massachusetts, employees are considered “at-will”, meaning that both the employee and the employer can terminate employment at any time. While sometimes it is beneficial for the employee in being able to resign and seek employment elsewhere at any time, the sometime unfortunate flip-side to that is that an employee can also be fired or let go at any time as well, and for the most part the employer is not technically obligated to provide a reason for doing so.
The good news is that “for the most part” means that there are exceptions to this rule. There are some instances in which firing an at-will employee can be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. One of the most common ways this can happen is if an employee is fired based on some form of discrimination.
In Massachusetts, the law states that an employer is barred from discriminating against an employee based on “race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, and activity military status.” If you feel like your termination was based on one of these factors, it is important to report it as quickly as possible so that an investigation can be conducted.
Sometimes, however, it is not always as clear-cut as the above list of factors. Discrimination can be a little more subtle as well, in that in may be based on believing that these factors came into play at some point during your employment at the company, even if the actions didn’t necessarily lead to termination. For example, there is often a case where one employee is not promoted for a position which they were qualified for, “promised” (in a sense), or otherwise felt was deserved. Sometimes, this can coincide with one of the above factors (for instance, maybe an employee believes that because their employer recently found out about their sexual orientation, they chose not to give the employee a promotion because of it). If the employee then goes to file a complaint asserting this belief, and the employer finds out about it, it is illegal for the employer to then use the fact that the employee complained against him as grounds for termination. If this happens, even if the employer did not initially discriminate against the employee for the promotion, the fact that the employer then terminated the employee for filing a complaint for asserting a right (not to be discriminated against for sexual orientation), could be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. Therefore, it is imperative to keep track of actions, statements, and general conduct being displayed by the employer regarding any termination. Even if the employee is at-will, this fact alone is not grounds for an employee to always be fired for no reason whatsoever if the motive behind the termination is discriminatory in nature
Another common way for an employee to have grounds for a wrongful termination suit is if the employee has a contract stating that they are not actually an at-will employee. This can also get a little bit tricky, as it is not always required that the contract be written, or even explicit. While it certainly can be explicit, by having a clause in the contract promising that the employee will work for the company unless there is good cause, as would be reasonable for termination in any situation, it may also be implicit over the course of employment. If an employee is told repeatedly during their time at work that they can keep working there, or won’t be fired, so long as they continue producing good work for the company, it is possible that these statements may add up to an implicit contract for the purpose of transforming an otherwise at-will employee to one who can only be fired for good cause.
If any of these seem like they match up with your experience of being fired, it is possible that you have been wrongfully terminated. If that is the case, contact our office for a consultation and we may be able to help you defend yourself in a suit against your employer. Our experienced Boston employment lawyers are available to answer your questions and provide you with a free case consultation. We can be reached directly at 617-492-3000,
- Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Laws, Wrongful Termination Laws, http://www.wrongfulterminationlaws.com/resources/wrongful-termination-law/state-job-termination-laws/massachusetts.htm.
- Wrongful Termination: Was Your Firing Illegal?, NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/wrongful-termination-was-firing-illegal-32282.html.
- Massachusetts Court System, Massachusetts Law about Employment Termination, MASS.GOV, http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/termination.html.