In Massachusetts, employment is assumed to be at-will unless otherwise stated. At-will employment allows the employer and employee to terminate the work relationship at any given moment and for any legitimate purpose. Thus, wrongful termination is more difficult to prove in an at-will arrangement because of the freedom that each party has to end the employment.
However, there are still many instances wherein a termination or discharge can be called wrongful, even in an at-will employment. Some exceptions to at-will termination that are recognized in Massachusetts include:
- Termination resulting from a violation of a federal or state statute, such as discrimination or harassment.
- Termination that violates the terms of a written or an implied employment contract.
- Termination that occurs simply to prevent the employee from receiving benefits, bonuses, commissions, or disability payments.
- Termination that violates public policy (i.e. firing a worker who has reported illegal conduct committed by the company).
- Termination that punishes employees who join other workers in efforts to improve working conditions or to receive higher wages (i.e. firing workers for joining a labor union or for protesting).
Depending on the cause of the wrongful termination, an employee in Massachusetts may be eligible for various types of recovery. Remedies for wrongful discharge or termination include: reinstatement of employment, back and/or forward pay, punitive damages, and emotional distress damages.
In addition, claims for wrongful termination can involve many overlapping legal claims within the same lawsuit. Some other types of legal issues that are frequently connected to wrongful termination may include:
- Breach of contract;
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress (especially in harassment situations);
- Invasion of privacy (communicating private information to unauthorized parties); and
- Harm to business reputation.
An experienced employment attorney can help you understand how different areas of Massachusetts laws. A qualified Massachusetts lawyer can help you determine whether you have a legal claim, represent you in court, and help you get remedies for your lost.