Although Massachusetts is an at-will employment state, there are still times where it is illegal for your boss to terminate your employment. Wrongful termination is when an employer fires an employee for any number of illegal reasons. These could include firing someone as retaliation for filing a harassment claim or for refusing to participate in illegal actions.
If you’ve recently been dismissed from your job and you feel that your employer did not have a valid reason, then reach out to a wrongful termination attorney in Boston. Your lawyer will help you gather evidence and witnesses to support your claim and increase your chances of a successful court case.
What is Considered Wrongful Termination in Massachusetts?
Also known as wrongful discharge or wrongful dismissal, wrongful termination refers to illegally firing employees for a reason that goes against federal or state laws. Wrongful termination includes firing on the grounds of discrimination, retaliation, or in violation of public policy.
On the other hand, your employer can dismiss you due to poor performance, mass layoffs, or force reduction. If a company plans to conduct a massive layoff, state law requires them to provide 60 days’ notice to their employees.
It is important to note that if you are let go from your job, and poor performance is the given reason, you have a right to combat these claims if you feel they are dishonest. For example, if all of your performance reports have been consistently great, but you’re let go for “poor performance” after filing a claim for discrimination, then you can use your past reports to show that “poor performance” is not the real reason you were fired.
Examples of Wrongful Termination
To give you a better understanding of what wrongful dismissal is, here are some common examples:
- Firing an employee because they refused to engage in illegal acts such as embezzlement or fraud in the workplace
- Firing an employee as retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint
- Dismissing an employee who is serving jury duty or on military leave
- Firing an employee because they exercised their right to take leave for health issues
- Firing an employee for testifying about unsafe working conditions
- Firing an employee because of pregnancy
- Dismissing an employee planning to file a workers’ compensation claim
Can You Be Fired for No Reason in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts is an at-will employment state, meaning your employer can fire you without giving a clear reason. But as we’ve stated, there are still reasons why firing an employee can be seen as illegal or unlawful.
The law prohibits your employer from firing you based on your status in a protected class. This means you cannot be fired based on your age, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion, or disability.
Massachusetts law also prohibits firing an employee on grounds of HIV/AIDS status, hepatitis C diagnosis, ownership of a service animal, membership of state militia, or being a victim of domestic violence.
2. Public Policy
Massachusetts law makes it illegal for your employer to fire you for exercising your legal rights, reporting your employer’s illegal activities, or fulfilling your civic duties such as voting or participating in jury duty.
3. Breach of Contract
If your original employment contract has set guidelines that outline the grounds for dismissal, then it may be illegal for your employer to fire you for a reason outside of those terms. In Massachusetts, oral agreements and employee handbooks that promise job security are considered valid, so even if you don’t have a written contract, your termination may still have been illegal.
As an employee, you have a right to file an official complaint about unsafe working environments, discrimination, or harassment. Should your employer retaliate by firing you for whistleblowing or participating in the subsequent investigation, then you may have a good case for wrongful termination.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Termination?
Proving wrongful termination can be difficult. Since Massachusetts has an at-will employment policy, employers may fabricate reasons to justify letting you go.
That is why you should consult with an employment lawyer who has extensive experience in wrongful termination law about your case. Your legal counsel will help you collect the evidence needed for your claim, including:
- Employment documents such as your termination letter, written agreements, employee handbooks, work assessments, pay stubs, or performance reports
- Written records of your employment and termination timeline, which can help shed light on the real reason your employer fired you
- Witnesses who can corroborate your claims
A wrongful termination claim may result in your former employer paying punitive damages, statutory penalties, or damages for lost wages and expenses. A seasoned employment law attorney can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Consult with Our Boston Wrongful Termination Lawyers
The wrongful termination lawyers at the HKM Employment Attorneys law firm have an in-depth understanding of employment laws regarding wrongful termination. Contact our law office in Boston to get started with an initial consultation.