Published on:

Court Discusses Exclusivity of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act

If a person sustains injuries at work, he or she may be able to pursue benefits from his or her employer via a workers’ compensation claim. While in some cases a person may be able to seek damages through a personal injury lawsuit instead of a workers’ compensation claim, if the harm arose out the person’s employment, the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (MCWA) provides the person’s sole remedy. Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts analyzed whether the intentional acts of a supervisor that harmed an employee were considered incidental to the employee’s employment, so as to bar a personal injury claim. If you suffered harm at work, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss what damages you may be owed.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for the defendant as a mechanic. The plaintiff’s work schedule changed, after which the plaintiff’s supervisor began subjecting the plaintiff to a hostile work environment. Specifically, the plaintiff was harassed for his religious beliefs, denied accommodations, and accosted after he took a picture of the supervisor smoking, which was prohibited.

Reportedly, the plaintiff began experiencing symptoms of fatigue. He was restricted from working temporarily, but when he returned to work, the harassment continued. The plaintiff was then terminated, after which he filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of his civil rights. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were preempted by the MCWA.

Acts Incidental to Employment

The MCWA provides the sole remedy for an employee injured in the course of employment, regardless of whether the employer’s conduct was wrongful or whether the harm sustained was foreseeable. An employee covered by the MCWA cannot recover benefits under the MCWA and sue his or her employer for injuries, and therefore, personal injury actions are prohibited by the exclusivity provision of the MCWA when they arise out of an employee’s relationship with his or her employer.

The exclusivity provision extends to bar claims for harm caused by intentional torts committed by a claimant’s co-worker in the course of the employment relationship. Further, if an employee has engaged in conduct that is consistent with his or her position and incidental or pertinent to his or her employment, he or she is acting in the course of employment.

In the subject case, the court found that the acts undertaken by the plaintiff’s supervisor were incidental to his employment. Specifically, they all took place on the defendant’s premises and dealt at least indirectly with the plaintiff’s work performance. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss as to the assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.

Meet with a Trusted Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you suffered injuries at work, it is important to meet with a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your options for seeking damages for your harm. The capable attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will analyze the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of the most appropriate method to pursue damages under the facts of your case. We can be contacted at 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a confidential and free meeting.