Court Explains the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act’s Exclusivity Terms

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act, employees that suffer injuries while working have the right to seek medical and disability benefits. In exchange for the right to recover such benefits, however, they are precluded from pursuing claims against their employers for damages arising from workplace injuries. As discussed in a recent Massachusetts ruling, this includes emotional distress claims. If you sustained harm at work, it is important to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about what benefits you may be owed.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was employed as a teacher at the defendant’s school district. In her fourteenth year of employment, she advocated for improved environmental and working conditions. That same year, she received a worse performance review than she had in the previous decade. After she appealed the review, it was changed to exemplary, but she was nonetheless transferred to a different school.

Allegedly, as the union representative, the plaintiff was asked to advocate for increased staffing and monitoring of the students to improve the educational environment. Her meeting with the superintendent was canceled, and she was subsequently placed on leave and escorted from the school by the police. She developed an autoimmune disorder that was attributed to stress and anxiety. She then filed a lawsuit against the employer, asserting, inter alia, a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendants moved to dismiss her claim.

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act’s Preclusion of Personal Injury Claims

In support of the defendant’s motion to dismiss, they argued that the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was barred by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. The court explained that, under Massachusetts law, a claim for an intentional tort that arises in the context of an employment relationship is barred by the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

There are exceptions to the exclusivity provision in cases in which the plaintiff has reserved a right of action. In the subject case, the court noted that the claimant did not reserve her right to pursue claims against the defendant. Further, she did not address the defendant’s arguments that her claims were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation Act. Regardless, the court found that the plaintiff failed to adequately state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. As such, the court declined to address whether such a claim was barred by the Act.

Confer with a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

Massachusetts employees that suffer injuries while working can often recover workers’ compensation benefits, but they are typically barred from pursuing other claims against their employers. If you were hurt at work, you should confer with an attorney about your rights. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer with ample experience helping injured employees protect their interests, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Meehan to set up a meeting by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.