Court Explains Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Claims in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who seek workers’ compensation benefits in the form of adverse employment action. As such, employers that violate the retaliation provision may be civilly liable to the employee for damages. As shown in a recent Massachusetts ruling, in order to prove that an employer’s acts were taken in retaliation, an employee must establish that the employer knew about the employee’s workers’ compensation claim. If you sustained harm while working, you might be able to file a workers’ compensation claim, and it is wise to consult a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to assess what benefits you could be owed.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff worked for the defendant from 2003 through 2018 when he was terminated for theft. In 2007, he suffered injuries in a car accident that occurred when he was traveling from one of the defendant’s stores to another. He filed a workers’ compensation claim for injuries sustained in the accident and took a leave of absence. After the plaintiff was terminated, he filed a pro se action against the defendant asserting, among other things, a workers’ compensation retaliation claim.  The defendant moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s retaliation claim.

Establishing Liability in a Retaliation Claim

The court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation retaliation claim. The court explained that pursuant to the Act, it is illegal for an employer to fire, refuse to hire, or discriminate against an employee in any other way because the employer has filed a workers’ compensation claim or participating in workers’ compensation proceedings.

In order to make out a prima facie claim of retaliation, an employee must show that they engaged in activity protected under the act, the employer knew about the employee’s protected activity, the employer subsequently engaged in an adverse employment action against the employee, and the employer would not have taken such action had the employee not engaged in the protected activity. In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish the second element of the retaliation claim. Namely, he did not offer evidence that the defendant knew or should have known that he had previously filed a workers’ compensation claim. Further, the employer denied knowledge of the employee’s prior claim. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion.

Talk to a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act protects employees from financial losses caused by harm in the workplace and from retaliation for exercising their right to seek benefits. If you suffered losses in a workplace incident, it is smart to talk to an attorney about what claims you may be able to assert. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney with ample experience helping injured workers protect their interests, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a conference.