Massachusetts Court Discusses Civil Claims for Harm Suffered at Work

People who suffer injuries at work can often recover workers’ compensation benefits. Typically, though, they cannot pursue any other civil claims against their employers. This preclusion extends not only to claims arising out of bodily harm but also to those seeking damages for emotional trauma. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed the exclusivity provision of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) in a case in which it ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claims on other grounds. If you sustained injuries due to workplace conditions, you might be owed workers’ compensation benefits, and it is in your best interest to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was terminated by his employer due to a reduction in force. The termination happened shortly after the plaintiff returned to work after being out on parental leave. The plaintiff subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the employer, arguing that he was fired in retaliation for taking leave, in violation of his rights, and asserting various claims under state and federal law, including an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. The employer moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Exclusivity Provisions of the Act

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff asserting an intentional inflection of emotional distress claim must show the defendant engaged in outrageous and extreme conduct, without being privileged to do so, and that the As to the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, and that the conduct caused the plaintiff severe emotional distress.

The court explained that conduct will only be considered outrageous or extreme if it is beyond all boundaries of decency and would be deemed completely intolerable in a civilized society. In the subject case, the employer argued that the plaintiff failed to set forth allegations that the employer engaged in conduct approaching the level of outrageous or extreme or that he suffered distress that was sufficiently severe to support his claims. In the alternative, the employer argued that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Act.

The court ultimately found that it was not necessary to determine whether the Act precluded the plaintiff’s claims, however, as even a liberal reading of the complaint demonstrated that he failed to assert that the defendant’s conduct exceeded all bounds of decency. Based on the foregoing, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

While people injured at work might be owed workers’ compensation benefits, they are generally precluded from recovering civil damages from their employer. If you were hurt at work, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your options. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek any benefits available under the law. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a meeting.