Massachusetts Court Discusses Determining if the Workers’ Compensation Act Precludes a Civil Claim

People who are treated adversely at work will often pursue civil claims against their employers. While they are generally permitted to do so, depending on the nature of their claims, they may be precluded by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). For example, the exclusivity provisions of the Act can operate to bar claims asserting emotional harm, as demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts ruling. If you suffered physical or emotional harm at work, it is smart to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your potential claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for the employer as a hub specialist. She had two small children that she breastfed. When she was breastfeeding, she would frequently pump breast milk while working. She was granted permission to use a storage closet to pump and was advised it was a private space. She later learned, however, that there were cameras in the closet. She then filed a request for leave with the employer, stating that her request for accommodations for pumping breastmilk failed. The employer did not respond to her request. She subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against them, asserting an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and other claims.

Determining if the Act Precludes a Civil Claim

The employer argued, among other things, that as the Act generally precluded employees from pursuing civil claims, like personal injury claims, against their employer, it barred the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. The court explained that to determine whether a plaintiff’s civil action against an employer is barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act, the courts must conduct a three part test.

First, the court has to determine if the plaintiff is an employee. Second, the court must assess whether the condition the plaintiff complains of constitutes a personal injury as defined by the Act. Third, the court needs to evaluate whether the plaintiff’s harm arose during the course of and out of their employment.

In the subject case, the court noted that it was undisputed that the plaintiff was an employee of the employer and that her alleged harm arose in the course of and out of her employment. Additionally, the court noted that it was well established under Massachusetts law that intentional infliction of emotional distress claims fell under the exclusivity provisions of the Act. As such, the court found that the Act barred the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Consult a Knowledgeable  Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Employers who cause their employees to suffer harm in the workplace may owe them workers’ compensation benefits, but in most cases, they will not be civilly liable for damages. If you sustained injuries while working, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a knowledgeable Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer with ample experience helping injured workers seek justice, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a meeting.