Massachusetts Court Discusses General Employers in Workers’ Compensation Cases

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) affords workers the right to recover benefits for work-related injuries or illnesses. However, this right comes with a trade-off. Specifically, in exchange for these benefits, workers are generally precluded from suing their employers in tort for damages. This legal framework is designed to provide a streamlined and efficient process for compensating injured workers. Yet, complications can arise, particularly in cases where the identity of the employer is not immediately clear, as illustrated in a recent Massachusetts case in which the court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s claims in tort. If you were hurt while working, it is advisable to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about what benefits you may be able to recover.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed personal injury claims against the defendant. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act. The plaintiff opposed the motion and argued that an entity distinct from the defendant was his employer at the time of the accident, thus challenging the defendant’s entitlement to immunity.

It is reported that the records indicated that the defendant retained and paid the entity for non-production payroll services, and while the plaintiff was hired as a union carpenter by the entity, he was outside the scope of the agreement between the entity and the defendant. The judge concluded that the defendant was the plaintiff’s employer, having a direct employment relationship, supervisory authority, and the ability to hire or fire the plaintiff. As such, the court granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff appealed.

General Versus Special Employers in Workers Compensation Cases

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that under the Act, the entity was a “general employer” leasing his services to the defendant, who was a “special employer.” The plaintiff further argued that the entity, as the general employer, should bear the liabilities and immunities of the Act. However, the court disagreed, distinguishing the cases the plaintiff cited as inapposite because the plaintiff, as a union employee, was not part of any group leased to the defendant.

The court drew parallels with another case where the plaintiff sued his direct employer, similar to the plaintiff’s situation. In that case, the court found that the third-party entity handling payroll administration had no control over hiring, firing, or other work conditions.

The court adopted the reasoning in the aforementioned case and affirmed the judge’s decision, ruling that the defendant was the plaintiff’s employer and, therefore, entitled to the immunity provided by the Act.

Talk to a Dedicated Massachusetts Attorney

If you were hurt while working, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits, and it is smart to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who can inform you of your rights and help you pursue a just outcome. You can contact Mr. Meehan to arrange a conference through the online form or by calling him at 508-822-6600.