Massachusetts Court Discusses Proving a Termination Was Retaliatory

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) safeguards employees by prohibiting employers from taking adverse employment actions in retaliation against those seeking workers’ compensation benefits. If employers violate this provision, they may be liable for damages in tort to the affected employees. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what evidence a plaintiff must offer to prove their termination constitutes retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you’ve suffered an injury while on the job, it’s advisable to consult a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to assess potential benefits you may be able to recover.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff had been employed by the defendant as a Supplemental Driver Sales Representative (DSR) before transitioning to a regular DSR, which involved physically demanding tasks such as loading and unloading heavy freight. As part of the plaintiff’s employment agreement, he had signed a document stipulating that they wouldn’t pursue legal action regarding their employment more than six months after an incident or termination.

Allegedly, the plaintiff sustained a job-related shoulder injury sustained in 2005, after which he filed a workers’ compensation claim. Consequently, the defendant initiated a process to reassign the plaintiff to a different role. However, the plaintiff was terminated in 2006 for not securing the necessary medical certification to resume his DSR responsibilities. Ultimately, the plaintiff settled his workers’ compensation claim with the defendant for a sum of $50,000. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth several claims, including workers’ compensation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendant moved for summary judgment.

Proving a Termination Was Retaliatory

The court ultimately ruled on favor of the defendant on its motion summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. As to the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation retaliation claim, the court found that although he met certain elements of this claim, he couldn’t provide enough compelling evidence to substantiate a direct connection between their termination and their workers’ compensation benefits. In other words, his claim rested primarily on conclusory allegations, which failed to meet the required standard. As such, the court dismissed this claim.

Concerning the plaintiff’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the court determined that this claim was barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act, given that emotional distress is compensable under workers’ compensation. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the defendants on this claim as well. The court dismissed the remainder of the plaintiff’s claims as well.

Confer with a Skilled Massachusetts Attorney

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act offers protection to employees, covering financial losses resulting from workplace injuries and safeguarding against retaliation when seeking benefits. If you’ve experienced losses due to a workplace incident, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney to explore potential claims. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan, is a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who possesses extensive experience in assisting injured workers in safeguarding their rights, and if you hire him, he will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact him at 508-822-6600 or through the online form to schedule a consultation.