Massachusetts Court Discusses the Exclusivity of the Workers’ Compensation Act

It is well-established under Massachusetts law that the Worker’s Compensation Act (the Act) is the exclusive remedy for people who suffer work-related harm. It is not always clear, however, what constitutes harm as defined by the Act. Recently, a Massachusetts court addressed the question of whether the Act precluded an employee from pursuing intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against their employer. If you sustained injuries in the workplace, you may be owed workers’ compensation benefits, and you should confer with a dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

The Plaintiff’s Allegations

It is alleged that the plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a technician. The defendant reassigned the plaintiff to the night shift numerous times, despite the plaintiff’s request to remain on the day shift due to his ongoing anxiety and depression. Eventually, the plaintiff was terminated. He filed a lawsuit against the defendant alleging discrimination on the basis of disability, infliction of emotional distress that was intentional, and other claims. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, arguing it was barred by the Act. The court agreed and granted the motion.

Personal Injury as Defined by the Act

The Act provides the sole remedy for Massachusetts workplace claims for personal injury. In other words, it bars common law causes of action that fall within its scope. The court explained that the exclusivity provision of the Act applies where it is established that the plaintiff is an employee, the plaintiff’s condition is a personal injury as the Act defines the term, and it is shown that the injury arose in the course of and out of employment.

Thus, it is well settled that any suit seeking compensation for an intentional tort committed in the course of employment is barred by the Act’s exclusivity provision unless the employee has reserved the right to pursue claims against the employer pursuant to Massachusetts law. Further, the Massachusetts courts have specifically held that the exclusivity provision of the Act prohibits claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress against a supervisor. In the subject case, the plaintiff conceded that his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was based solely on his employment relationship with the defendant, and no part of his claim relied on conduct that occurred outside of the scope of employment. Further, he did not claim to have reserved the right to seek damages from his employer. The court ultimately found that the plaintiff alleged a personal injury that arose out of workplace conditions. Thus, it found that the Act barred his intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.

Confer with a Capable Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People who suffer injuries due to their employers’ behavior can often recover workers’ compensation benefits, but they are often precluded from pursuing other damages from their employer. If you were hurt while working, it is smart to confer with an attorney about your options. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer who can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of what measures you can take to protect your interests. You can contact him by calling 508-822-6600 or using the online form to set up a conference.