Massachusetts Court Discusses Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Tortious Acts

In Massachusetts, the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) prohibits people from pursuing civil claims against their employer for harm suffered in the workplace that is compensable under the terms of the Act. Notably, the Act not only bars injured employees from seeking claims against their employers but also from seeking compensation for harm caused by their co-workers. The scope of the exclusivity provision of the Act was the focus of an opinion recently issued by a Massachusetts court in which it ultimately found that the Act barred the plaintiff’s claims. If you were hurt in the workplace due to the acts of a co-worker, you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to assess what benefits you may be owed.

Factual Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who is a black woman in her late fifties, worked as a detective for a city police department. In 2010, she was transferred to a human trafficking unit, and the defendant became her immediate supervisor. The defendant repeatedly engaged in acts that were detrimental to the plaintiff’s career and reported that she did not like her and did not want to work with her. In 2017, the plaintiff filed a formal harassment and hostile work environment claim against the defendant in the internal affairs division of her department. The division did not adequately address her claims, which prompted her to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant, asserting discrimination and retaliation claims, and claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Tortious Acts

In her motion to dismiss, the defendant argued, among other things, that the exclusivity provision of the Act precluded the plaintiff from pursuing intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims against her. The court found the defendant’s arguments persuasive and granted her motion to dismiss with regard to the plaintiff’s emotional distress claims.

In its opinion, the court explained that workers’ compensation is the sole remedy against both employers and co-workers who engage in tortious behavior if such acts arise within the course of their employment and are intended to further the employer’s interest. The court clarified that an employee acts in the course of employment when they, on the employer’s property, engage in conduct that is consistent with the reasons for which they were hired or that is incidental and pertinent to their employment.

In the subject case, all of the defendant’s allegedly harmful conduct happened when the defendant was acting in her role as the plaintiff’s supervisor. As such, it fell within the course of her employment. Thus, the court found granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Consult a Skilled Massachusetts Attorney

People who are hurt while working can typically recover workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of whether their harm was accidental or brought about by the tortious acts of a co-worker. If you were injured while performing job duties, it is smart to consult an attorney to evaluate your possible claims. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney with ample experience helping injured employees protect their rights, and if you engage his services, he will diligently pursue the best outcome possible in your case. You can reach Mr. Meehan by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.