Massachusetts Court Discusses Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Claims

Under Massachusetts law, people hurt at work have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. Some employers view employees that file workers’ compensation claims unfavorably, however, and will go so far as to terminate them for asserting their lawful rights. While employers who are fired for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits can pursue claims against their employers, establishing an employer took adverse action against an employee in retaliation for filing a claim can be difficult. This was demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts case, in which the court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on a workers’ compensation retaliation claim. If you believe you were terminated for seeking workers’ compensation benefits, it is smart to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney regarding your potential claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the claimant worked as an overnight maintenance person at the defendant’s warehouse store. When traveling from one store to another, he was involved in a car accident. He suffered injuries as a result of the collision and subsequently took a workers’ compensation leave of absence. Approximately three years later, the defendant terminated the claimant for allegedly stealing canned meat. The claimant subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant asserting, in part, a workers’ compensation retaliation claim. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion, after which the claimant appealed.

Establishing Liability for Workers’ Compensation Retaliation

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal for an employer to terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employer because the employee exercised a right afforded by the Workers’ Compensation Act. In order to establish a prima facie case of retaliation, an employee must prove that they engaged in an activity that is protected by the Act, the employer knew of the protected activity, the employer then engaged in an adverse employment action, which it would not have taken if not for the employee’s participation in the protected act.

In the subject case, the court ultimately agreed with the defendant and affirmed the dismissal of the claimant’s workers’ compensation retaliation claims. In sum, the court found that the three-year gap between the claimant’s filing of a claim and his termination to be too long to raise an inference of retaliation. Further, the claimant failed to offer any other direct or circumstantial evidence that would demonstrate causation. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Employers are not permitted to terminate employees for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, and if they do, they may owe their employees civil damages. If you were fired after suffering injuries at work, you could be owed compensation, and you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can assess the facts of your case and advise you regarding what damages you may be owed. You can contact him via the form online or by calling 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.