On December 17th, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) released a decision in the case of Meehan v. Medical Information Technology, Inc—finding that an employee who was fired against exercising his right to file a rebuttal under the Massachusetts Personnel Record Statute has a viable wrongful discharge claim. In this article, our Massachusetts wrongful termination lawyers provide an overview of the decision from the Commonwealth’s highest court.
Case Analysis: Meehan v. Medical Information Technology, Inc
Background & Facts
In 2010, an employee named Terence Meehan began working at Medical Information Technology, Inc in Massachusetts. Mr. Meehan was employed as an at-will worker. In 2018, Mr. Meehan and two other employees were placed on an official performance improvement plan (PIP) by the company. Approximately two weeks after being placed on the PIP, Mr. Meehan sent a rebuttal letter to his supervisor—directly challenging some of the reasons why he was placed on the plan. Soon after, the employer terminated Mr. Meehan. He filed a wrongful termination claim on the grounds that his discharge violated public policy in Massachusetts.
The Legal Issue
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is an at-will employment jurisdiction. Without an employment agreement in place, workers can generally be fired for any reason. The employment relationship is voluntary. However, employers cannot terminate a worker for an illegal reason, such as discrimination or retaliation.
Massachusetts law also bars employers from terminating workers in violation of public policy. In this case, Mr. Meehan argued that he was fired after exercising his right to rebuttal under the Massachusetts personnel records law. He contends that removing an employee for filing a rebuttal to a PIP is a violation of public policy.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court Decision
Upon review, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the employee. The Commonwealth’s highest court emphasized that the at-will employment standard allows employers to fire workers for basically any reason, including for no reason at all. However, there are public policy exceptions to at-will employment. Courts have emphasized that these public policy exceptions are relatively narrow.
In this case, the court noted that Massachusetts has a strong personnel records statute. The law explicitly allows employees to file a rebuttal when adverse information is entered into their official personnel record. The decision is an important one for worker rights in Massachusetts. The top court in the Commonwealth has confirmed that employees can confidently respond/rebut unfavorable information in their personnel file without facing additional action from their employer.
Call Our Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Attorney for Immediate Help
At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Massachusetts wrongful termination attorneys are devoted to protecting the rights of employees, not employers. If you have any questions or concerns about wrongful termination claims and rebuttal rights, we are available to help. Contact us now for a strictly confidential evaluation of your case. From our Springfield and Northampton law offices, our attorneys advocate for the rights of employees throughout Western Massachusetts.