Wrongful Termination for Whistleblowing in Massachusetts
- Witnessed illegal behavior by your employer?
- Complained to internally (HR, management) about the conduct?
- Reported this conduct to a government agency (Dept. of Labor, OSHA, etc.)?
- Been fired, suspended, or otherwise treated badly because of your report?
Then you may be a whistleblower, and there are laws protecting you from retaliation.
Representing Whistleblowers in Massachusetts Who Were Illegally Fired
Whistleblowers are employees who come forward to prevent harm by exposing their employers’ unlawful or unethical behaviors to the authorities. Such whistleblowers often put their careers at risk in doing so—and they all too often find themselves fired after blowing the whistle. After termination, however, whistleblowers naturally should want to know their rights under Massachusetts law.
The Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore represents whistleblowers in Massachusetts who have been terminated or who have suffered another type of negative employment action. We understand whistleblower laws and know how to prove that the action you suffered was wrongful. Our attorneys are willing to stand up to companies large and small to protect the rights of our clients, so please call our Springfield, Massachusetts office or fill out our online contact form so that we can evaluate your rights and options.
Common Whistleblowing Situations
While we all expect that our employers will comply with the relevant laws and treat employees, clients, and customers fairly, situations regularly arise in which company owners or managers act unlawfully. The following are only some examples of behaviors that are unlawful:
- Wage, hour, and overtime violations of Massachusetts labor laws or the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Unlawful discrimination or harassment based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, or disability prohibited by numerous laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights
- Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and
- Massachusetts state anti-discrimination laws
- Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which often include denying qualified leave or terminating employees for taking leave
- Unsafe working conditions in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
- Corporate or investment fraud that violates the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or other laws enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Tax fraud in violation of state or federal tax laws
- Pay disparity between men and women in similar positions in violation of the Equal Pay Act and Massachusetts state law
- Discrimination or denial of benefits in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)
- Any violation of state or federal criminal law
Any of the above can cause harm to employees, clients, or even the government. While whistleblowing serves an important purpose, employers often view a whistleblower as disloyal and a threat to the company. For this reason, many companies want to get rid of whistleblowers as soon as possible. They may immediately terminate or demote whistleblowers, subject them to hostile work environments, or otherwise discipline them so that they may choose to leave the company. In any of these events, whistleblowers will likely have the legal right to file claims and seek damages for wrongful termination.
Massachusetts Whistleblower Protections
Massachusetts law protects public employees. Public employers may not suspend, demote, terminate or otherwise retaliate against employees for any of the following:
- Threatening to disclose or actually disclosing information about perceived unlawful activity
- Participating in investigations or hearings regarding employer misconduct
- Refusing to engage in unlawful behavior
Public employees who suffer wrongful termination or retaliation for any of these protected activities can file legal claims to seek reinstatement to their positions as well as financial compensation.
In addition, numerous federal laws protect employees from wrongful termination for whistleblowing. In addition, many employment laws specifically prohibit retaliation against employees for making complaints or reporting violations of those laws.
For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits both unlawful discrimination based on protected factors as well as retaliation against employees for complaining of discrimination. Imagine that an employee suffers discrimination or witnesses discrimination against a coworker. That employee then cooperates with an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, giving information about the discriminatory actions. If the employer then fires the employee for that cooperation, it would be considered unlawful retaliation and the employee would have legal rights.
An experienced wrongful termination attorney can evaluate your situation and help determine under which law you may have a cause of action. This can be complicated, so it is critical that your lawyer has a specific understanding of whistleblower laws as they apply to Massachusetts employees.
False Reasons Given for Your Termination
Not surprisingly, employers rarely come forward and admit that they terminated employees for whistleblowing. Employers know this is against the law—so instead, they will generally give contrived reasons for firing whistleblowers, including performance issues, financial cutbacks, or simply personal conflicts with management.
It is important to have an attorney who can identify when an employer’s justification for your termination is pretextual. Courts know that employers will often give false reasons for terminations, and there is a specific legal process for invalidating your employer’s assertions. The Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore knows how to prove that you were, in fact, wrongfully terminated for whistleblowing instead of for another lawful reason.
Contact a Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Attorney for Information About Your Rights
When you report wrongful or unlawful behavior by your employer, you should not be punished by losing your job. If you called attention to misconduct by your employer and suffered any type of retaliation, you need highly qualified representation by a Massachusetts whistleblower lawyer.
Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore knows how to identify your rights after your termination. If you can take legal action, we will protect your interests throughout every step of your case. Please call our Massachusetts office at (413) 417-7035 or contact us online today to find out how we can help you.