Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Attorney
Representing the Rights of Workers Who Have Been Wrongfully Terminated
Both state and federal law prohibit employers from firing employees for certain reasons, including discrimination based on membership in specific groups and engaging in activities that are protected by law. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you can have the facts of your case reviewed by an experienced lawyer by filling out and submitting our online questionnaire or scheduling a consultation today.
Losing your job can be devastating. Beyond being left financially distressed, you may also feel wronged (for good reason) by your employer’s decision. In certain circumstances, you may have legal grounds to bring a wrongful termination claim against your employer.
Massachusetts is an at-will employment state, which means that employers have the right to terminate workers for a wide variety of reasons. Indeed, they can do so for good reasons (the employee was consistently late and underperforming), they can do so for unfortunate but understandable reasons (the company was facing major financial distress), or they can do so for relatively insignificant reasons (the boss did not like the employee’s new haircut). In fact, Massachusetts employers can fire a worker for basically no reason at all.
However, employers in Massachusetts do not have the right to terminate a worker for an illegal reason. While employers have wide discretion over hiring and firing workers, certain practices are expressly prohibited by state and federal law. At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, our experienced Springfield wrongful termination attorneys help wronged workers fight back against bad-acting employers. We have an office in the heart of downtown Springfield, and we proudly serve workers in communities throughout the region, including in Chicopee, Holyoke, Agawam, Westfield, Wilbraham and West Springfield.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
Terminating an employee can be illegal if it violates an employment law or public policy. There are a wide variety of laws that protect employees from being terminated for the following reasons and more:
- Exercising a lawful employee right
- Whistleblowing by reporting illegal acts of an employer
- Refusing to engage in unethical or illegal acts
- Discussing work-related issues with your co-workers (i.e pay, unsafe conditions, unionizing, circulating a petition)
- Discrimination or retaliation
- In violation of an employment contract
If you have been terminated for any of the above reasons or due to another reason that you believe is wrongful, you should not delay in discussing your situation with our skilled wrongful termination attorney. Our firm can help you bring a legal claim for wrongful termination so that you can recover for any financial or emotional losses.
Termination for Exercising Employee Rights
Employees have many rights that they should be able to properly exercise without fear of being terminated by their employer. Such rights include:
- The right to request or take qualified Family and Medical Leave
- The right to file a workers’ compensation claim after a work-related injury or illness
- The right to vote and participate in jury duty when called to do so
- The right to expect proper wages and overtime payments
- The right to take rest or meal breaks as provided by labor laws
If you are fired for participating in legal activities to which you have a right under the law, you likely have a strong case for wrongful termination.
Wrongful Termination for Whistleblowing or Opposing Illegal Acts
If your employer tries to get you to do something illegal, you have the right to report that misconduct and speak out about the issue. In relation to this right, you qualify for certain legal protections. Employers cannot terminate a worker simply because he or she engaged in protected whistleblowing behavior or because he or she internally opposed an illegal act. This public policy rule applies in many different contexts.
For example, if you object to an impending illegal act, your employer cannot take action to remove you in order to then engage in that unlawful conduct. Similarly, if you discover an ongoing or past illegal act and you report the problem to the appropriate authority, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or any other state or federal regulator, your employer cannot take adverse action against you.
Finally, it should also be noted that an employer cannot terminate you for whistleblowing or opposing an illegal act, even if you were wrong. If you had a reasonable belief that your employer’s conduct was unlawful, and you took whistleblowing actions that you reasonably thought were appropriate given the circumstances, then your employer cannot remove you for that conduct, even if it turns out that your employer’s actions were actually legal.
Termination for “Concerted Activities”
As a group, Massachusetts workers have certain rights to collectively organize in order to try to fight for better benefits, increased salaries, and improved working conditions. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act provides clear legal protections for employees attempting to organize. Essentially, an employer cannot terminate an employee simply because they were engaging in concerted activities. Depending on the specific circumstances at hand, complaints about working conditions, pay or other labor issues may be legally protected under the federal labor law. Further, explicit labor organization efforts are clearly protected under federal law.
Unlawful Discrimination or Retaliation
Massachusetts workers are legally protected from unlawful discrimination and this certainly includes termination based on discriminatory reasons. More specifically, the following characteristics are considered protected statuses and as such, they cannot play any role in your employer’s decision to terminate you:
- Race and color
- National origin
- Sex and gender
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity and expression
- Pregnancy status
- Physical or psychological disabilities
In addition, you have the right to complain of and report unlawful discrimination or harassment in the workplace. For example, if you file a sexual harassment complaint, your employer cannot then seek to terminate you for that reason. This is true even if your employer believes that your complaint was unjustified. It does not matter whether the complaint turns out to be well-founded; employees must be able to exercise their labor rights without fearing employer retribution
Of course, sadly, far too many Massachusetts employers do engage in unlawful discrimination or retaliation. When they do so, they typically try to make up a fake reason for why the employee was actually fired. These fake reasons are referred to as pretextual reasons. Your Springfield employee rights lawyer can help you prove pretext and thus establish wrongful termination. Doing so can sometimes be challenging, so it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible after being terminated.
Termination in Violation of an Employment Contract
One situation in which at-will employment principles do not apply is when the employer and employee signed an employment contract setting out specific requirements for termination. Generally speaking, these contracts provide for a certain term of employment and require that an employer has just cause to fire an employee. If an employer terminates them without cause, they may seek compensation for wrongful termination.
Massachusetts Court System– The Massachusetts Court System provides important information about Massachusetts employment termination law, including state law, case law, and print resources.
Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association (MELA)- MELA is an organization dedicated to increasing awareness, advocacy, and support to attorneys who devote the majority of their practice to representing employees.
Workplace Fairness – This national nonprofit organization was built upon a foundation of common sense understanding of often complex labor law language. To this end, the organization distributes clear and concise information about employee rights and also fosters a community of national advocates.
Contact Our Massachusetts Wrongful Termination Attorneys Today
At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, our employment rights lawyers help individuals fight back against wrongful termination. If you were fired and believe the reasoning was in any way unlawful, you can have an experienced Springfield employment attorney review your case by filling out our online questionnaire or by calling our office today at 413-417-7035.