Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds Employee Was Not Terminated for Seeking Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In Massachusetts, an employer may not terminate a worker for exercising his or her right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Despite this, an employee who is seeking such benefits may be fired for other well-articulated reasons. In Brewington v. Suffolk County Sheriff’s Dept., a jail officer suffered a dental injury in an altercation at work. As a result of his injury, the man sought workers’ compensation benefits. While gathering proof in support of his claim, the jailer intentionally submitted a back-dated report and medical progress note that was written months later to his employer’s third-party administrator. After this was discovered, the man was terminated from his position.
In response to being fired, the former jailer filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer in Massachusetts Superior Court. According to the man, he was fired for exercising his right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The man’s former employer then filed a motion for summary judgment. In general, such a motion asks a court to rule there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and to enter judgment in favor of the moving party. After concluding no reasonable jury could find the man was terminated for exercising his rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act, the trial court granted the employer’s motion.
Next, the man appealed the trial court’s order to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts. According to the court, the former jailer had a right to gather proof in support of his statutory workers’ compensationclaim. Despite this, the man offered no evidence beyond speculation that he was terminated for doing so. In fact, the court stated his employer’s articulated reasons for terminating him were not retaliatory. According to the employer, the man’s actions violated the oath he took prior to beginning his employment. In addition, the court found it significant that the individuals who assisted the man in back-dating the documents at issue admitted to wrongdoing and accepted discipline from their employer.
The Appeals Court said the lower court’s order was appropriate because the man’s former employer successfully demonstrated that he had no reasonable expectation of prevailing at trial. The court added that it made no difference whether the man actually lost a tooth at work, nor was it relevant that the Department of Industrial Accidents found he suffered a compensable dental injury. Finally, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the man’s former employer.
If you were hurt in a Massachusetts workplace accident, you should discuss your right to recover workers’ compensation benefits with a capable lawyer. The veteran attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are available to help you navigate the process of your workers’ compensation claim. To speak with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer, contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call at 800-367-0871 today.
Brewington v. Suffolk County Sheriff’s Dept., Mass: Appeals Court 2015