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Massachusetts Court Finds Worker’s Negligent Hiring and Supervision Claim Barred by Workers’ Compensation Act

The exclusivity provisions of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act generally bar a worker’s common law personal injury action brought against an employer. In Johnson v. Amherst Nursing Home, Inc., a woman was employed as a certified nurse aid (“CNA”) at an Amherst nursing home. In August 2012, the CNA was sexually assaulted by a fellow employee at work. The CNA immediately reported the incident to her manager, who stated local authorities would be notified and the coworker would be terminated. Management also agreed to keep the report confidential. Instead, the incident was not reported to police, and the alleged attacker was asked to resign from his position.

Next, the CNA apparently began being harassed at work. As a result, the CNA asked to be reassigned to a different unit of the facility. The employer refused the CNA’s request, and she resigned from her position with the nursing home about one month after the incident occurred. In May 2014, the CNA filed a lawsuit against her employer in the District of Massachusetts. In her complaint, the woman accused the nursing home of negligent hiring and supervision of her alleged attacker and other claims. The nursing home responded by filing a motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule 12(b)(6).

With regard to the negligent hiring and supervision claim, the skilled nursing facility argued the CNA’s cause of action was barred by the exclusivity provisions enumerated in the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. The CNA countered that her claim was not barred because her alleged attacker was not acting to further his employer’s interest when he assaulted her.

The Massachusetts federal court stated a common law action is barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act when the plaintiff’s personal injury arose out of the course of his or her employment. In addition, the court said the First Circuit held in 1995 that a negligent hiring and supervision claim was preempted by the law. The court added that the CNA’s argument that her coworker was not acting to further his employer’s interest when he attacked her was without merit because her claim was not filed against the man. Instead, the case was brought against the woman’s employer.

Since the CNA’s negligent hiring and supervision cause of action was not outside the scope of her employment, the District of Massachusetts ruled the woman’s claim was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act and dismissed her claim.

If you were assaulted at work in Suffolk County, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The hardworking attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you navigate the sometimes confusing process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. To speak with a thoughtful Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your rights, contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

Johnson v. Amherst Nursing Home, Inc., Dist. Court, D. Massachusetts 2015

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