Wrongful Termination – The Public Policy Doctrine

In Massachusetts, all employees are protected against wrongful termination under what is commonly known as the public policy doctrine. As explained by the Supreme Judicial Court, the doctrine provides a remedy to an at-will employee who is “terminated contrary to a well-defined public policy.”

The remedy “is available for employees who are terminated for asserting a legally guaranteed right (e.g., filing workers’ compensation claim), for doing what the law requires (e.g., serving on a jury) or for refusing to do that which the law forbids (e.g., committing perjury).”

Employees who have been fired for reporting violations of criminal law or cooperating with law enforcement agencies have also been granted relief from the court. Even though the law does not necessarily require employees to cooperate or report, “the Legislature had clearly expressed a policy encouraging cooperation.”

Not all public policy violations are so clearly defined. As such, whether such a public policy violation will constitute a wrongful termination is a matter of law for the trial court to decide.

Finally, the public policy doctrine can only be afforded to an employee who has no express statutory remedy available.

An employee who believes they were wrongfully terminated in violation of a recognized Massachusetts public policy may have a claim against their employer for wrongful termination. If you believe you are an employee who was wrongfully terminated, please contact Adam Shafran.



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