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At-will employees

Examples of how an at will employee can file a claim under the public policy exception

Under Massachusetts law, the discharge of an at-will employee without cause is not, all by itself, a sufficient basis for imposing liability. The employee must show that the employer’s reason for the firing is a violation of public policy. Although an argument can be made for a rule of job security in such circumstances, the Legislature has not enacted such a law. Massachusetts courts have ruled that an employer does not violate a public policy justifying the recovery of damages solely by giving a false reason for the discharge of an at-will employee.

The following are examples of situations where the courts have recognized that an employer is liable to a former employee at will whom it discharged: (1) the employee failed to follow the employer’s instruction to testify falsely at a trial; (2) the employee at will alleged that she was discharged because she enforced safety laws which were her responsibility to enforce; and (3) an at-will employee “blew the whistle” within his company on criminal wrongdoing, even though before discharge he did not complain to public authorities.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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