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Claims for unpaid wages, commissions, overtime

It is illegal to fire an employee who complains about being paid “under the table”

Massachusetts has a general policy that at will employees can be fired for any reason so long as it is not illegal (like discrimination or sexual harassment) or in violation of public policy. The definition of public policy includes reporting something that is blatantly illegal.

In a recent case, a Massachusetts judge denied an employer’s motion to dismiss a retaliation claim brought by the manager of a wine store who was fired after he demanded to be placed on the payroll for tax purposes. The manager had worked for the company for four months and did not want to be paid under the table. The employer refused and fired him shortly thereafter.

The judge noted that Massachusetts law recognizes a cause of action for employees who are fired for: (1) asserting a legally guaranteed right, like reporting tax withholdings; (2) doing what the law requires, like paying taxes; or (3) refusing to do something that the law forbids, like refusing to agree to being paid under the table.

The judge specifically ruled that the public policy doctrine protects employees who report violations of criminal law or who blow the whistle about an employer’s violation of the law. Ridden v. Savin Hill Enterprises.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464
617-969-2900

pam@pamsmithlaw.com

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