Massachusetts Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws as they apply to the state of Massachusetts

A Summary of Massachusetts Whistleblower Laws

Employees in the state of Massachusetts can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason under the employment-at-will doctrine. However, the state also has statutory and common law protections that are used to protect employees who have suffered unlawful retaliation. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to cover specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation while common law protections are laws created by courts to cover areas that are not covered by the enacted laws.

This is a summary of Massachusetts Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Massachusetts

Common Law Protections

Massachusetts has a public policy that is recognized as a remedy to the employment-at-will doctrine. This means employees cannot be discharged for reasons that violate the state’s public policy. To determine if an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on constitutional and statutory provisions or prior judicial opinions. For example, an employee who gets fired for opposing discriminatory practices can be protected under the public policy after citing an anti-discrimination statute or law. Generally, Massachusetts considers many activities as protected activities, therefore protecting employees who suffer wrongful discharges for engaging in such activities. In the past, Massachusetts’s courts have protected employees who engaged in the following activities:

  • Co-operating in an investigation concerning the employer.
  • Exercising a right afforded by a statute or any other law.
  • Disclosing violations of a law.

Statutory Protections

Public Employees

Employers are not allowed to discharge, suspend, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing to a supervisor or public body a practice or policy by the employer that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation or one that poses a risk to the public’s health and safety or environment.
  • Providing information or testifying in a proceeding held by a public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into a practice or policy by the employer that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation or one that poses a risk to the public’s health and safety or environment.
  • Refusing to participate in a practice or policy that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation or one that poses a risk to the public’s health and safety or environment.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 185.

Age Discrimination

No employer is allowed to discharge an employee in retaliation for providing evidence concerning a complaint or testifying in a judicial proceeding related to age discrimination. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 24F.

Asbestos

It is against the law for employers to in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for filing a complaint or providing notice to the Department of Labor regarding the safety and health of workers who handle asbestos or materials containing asbestos. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 6D.

Abuse of Disabled Persons

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Filing a report concerning this statute with the Disabled Persons Protection Commission.
  • Testifying in a proceeding held by the Disabled Persons Protection Commission.
  • Providing information concerning the alleged abuse of a disabled person to the commission, secretary of health and human services, or any other department or agency under the executive office of health and human services.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 19C, § 11.

Discrimination

No person or employer is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against another person in retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices outlawed by this statute or filing a complaint, testifying, or participating in a proceeding under this statute. Under this statute, employers are prohibited from discriminating against their employees based on their race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, or ancestry. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4(4).

Hazardous Substances

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute.
  • Making a claim under this statute.
  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in any proceeding on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111F, § 13.

Abuse of Patients

No facility, home health agency, or hospice program is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Making a report concerning the abuse of patients.
  • Testifying in a proceeding related to the abuse and mistreatment of patients or residents or the misappropriation of property belonging to a resident or patient.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111, § 72G.

Abuse of Children

No employer is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Filing a report under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding concerning the abuse or neglect of children.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, § 51A.

Minimum Wage

It is illegal for employers to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint concerning violations of this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, § 19.

Wages and Hours Laws

Employers are not allowed to in any way penalize an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute to the attorney general or any other person.
  • Assisting the attorney general in an investigation related to this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testifying in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148A.

Wage Discrimination on the Basis of Sex

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute with the attorney general, employer, or any other person.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying in a proceeding under this statute.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 105B.

Workers’ Compensation

No employer is allowed to discharge, refuse to hire, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an inquiry or proceeding under this statute.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152, § 75B.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Massachusetts

To file a complaint under the discrimination statute, call the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination at (617) 994-6000.

For Filing a complaint under the hazardous substances statute, call the Massachusetts Department of Labor at(617) 626-7100.

To file a complaint under the wage and hours laws, call the Attorney General’s office at Call Contact the Attorney General’s Office at (617) 727-2200.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Massachusetts

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, lawsuits should be filed with the appropriate court within 3 years of the retaliation.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) within 300 days of the retaliation.

Hazardous Substances

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Department of Labor, Division of Occupational Safety within 180 days of the retaliatory action, or after learning of the retaliation. Employees are also required to send a copy of the verified complaint to the employer through certified mail at the time of filing with the Department of Labor.

Public Employees

A civil action under this statute should be filed within 2 years of the retaliation.

Wages and Hours Laws

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General. Employees can also file a lawsuit with the appropriate court 90 days after filing with the Attorney General but within 3 years of filing.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Massachusetts

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits.
  • Lost wages.
  • Litigation costs including reasonable attorney fees.

Age Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute by carrying out unlawful retaliation against employees may be liable for a fine ranging from $50 to $200.

Abuse of Disabled Persons

Persons who violate this statute by carrying out unlawful retaliation against employees may be liable for a fine not more than $1000 or be imprisoned for not more than 1 year or be punished by both jail term and fine. They may also be liable to the affected employee for treble damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Hazardous Substances

If the commissioner of labor determines that an employer has violated this statute, he or she may take remedial action such as issuing a cease or desist order or any other affirmative action to stop the violation.

Abuse of Patients

A facility, home health agency, or hospice program which carries out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for treble damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Abuse of Children

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for treble damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Minimum Wage

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for damages not less than the employee’s one month’s wages and not more than the employee’s two month’s wages and litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Public Employees

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits.
  • Three times the employee’s lost wages and benefits.
  • Litigation costs including reasonable attorney fees.

The court may also issue an injunction or a temporary restraining order.

Wage Discrimination on the Basis of Sex

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable for a fine of not more than $100.

Wages and Hours Laws

Employees who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be punished by a fine not exceeding $25,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year for a first offense, or by both imprisonment and fine. For a second willful offense, the employer may be punished by a fine not exceeding $50,000 or by imprisonment not exceeding 2 years, or by both imprisonment and fine.

More Massachusetts Laws

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