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Massachusetts law about employment termination

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on firing employees or getting fired in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents


Massachusetts laws

MGL c.149, § 148 
Payment of Wages. In most circumstances, if you are fired you should be paid in full on your last day.

"any employee discharged from such employment shall be paid in full on the day of his discharge..."

Selected case law

Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, 477 Mass. 456 (2017)
An employee who has been fired for using medical marijuana off-site, and not before or during work, may sue her employer for handicap discrimination.

Brookline v. Alston, 487 Mass. 278 (2021)
"The Civil Service Commission, in the context of its analysis whether a tenured firefighter was fired without just cause in violation of basic merit principles, could consider evidence of discriminatory or retaliatory conduct more typically addressed in the context of a claim under G. L. c. 151B."

Electronic Data Systems Corp. v. Attorney General & another, 454 Mass. 63 (2009)
"The Wage Act requires that an employer pay an employee for unused vacation time remaining at the time of the employee's involuntary discharge..."

Lawless v. Steward Health Care System, LLC, 894 F.3d 9 (1st Cir. 2018)
The Wage Act, MGL c.149, § 148, "says what it means and means what it says... An employee who does not receive her due wages by [the day of her discharge] - even an employee who is paid in full a day later - suffers a cognizable injury within the purview of the statute." 

Meehan v. Medical Information Technology, Inc., 99 Mass. App. Ct. 95 (2021)
An employee at will can be fired for exercising their right to file a rebuttal to a performance improvement plan (PIP) under GL c.149, § 52C.

Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority, 478 Mass. 710 (2018)
Accrued, unused sick time does not count as "wages" under the Wage Act, G. L. c. 149, §§ 148, 150.

Web sources

Can an employee be fired for no reason?, Archived from Boston Globe, 2005

Although it seems almost impossible to believe, employers in Massachusetts, or in any other employee-at-will state, can fire any employee at any time for any reason — or even for no reason at all. An employer can terminate any employee, with or without notice.

Exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, Robert S. Mantell, 2016
"The at-will employment doctrine, that an employee can be terminated for any reason or for no reason, is a doctrine whose validity is dwarfed by its numerous exceptions." This article lists those exceptions with references to Mass. General Laws and relevant cases.

Print sources

Employee discharge and documentation, Lorman Education Services, 2008

Hiring and firing in Massachusetts, by John F. Adkins, MCLE, c2007

Human resource law from A to Z, NBI, 2019

Human resource law: what you need to know now, NBI, 2015

Labor and employment in Massachusetts, Jeffrey L. Hirsch, LexisNexis, loose-leaf
Chapter 18: Termination of Employment

Practical tips for negotiating and settling an employment case, MCLE, 2009

Representing a plaintiff in a wrongful termination case, MCLE, 2018
1. Interviewing the client -- 2. Evaluating claims and damages -- 3. Anticipating employer defenses -- 4. Counseling the client on strategy options -- 5. Litigating the claim -- 6. Trying the case.

Wrongful termination and exceptions to employment at-will, MCLE, 2007.
1: Preserving the at-will employment doctrine, 2: Exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, 3: Defamation in employment, 4: Recent wrongful termination cases in Massachusetts, 5: Damages, 6: Wrongful termination and tort claims.



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: May 14, 2021