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Massachusetts employer alert: termination for submitting personnel file rebuttal violates public policy

1/3/22

By: Jennifer Markowski and R. Victoria Fuller

On December 17, 2021 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held in Meehan v. Medical Information Technology, Inc. that the termination of an employee for submitting a rebuttal for inclusion in the employee’s personnel file violated public policy and amounted to wrongful discharge. Pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 149, § 52C, Massachusetts employees have a statutory right to submit a rebuttal to any record contained within the personnel file with which he or she disagrees. The statute provides for fines for a violation and enforcement by the Attorney General. It does not expressly authorize a private cause of action. Massachusetts, however, has long recognized a cause of action for an employee whose termination occurs under circumstances that violate public policy. The Court ultimately concluded that the statutory right to submit a rebuttal was sufficiently important to bring it within the protection of the public policy doctrine. In other words, an employer who terminates an employee because the employee submits a rebuttal risks suit for wrongful discharge.

Should you have any questions about this important decision do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Markowski at [email protected], Victoria Fuller at [email protected], or your FMG attorney.