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Retaliation/Whistleblower

Retaliation/Whistleblower

Laws that protect job applicants and employees from discrimination, sexual harassment, wage and hour violations, and other employment-related claims, also protect against retaliation, or “blowing the whistle.” That means employers cannot punish employees for making complaints of discrimination or other legally protected complaints or participating in workplace investigations.   It may be illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for doing things that he or she is entitled to do, such as filing a claim for workers compensation, taking a medical leave, serving on a jury, and many other things. Similarly, it may be unlawful for an employer to retaliate based on an employee’s internal or external complaints about unsafe conditions or illegal conduct occurring at the employer.

Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, or job or shift reassignment. But retaliation can also be more subtle. As long as the employer’s adverse action would deter a reasonable person in the situation from making a complaint, it constitutes illegal retaliation.

Statutory Anti-Retaliation/Whistleblower Protections

Age Discrimination: An employee may not be discharged in retaliation for providing information in connection with a complaint or testifying in a judicial proceeding concerning age discrimination. An employer may be fined between $50 – $200 per violation. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 24F.

Asbestos: An employee may not be penalized in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Department of Labor concerning the health and safety of workers who handle asbestos. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 6D.

Disabled Persons – Abuse: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for filing a report with the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, testifying in a commission proceeding, or providing information to the commission concerning the alleged abuse of a disabled person. Employers may be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to one year. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 19C, § 11.

Discrimination: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for exercising a right under Massachusetts’ laws against unlawful discrimination. Massachusetts prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, or ancestry. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4(4).

Hazardous Substances: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for exercising a right, making a claim, filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying at a proceeding concerning a violation of the state’s hazardous substances laws. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111F, § 13.

Medical Profession – Abuse of Patients/Residents: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for making a report or testifying in a proceeding concerning the abuse, mistreatment, or neglect of a patient/resident or the misappropriation of the patient’s property. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111, § 72G.

Medical Profession & Others – Abuse of Children: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for making a report or testifying in a proceeding concerning child abuse or neglect. Medical professionals and other persons (such as teachers, day care workers, and family counselors) are required by law to report cases of injury, abuse, or neglect to children. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, § 51A.

Minimum Wage: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for making a complaint or testifying in a proceeding concerning minimum wage laws. An employee may be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to a year for a first offense, if done willfully. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, § 19.

Public Employees: An employee of the Massachusetts State government may not be retaliated against for reporting a violation of law or a threat to public health and safety, or to the environment. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 185.

Wage Discrimination on the Basis of Sex (Equal Pay): An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying at a proceeding concerning violations of the state’s equal pay laws. These laws prohibit discriminatory wage rates on the basis of sex. An employer may be fined up to $100 per violation. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 105B.

Wages and Hours Laws: An employee may not be penalized in retaliation for filing a complaint, assisting in an investigation, instituting a proceeding, or testifying at a proceeding concerning violations of Massachusetts’ Wages and Hours Laws. An employee may be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to a year for a first offense, if done willfully. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148A.

Workers’ Compensation: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for exercising workers’ compensation rights or for cooperating with a workers’ compensation proceeding. This provision also protects employees who may be discriminated against by future employers (in the hiring process) as well. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152, § 75B.

Other Protections
In addition to the above Massachusetts statutory protections, federal law provides workers with additional protections. Furthermore, a private contract or collective bargaining agreement may also protect employees from certain forms of retaliation.