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Claims of unfair treatment and discrimination are fairly common in the work force. Such claims are generally not legally viable unless the (a) conduct violates a contract or enforceable provision of an employment manual; (b) conduct violates a statutorily protected right such as the minimum wage laws, etc.; or (c) the discriminatory conduct is motivated by or aimed at a person because of their membership in a protected class (i.e., race, gender, parents, pregnancy, etc.) and it effects the conditions and terms of their employment. There may be other causes of action available to an employee for mistreatment depending upon the actual conduct, but those would need assessment on a case by case basis.

Many at will employees believe that if a boss treats them unfairly or the work place is hostile, then they are being discriminated against. Again, most at will employees can generally be mistreated or terminated for any reason notwithstanding the above exceptions. The courts favor an employer’s right to hire whom it pleases and to terminate those who don’t fit in even if the reasons are not necessarily articulable or performance based. If the reason for termination or mistreatment appears to be pretext for what might actually be discriminatory motivated conduct (again, discrimination must be tied to a person’s membership in a protected class), then an employer may very well be liable.

In Massachusetts,discriminatory behavior by an employer can result in punitive damages and the employer paying attorney’s fees. See M.G.L. c. 151B and the MCAD Regulations. The process can, therefore, be expensive and warrants resolving the issues quickly to cure the problem and avoid work place disruption. Please refer to the resource page for additional materials and cites.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website does not constitute legal advice nor should it be relied upon in making any legal decisions. You should always consult with a lawyer directly to determine what your legal rights are. This web site and its content is not a substitute for direct legal advice from a lawyer.

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