Posted by:Ann Cascanett
Many people that have been fired from a position do not understand why they were fired when they have been good employees. What most people do not understand is that in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, most employees are considered at-will. Essentially, this means employers have the right to fire you or let you go even if you were a good employee. Very few employees are hired pursuant to a contract. One is usually a contract employee if you have a contract that dictates a period of employment and rate of pay for said period.
As a result, an at-will employee generally only has an ability to sue for wrongful termination if he/she is discriminated against. In some instances, an employee may have a cause of action if the employer has violated its own policies of employment. This is usually dictated by the handbook.
If you feel you have been wronged in your termination or separation from your employment, there are steps that you should take to protect your interests. First, it is prudent to consult with an employment lawyer prior to signing any severance agreement or release of any kind, as you are likely waiving any right to sue upon signing it. Your employment attorney can also make sure you are receiving the best severance possible. Secondly, you should request a copy of your employment file and, if necessary, place a response in your file. Lastly, you should make sure you obtain a copy of the employee handbook that existed at the time of your hire and the handbook in place at the time of termination.
Discrimination laws only allow individuals 300 days to file a claim, so time is of the essence in gathering your materials and consulting with an employment attorney. Lastly, if you plan to file for unemployment benefits following your employment separation, it would be prudent to consult with an employment attorney, who can assist in an appeal of a denial of benefits in the event that your claim is denied. One generally has only 10 days to request a hearing following the denial of benefits.