If an employee has been terminated in retaliation for complaining about an unlawful act, or for refusing to conduct some unlawful conduct, then an employee may maintain a claim for retaliation in violation of public policy.
Employment in Massachusetts is presumed to be on an at-will basis unless otherwise arranged between the employer and the employee. A notable exception, however, is when the employee’s termination would violate a public policy. Therefore, the question in such cases is “whether a well-established public policy is served by denying the employer the right freely to discharge an employee for engaging in particular conduct.
The critical inquiry in a public policy case is not whether the conduct complained of by the employee actually offended public policy or violated a statute; but rather, whether the employee had a good faith belief relative to the same. Even internal reporting (i.e. to a corporate superior) will suffice in a public policy case. What is more, redress is available for employees who are retaliated against for asserting a legally protected guaranteed right such as filing workers’ compensation claim, for doing what the law requires or for refusing to do that which the law forbids such as committing perjury.
To state her claim for retaliation in violation of public policy, an employee must demonstrate that: (1) she expressed concern relative to a matter of public policy; (2) she suffered adverse action; and (3) a causal relation exists between her protected activity and the adverse action.
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