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Fired in Massachusetts

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  • Fired in Massachusetts

    My apologies if this issue has been raised before... I tried to read as many threads as I could prior to posting. I am a salaried employee who was told by my manager that someone at work raised sexual harassment allegations against me. My employer apparently conducted an investigation. I was only asked "is there anything that we should know?" While I vehemently denied any wrongdoing, my employer refused to show me any evidence against me or disclose the name of the accuser. By the way, I have since found out that my employer does not have to disclose that information to me because protecting the accuser against retaliation outweights my rights... or so I'm told. I was told two weeks after the investigation was launched to hand over my access badge <access key to the front door> and to write a statement regarding anything I may know regarding these allegations. I told them that I wanted to consult an attorney first, they said OK. An attorney advised me not to make any statements whatsoever and I told my employer. I never heard from them again. Here are my questions:

    1. Any possibility that I may have a valid U/I claim?

    2. Does the employer have to tell me that I'm terminated? Or, is the act of asking me for my badge constitute a termination?

    3. I earned my bonus ($2000) for the quarter that ended in May... usually payable 6 weeks after. And of course, they did not pay it. Do the have to?

    3. Is there any way that I can find out what the allegations are against me? Do I have any possible grounds for a lawsuit? At the end of the day, I want a fair opportunity to clear my name.

    4. Literally all my ex co-workers are saying that I was fired for sexual harassment - can they do that and get away with it? Isn't that defamation?

    5. Can the employer that fired me disclose derrogatory information (that I was unable to defend) about me to future employers?

    This has been a horrible experience... Right now, I want some educated opinions as to whether it is worth for me to spend money (my emergency savings) on an attorney to pursue this any further or am I out of luck?

  • #2
    1.) It is possible. But only the state can give you a definite yes or no. It costs nothing to file and there is no penalty for being wrong.

    2.) No, strangely enough, no law requires them to tell you, you are fired. (I don't like to use the word terminated in these circumstances because any time you leave employment, that's a termination; a quit is a voluntary termination.)

    3.) That depends on the terms of the bonus agreement.

    3a.) You have the right, in MA, to ask to see a copy of your personnel file. However, there is no guarantee that the information you want is in your file. The employer is not legally obligated to provide you with the specifics of the allegations or to tell you who made them. You do not have a cause of legal action against the employer unless you have a VALID reason to believe that they deliberately falsified a claim against you as a pretext so that they could fire you for an illegal reason. Note that I include this for accuracy's sake but nothing in your post even remotely suggests that it is the case. IF you are able to somehow determine the name of your accuser AND IF you have a VALID reason to believe that she deliberately falsified her charges (as opposed to honestly, even if mistakenly, believing that what she said was true) then MAYBE you would have a cause of action against her. But the laws are heavily weighted in favor of offering protection to those who believe themselves to be sexually harassed so as to encourage victims to speak up.

    4.) No, it's not defamation. You WERE fired because you were accused of sexual harassment.

    5.) They may release information that is true or that they have a valid reason to believe it true. The law does not limit them to positive or neutral information.

    No doubt Phil will be by later and may have some additional information for you.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      I would encourage you to file an unemployment claim immediately. Your employer will get notice that you filed and should respond with reasons for your separation.

      I think they could argue that your refusal to provide a statement constituted a voluntary separation, although I think it is a far-fetched and unreasonable argument. Moreover, I would be shocked if the DUA bought it. Therefore, it would be considered a discharge and the burden would be upon them to prove misconduct, ie, prove that you sexually harassed the co-worker.

      In other words, it may provide you some answers to the who, what, where, when and how questions to which you seek answers. Moreover, if this matter went to hearing you could subpoena such information as it would clearly be relevant. But, please be advised that the DUA does not have subpoena power, therefore could not compel the employer to comply. Rather, you would have to seek a continuance of your DUA hearing in order to go to District Court and seek enforcement.

      In other words, the unemployment claim/hearing may afford you some "discovery."
      Last edited by rjc; 07-18-2006, 03:18 PM.


      • #4
        BTW, since I don't think I made it clear, I agree with rjc. By all means apply. The worst that can happen is that you're turned down and he's right; you might get some additional info that way.
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


        • #5
          Thank you all for your quick responses. Much appreciated.