Rights of Laid Off and Fired Employees in Massachusetts

What rights, if any, do employees (non-union) have when they are laid off or fired from their jobs?  First, Massachusetts law requires that the employer give laid off and fired employees all wages owed.  If the company lets the employee go, the employee must be paid on his or her last day,  not during the next pay cycle.  If the employee gives notice,  the company can wait until pay checks are cut or direct deposited during the normal course.

Laid off and fired employees are entitled to all vacation time that has accrued but that has not been used.  Vacation time that has been earned is considered salary in Massachusetts and must be paid out when the employee is let go, not on some future date.  Many companies these days have “lose it or use it” policies around vacation,  so at the end of the calendar year,  if the employee hasn’t used all of the accrued vacation days,  the employee loses the time.  In this way companies can legally limit how much vacation time must be paid out when the employee leaves the company.

Before laid off and fired employees leave the company, they must be given a brochure on how to file for unemployment benefits in Masschusetts.  The company must also notifiy the employee of rights to continue health insurance coverage.  This is typically done after the employee leaves, when the employer or a benefits provider sends out a “COBRA notice”  which provides information to the employee about their rights to continue their health insurance coverage.

Depending upon an employee’s individual situation, he or she may have additional rights or obligations.  Employment contracts, employee handbooks or other documents signed, such as non-solicitation agreement, non-competition agreements or confidentiality agreements may provide for either additional rights or obligations on the part of the employee.  Employees who have been laid off or fired from their jobs should take into consideration any documents or contracts they have signed before, during or after their employment.  Again, depending upon the situation, an employee or his or her attorney may be able to negotiate for additional benefits upon leaving a position, which may include severance pay.

Please keep in mind that there are very short time frames for filing claims.  For instance, Massachusetts has a 300 day statute of limitations for discrimination and sexual harassment claims.  An employment lawyer can advise you on whether you have any claims and the time frame for filing.  If you believe that you have a wrongful termination claim or you have been subjected to a hostile environment at work, you shouldn’t wait to contact an attorney.

Individual situations vary and if you need employment advice, please  call Boston, Massachusetts employment lawyer Maura Greene at 617-936-1580 or contact us at Maura@mauragreenelaw.com. We look forward to speaking with you!  Maura Greene has been rated AV by Martindale Hubbell, which is the highest rating an individual lawyer can achieve.  She has been selected to the list of Super Lawyers in employment in 2018, 2017,2016,2015 and 2014.  She has been quoted in the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.