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Volume XII, Number 182

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Massachusetts Appeals Court Rejects Whistleblower’s Constructive Discharge Claim

Employees who resign from work, sue their employer, and assert “constructive discharge” shoulder a heavy burden to demonstrate that they had no choice but to resign. A recent decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Armato v. Town of Stoneham, shows just how heavy that burden is.

In Armato, the Appeals Court rejected an employee’s constructive discharge claim under the public employee whistleblower statute, M.G.L. c. 149, § 185, finding that a reasonable employee would not have felt compelled to resign under the circumstances. Like many decisions siding with the employer on such a claim, the court deemed the alleged retaliatory acts insufficiently severe, pervasive, or related to the alleged protected conduct. Notably, the court also “balanced” the allegedly retaliatory acts against the positive working relationship between the employee and his immediate supervisors, of whom he “thought pretty well” and who “treat[ed] him in a friendly manner” even after he engaged in the protected activity, and determined that such a working environment undermined a constructive discharge claim.

Although Armato involved a claim under the public employee whistleblower act, its reasoning applies to any constructive discharge claim under Massachusetts law. Thus, when defending such claims, employers should consider whether the broader context demonstrates that the employee’s overall working conditions were tolerable or potentially even favorable. To increase the likelihood that overall working conditions are sufficiently favorable to refute a constructive discharge claim, employers should adopt an effective anti-retaliation program that includes providing anti-retaliation training for managers. Employers should also document decisions affecting an employee’s terms and conditions of employment so that they can establish that the employee’s work environment does not support a constructive discharge claim.

©2022 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 130
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About this Author

Greg Keating Employment Litigator Epstein Becker Green Law Firm
Member

Greg Keating’s top-notch skills in and out of the courtroom have won him the respect of employers. He is both a trusted advisor on a panoply of employment issues and a much sought-after whistleblower defense attorney. Greg also defends employers in a wide range of other employment disputes. He draws on more than 25 years of experience as a litigator and employment lawyer to help clients successively resolve their workplace issues.

Trusted Advisor

Employers seek Greg’s daily advice on every type of employment issue. He also regularly advises a substantial...

617-603-1080
Francesco DeLuca Labor Employment Attorney Epstein Becker Law Firm Boston
Senior Counsel

Resolving labor and employment disputes is at the heart of Fran DeLuca’s practice. Employers in the financial services, technology, health care, life sciences, and manufacturing industries rely on Fran to represent them in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies in a wide array of disputes, including cases involving sensitive allegations of discrimination and harassment, high-stakes wage and hour class actions, and unfair competition matters. Regardless of the type of case, Fran develops creative and practical litigation strategies to reduce or...

617-603-1082
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