Employment Law Case of the Week

In the case of Osborne-Trussell v. Children's Hospital Corporation, __ Mass. __ (2021), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a nurse whose employment was terminated prior to her start date after disclosing to her employer that her abuser had violated the terms of a harassment prevention order could pursue a claim against her prospective employer for violation of the Massachusetts Domestic Violence and Abuse Leave Act's (M.G.L.c. 149, s. 52E) anti-retaliation and non-interference provisions. The SJC ruled that the plaintiff asserted a viable claim under the Act despite the fact that the plaintiff had not formally requested leave under the Act. It also ruled that the plaintiff was an "employee" for the purposes of the Act. The SJC reasoned that the Act is a remedial statute and, as such, should be liberally construed. The SJC went on to hold that to state a claim for retaliation under the Act an employee must allege that (1) the employee availed herself of a protected right under the Act; (2) the employee was adversely affected by an employment decision; and (3) there is a causal connection between the employee's protected activity and the employer's adverse action. As to the first element, the SJC found that the plaintiff's disclosure to the hospital that her abuser had violated the harassment prevention order and that she was cooperating with law enforcement was enough to put the hospital on notice that she might need to exercise the leave provisions of the Act.

Updated on August 31, 2021.