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RobertJDFL, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 13636
Experience:  Experienced in multiple areas of the law.
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Hi, my mother was told by her direct manager about a year ago

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Hi, my mother was told by her direct manager about a year ago that he "will not tolerate going behind his back to his own manager to complain and he will not tolerate going to Human Resources either" and that "there will be serious consequences" by doing so. There are witnesses to that conversation. The manager has a problem with my mother's performance on the job but he is going about it in also unfair way: he filed a written warning against her claiming she said something she never did. Again, there were witnesses there and they can clearly contradict the exact words that the manager quoted in his written warning. He just made them up. Not only he is a liar he also threatens people which appears to be illegal conduct.

My mother is almost 60 years old and she is afraid she will be let go soon. It is clear that the manager wont rest until he wins.

Did the manager do anything illegal? My mother is requesting a transfer to another department. If this transfer is refused and few months down the road she is terminated, is there a legal case here?

Thank you for your question.

Massachusetts is, as you may know, an at will employment state. This means that unless an employee has an employment contract or union agreement (which may provide them additional on the job protections) an employee may be terminated at any time, for any reason, with or without cause - an employer does not need a reason to terminate an employee. There is no law that says an employer has to be nice, or tell the truth, or that they cannot make statements such as "I will not tolerate you complaining to my boss about me behind my back" because, realistically, if an employer wants to terminate an employee just because - they can.

That said, there are a couple of exceptions. An employer cannot terminate an employee for an unlawful reason - such as their age, sex, disability, religion, race or national origin. You mention your mother is 60, and I don't know if there has been any indication that she is treated differently than younger employees or singled out because of age - but certainly if she can demonstrate that her age is making her a target, that could be grounds for a potential lawsuit.

An employer also cannot terminate an employee due to public policy reasons. Examples of public policy would be things like an employee terminated because they voted (which is a legal right), or because they refuse to do something illegal (like file false tax returns) and are then terminated.

Outside of these limited exceptions, however, employers do have a lot of power, and the ability to terminate at will employees with or without cause.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.



Got it. One more follow-up question: what about the manager saying that he will not tolerate my mother going to HR to complain and that there "will be serious consequences" if she does? Is that legal as well?


This manager has pushed out another team member into early retirement before. There is a younger (20s) employee on his team who seems to be getting somewhat preferential treatment but it would be hard to prove that, I'm sure.


Thanks again



That's actually not unlawful, actually. Outside of the limited protections of the law previously mentioned, at will employees (and that's pretty much everyone) are in a tough position because they can be terminated with or without cause. Obviously, he can't stop your mother from complaining, but because it doesn't fall into one of those limited exceptions, if she did complain and he terminated her, it goes back to the fact that she's an at will employee.

The fact is, he could decide tomorrow that he wants to terminate her and do for absolutely no reason at all - just because - and it would be perfectly legal. It's awful, and horribly unfair in my opinion - my not illegal.
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