Employers are supposed to follow a large number of rules created by the Massachusetts legislature, the U.S. Congress, government agencies (such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and the courts. These rules allow employers to discipline or fire workers, as long as the reason for the action is not illegal.
What this means is that employers do NOT necessarily have to treat workers fairly. For example, if your boss fires you because she wants to hire one of her family members to do your job, that is not illegal in most situations (special rules apply for union members, government employees, and employees with contracts).
What IS illegal is for employers to treat you differently and worse because of characteristics the law has “protected,” including your race; color; age (if you are over 40); sex; pregnancy; national origin; ancestry; religion; disability; genetics; sexual orientation; or gender identity or expression.
And, with some exceptions, employers may not ask applicants or employees to furnish certain criminal information, and may not take an adverse employment action against an applicant or employee because of criminal history information the employer has obtained unlawfully.
Usually, it is also illegal for employers to treat you differently and worse because you have done something that the law gives you the right to do, like complaining about discrimination, filing a claim for workers’ compensation, or requesting a leave. Because the rules about firing can get complicated, you should talk to a lawyer if at all possible, as soon as possible.
For more information about pursuing a claim of discrimination, click here.