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2013 In Review: Noteworthy Massachusetts Cases Involving Claims Under G.L. c. 151B

Barbara A. Robb, Esq.
Michelle De Oliveira, Esq.
Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon LLP

Supreme Judicial Court

Flagg v. AliMed, Inc., 466 Mass. 23 (2013).

The Supreme Judicial Court, in the circumstances of this case, determined that G.L. c. 151B, § 4(16) prohibits associational discrimination based on handicap.

The allegations of the complaint were as follows. Plaintiff was an eighteen-year employee with good performance reviews. On December 7, 2007, plaintiff’s spouse underwent surgery for a brain tumor, and thereafter required rehabilitative care. As a result, plaintiff became responsible for his children’s care, and on occasion had to pick up his daughter from school and was absent from work for approximately 25 minutes on such afternoons. Plaintiff did this on various days between December 27, 2007 and January 15, 2008, and would not punch out and back into work on such occasions. Plaintiff’s manager was fully aware of this, and did not say anything to plaintiff about it; rather, plaintiff’s manager told him to take as much time as he needed to care for his family. On February 4, 2008, AliMed terminated plaintiff proffering as its reason the fact that it had been paying plaintiff for time he had not worked. Plaintiff asserted that this reason was false, and that the real reason he was terminated was that his wife had a very serious and expensive medical condition rendering her totally disabled, and for which AliMed, through its medical plan, was financially responsible. The termination occurred at a time when plaintiff’s wife was in the hospital again due to the recurrence of the brain tumor. The termination resulted in immediate termination of plaintiff’s health insurance.

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