Can I Be Fired for Asserting My Rights to unpaid overtime? Unpaid wages? Unpaid commissions? Unreimbursed expenses?
The Answer is, No.
You cannot be fired for asserting your legal rights. Pursuant to the statute, if you are terminated for asserting your rights (even internally, to HR, or to a manager), this could give rise to another cause of action for the retaliatory firing. From a theoretical perspective, this is a positive, but employers regularly make work-life challenging in ways that fall short of termination for employees who assert their legal rights; we are cognizant of this difficult dynamic, and encourage employees to contact an attorney without delay to discuss in detail.
Even if the action you take to assert your rights is completely internal to your organization, and simply a complaint made directly to your employer, that action is protected action for which you cannot be terminated. See, Smith v. Winter Place, LLC 447 Mass. 363 (2006).
In order to establish a claim for retaliation the employee must show a few things: 1) that the employee was engaged in legally protected conduct; 2) that they suffered an “adverse employment action” (e.g. demotion, decrease in salary, being fired or actions intended to prevent the claim from being brought); and 3) establish a causal connection between the claim filed and the retaliatory action taken.
The larger point is, because employer’s recognize that complaining about unpaid overtime or any of the other compensation to which you are entitled is protected action — it’s possible to retain an attorney to help you navigate these waters and still retain your current job.