On June 26, 2014, Inga Bernstein and Emma Quinn-Judge filed an application for leave to obtain further appellate review with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) from the decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court in Kiely v. Teradyne. The cases raises two important questions concerning the application of the state antidiscrimination statute, G.L. c. 151B, and has significant implications for workers who seek to vindicate their rights to workplaces free of discrimination and retaliation.
First, is a plaintiff entitled to attorney’s fees under G.L. c. 151B, § 9, where a jury finds liability for discrimination or retaliation? The Appeals Court concluded that the statute requires a showing of “harm” or “actual damage or loss” before a plaintiff may recover fees and that a jury finding of discrimination or retaliation was not sufficient to show such harm. In her application for further appellate review, Kiely argues that the Appeals Court decision misreads the language of c. 151B and fundamentally undercuts the statute, by failing to recognize that discrimination and retaliation are inherently harmful, both to the individual and to the public at large.
Second, when is a plaintiff in a retaliation case entitled to punitive damages? The SJC articulated a new standard for punitive damages in discrimination cases in Haddad v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 455 Mass. 91, 110 (2009), but no published decision has yet applied that standard to a retaliation case, and Kiely argues that the SJC should grant further appellate review to clarify how the Haddad standard should be modified when applied to a retaliation claim.
The Massachusetts Chapter of National Employment Lawyers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods submitted a letter in support of Kiely’s application for further appellate review.