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Introduction

The Labor and Employment Section of the Boston Bar Association, working in a

bipartisan group of lawyers representing both management and employees, has prepared this

Guide to assist employers and employees in understanding their rights and obligations in the

workplace. It is an overview of the most common issues that arise – it does not address

every issue. Part I sets out laws that affect the workplace, which establish legal rights and

obligations. Part II provides guidance through the complex world of the employment

relationship from hiring through termination and beyond. THIS GUIDE IS NOT

INTENDED TO BE, NOR IS IT A SUBSTITUTE FOR, LEGAL ADVICE FROM

COMPETENT EMPLOYMENT COUNSEL. It cannot address the myriad details

involved in most employment matters. These details should be addressed with employment

counsel.

Part I: Laws Affecting the Workplace

To manage effectively and in compliance with the law, employers and managers need

to understand the legal landscape in which they operate. In Massachusetts (and in most other

states), the general rule is that employment is “at will.” This means that either the employer

or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, without notice or

cause. It also means that the employer generally can modify the terms and conditions of the

employment at any time, without notice or cause. However, this “at-will” rule is subject to

exceptions that may result from statutes, by contract, or by common law (i.e., laws developed

in the courts). This Guide briefly discusses these laws. Our intention is to provide

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