SW Legal Educational Publishing

No Law Against Demanding Parent/Employees Work Long Hours
Description Single mother was told her work hours would be normal, but they were soon extended into the evening and weekend. She was fired for refusing to work extra time. Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts holds that no public policy exceptions to employment-at-will protects employees in such situations. (Updated 10-3-97)
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Employment-at-Will, Public Policy Exceptions
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Upton is a single mother who supports herself and young son by her employment. When hired by JWB, she was told that her work hours normally would be 8:15 AM to 5:30 PM. The hours kept getting longer until she was told she would normally work until 9 or 10 PM and all day Saturday. She explained that she would not work such long hours because of the need to care for her son. She was fired two weeks later and sued for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Summary judgment for JWB. Upton appealed.
Decision Affirmed. There was no contract promising the working hours Upton preferred, she was only told those were expected to be the hours. As work changed, the requirements of her job changed. "There is no clearly established public policy which requires employers to refrain from demanding that their adult employees work long hours." "The public policy exception makes redress available to employees who are terminated for asserting a legal right (e.g., filing a workers' compensation claim), for doing what the law requires (e.g., serving on a jury), or for refusing to disobey the law (e.g., refusing to commit perjury)."
Citation Upton v. JWB Businessland, 425 Mass. 756 (Sup. Jud. Ct., Mass., 1997)

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