Verdrager v. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C.Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, an attorney who worked for the defendant Boston law firm, 2004-2008, complained to her superiors and, later, to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, that she was being subjected to discriminatory treatment on the basis of her gender. After her 2007 demotion, on the advice of her attorney, the plaintiff searched the firm's document management system for items that might prove her assertions of discrimination. After these searches were made known to the firm's chairman, the plaintiff's employment was terminated "for cause." Her suit under G. L. c. 151B, sect. 4 alleged gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, aiding and abetting discrimination, failure to investigate and remedy discrimination, and retaliation. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed dismissal of her claims, in part. Plaintiff presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that both her demotion and her termination were the result of unlawful discrimination, as well as evidence allowing an inference that both were the result of retaliation, so that summary judgment was inappropriate. An employee's accessing, copying, and forwarding of documents may, in certain limited circumstances, constitute "protected activity," but only where her actions are reasonable in the totality of the circumstances.