Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds Willful Misconduct of Supervisor, Affirms Award of Double Compensation

In a recent workers’ compensation case involving supervisor misconduct, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals affirmed a decision of the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents awarding double compensation benefits pursuant to § 28 of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. The court agreed with the board’s finding that the employee had been injured by the serious and willful misconduct of a supervisor employed by the company, which warranted double compensation under § 28.

The employee in In re Svenson’s Case had been working in the radiography department of a manufacturing facility as a Level I X-ray technician. A Level II inspector, responsible for quality control of the employee’s X-rays, had an issue with the employee’s X-rays. They discussed the matter with their Level III supervisor, who stated that the X-ray was fine. Afterward, the employee went to the inspector’s office and asked what specifically was wrong with the X-ray so that he could better understand the problem. This started an argument, and the inspector grabbed the employee by the shirt and shoved him into a wall. He started punching the employee and threw him to the ground, where the employee hit his head on the concrete floor. The inspector continued choking and punching the employee until a union steward came and pulled him off. The inspector resigned, and the employee’s record was expunged of the incident after an investigation. The employee was subsequently diagnosed with major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.

The employee was eventually awarded workers’ compensation benefits and added a claim for double compensation under § 28. Pursuant to § 28, if an employee is injured by reason of the serious and willful misconduct of an employer or of any person regularly entrusted with and exercising the powers of superintendence, the amounts of compensation provided by the Act shall be doubled. Generally, such a person will have the power of direction or oversight, tending to control others and to vary their situation or action because of his direction. On appeal, the only issue argued by the employer was whether the inspector met the requirements of exercising supervisory powers under § 28.

The administrative judge credited the testimony of two other employees, who stated that the inspector was not merely a quality control inspector but was regularly entrusted with supervision of the injured employee. In addition, the company’s written practice and procedure manual included a supervisory hierarchy that put the inspector over the employee. As a result, the court was satisfied that the administrative judge reasonably could conclude that the inspector exercised supervisory authority over the employee. The court thus affirmed the award of double compensation under § 28.

Obtaining the services of a qualified attorney after your workplace accident can be advantageous in understanding your rights. The Massachusetts attorneys at Pulgini & Norton provide experienced and diligent legal representation for clients pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. To discuss your claim with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online and schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Court Affirms Benefits After Workplace Incidents Trigger Employee’s PTSD, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published July 22, 2015

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules Against Injured Worker, Discontinues Temporary Total Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published July 29, 2015


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