General Laws of Massachusetts - Chapter 111L Biotechnology - Section 7 Refusal to conduct embryonic stem cell research by employee; retaliation prohibited; enforcement; notice of rights under chapter

Section 7. (a) No employee shall be required to conduct scientific research, experimentation or study that involves the creation or use of pre-implantation embryos in relation to human embryonic stem cell research to the extent that such research conflicts with the sincerely-held religious practices or beliefs of the employee.

(b) An institution conducting research pursuant to this chapter, or an institution or person with whom an institution conducting research pursuant to this chapter has a contractual relationship, shall not take any retaliatory action against its employee because the employee:

(i) discloses or threatens to disclose to a manager or a public body an activity, policy or practice of the institution conducting research pursuant to this chapter, or of another institution conducting such research with whom the employee’s institution has a contractual relationship, that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of this chapter; or

(ii) objects to, or refuses to participate in, any activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of this chapter.

(c) The protection against retaliatory action shall not apply to the public disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, trade secrets or other confidential materials unless such confidential disclosure is made by the employee directly to and exclusively with the office of the attorney general or the department. The department shall not publicly disclose any such confidential information but shall submit the information to the attorney general forthwith.

(d) Any employee aggrieved by a violation of this section may, within 2 years, file a complaint with the attorney general, who may bring an action in the name of the commonwealth against the institution alleged to have violated this section. Within 90 days of receiving a complaint, the attorney general shall notify the complainant in writing as to whether he intends to bring an action in the name of the commonwealth. If the attorney general declines to bring an action based on the complaint filed, the aggrieved employee may, within 1 year, institute a civil action in the superior court. A party to that action may claim a jury trial. All remedies available in common law tort actions shall be available to prevailing plaintiffs. These remedies are in addition to any legal or equitable relief provided in this chapter. The court may: (i) issue temporary restraining orders or preliminary or permanent injunctions to restrain continued violation of this section; (ii) reinstate the employee to the same position held before the retaliatory action, or to an equivalent position; (iii) reinstate full fringe benefits and seniority rights to the employee; (iv) compensate the employee for 3 times the lost wages, benefits and other remuneration, and interest thereon; and (v) order payment by the institution of reasonable costs, and attorneys’ fees.

(e) In any action brought by an employee under subsection (d), if the court finds the action was without basis in law or in fact, the court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs to the institution.

(f) An employee shall not be assessed attorneys’ fees under subsection (e) if the employee moves to dismiss the action against the institution or files for a dismissal, within a reasonable time after determining that the institution would not be found liable for damages.

(g) Nothing in this section shall diminish the rights, privileges or remedies of any employee under any other federal or state law or regulation, or under any collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, but the institution of a private action in accordance with subsection (d) shall be deemed a waiver by the plaintiff of the rights and remedies available to him, for the actions of the institution, under any other contract, collective bargaining agreement, state law, rule or regulation or under the common law.

(h) An institution shall publicly display notices reasonably designed to inform its employees of their protection and obligations under this section, and use other appropriate means to keep its employees so informed. Each notice posted pursuant to this subsection shall include the name of the person who has been designated by the institution to receive written notification of a suspected violation of this chapter.

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Last modified: September 11, 2015