In a precedent-setting decision, a Massachusetts Superior Court recognized that a domestic violence victim can sue her employer if she is fired because of an absence from work to ensure her safety. The case is Apessos v. Memorial Press Group, No. 01-1474-A, 2002 Mass. Super. LEXIS 404 (Mass. Super. Ct. Sep. 30, 2002).

According to the plaintiff, Sophia Apessos, she was assaulted by her husband on a Saturday in July 2000. She called the police, who arrested her husband. She then left a message for her employer, saying she would have to miss work that Monday to go to court for a protective order.

That Monday, she went to court and, as the police suggested, got her locks changed. She spoke that day to her supervisor, and said she would be at work the next day. When she went to work Tuesday morning, she was fired.

NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, along with Hale & Dorr, is representing Apessos; who came to NOW Legal Defense through the organization's Employment Rights for Survivors of Abuse project.

NOW Legal Defense argued that Apessos' discharge was in violation of the public policy to provide judicial relief to victims of domestic violence, and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing between an employer and employee.

The Massachusetts Superior Court held that these were valid claims, permitting Ms. Apessos' case to go forward: "The public policy interests here are primal, not complex: the protection of a victim from physical and emotional violence; and the protection of a victim's livelihood. A victim should not have to seek physical safety at the cost of her employment."

This precedent will help not only women in Massachusetts, but also those in states that prohibit employers from discharging workers who simply seek to exercise their legal rights.

Visit for a discussion of NOW LDEF's successful decision in Apessos v. Memorial Press Group, including links to the decision itself, the complaint, the brief, and some of the press coverage.

(If you are a CAEPV Member, you can also find this information in the "Legal Updates" section of the Member Center on the CAEPV web site.)