SJC Rules Union Communications Not Protected: Chadwick v. Duxbury Pub. Sch.


Chadwick v. Duxbury Pub. Sch., 475 Mass. 645, 59 N.E.3d 1143 (2016) 

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on October 4, 2016, in favor of Pierce Davis & Perritano’s client when it declined to recognize that union members’ communications with their unions are protected by privilege in a civil case alleging employment discrimination. The case, Chadwick v. Duxbury was argued in May 2016.

PDP partner John Cloherty is presently defending the Town of Duxbury against a lawsuit by one of its former high school teachers who asserts she was retaliated against based on a pre-existing disability of post-traumatic stress disorder.  The plaintiff, who also served as a president of the teachers union, refused to respond to discovery requests for her relevant communications with other union members or representatives.

In this case of first impression, the SJC ruled that union communications in civil litigation are not protected under Massachusetts’ collective bargaining statutes or common law. The SJC rejected this retired public school teacher’s efforts to protect her communications with her union from discovery in an employment discrimination case.

Commenting on the broader consequences of this case, attorney John Cloherty said, “Massachusetts is a leading jurisdiction for employment law. I think other jurisdictions will look to Massachusetts to set the tone for whether a privilege should be recognized.”  This case has been heavily covered by the media and reported in publication including, Law360, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and The Patriot Ledger.

Read more about this case in Developments in Municipal Law Fall 2016 Newsletter on

Watch a video of the oral argument here:


John J. Cloherty III | 617.350.0950