In February 2008, Marc Flagg was fired by AliMed, a Dedham-based provider of medical and health care products, after an 18-year career with the company. 

At the time, Flagg’s wife was receiving rehabilitative care after surgery in December to remove a brain tumor. His wife’s condition required Flagg to pick up their daughter from school and miss work between 2:55 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. on certain days. 

AliMed said it fired Flagg because he failed to punch in and out of work on those days, meaning he was being paid for time not worked. But Flagg said his supervisor was aware of, and approved, these brief absences. He also alleged that the company’s real motivation in firing him was to get out of the financial obligation of his wife’s expensive medical care. Flagg says his firing resulted in his having to deplete his retirement funds and savings. 

Flagg sued his former employer. The case was dismissed by the Superior Court, but Flagg appealed to the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court decided to hear the appeal itself. The law at issue was the state’s antidiscrimination statute, which bars employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s handicap.  

AliMed argued simply that the law did not apply because the handicapped person at issue was not the employee but the employee’s wife. On July 19, the SJC disagreed, overturned the dismissal and sent the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings. The high court said, “When an employee subjects an otherwise satisfactory employee to adverse employment decisions based on hostility toward the handicapped condition of the employee’s spouse, it is treating the employee as if he were handicapped himself…” Doing so will violate Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination law, according to the SJC.

This article appeared in the July 31, 2013 edition of The Boston Globe.