It is illegal under Massachusetts law and under federal law for an employer to sexually harass an employee.
A work environment pervaded by abuse, with the resulting intimidation, humiliation, and stigmatization, poses a formidable barrier to the full participation of an individual in the workplace.
In short, sexual harassment prevents someone from being able to do their job with dignity.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal under what is called Chapter 151B, which is the Massachusetts anti-discrimination law (which also prevents harassment based on other grounds, such as race, religion, or national origin). Under federal law, it is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
There are two types of sexual harassment: “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.” Quid pro quo harassment is when a supervisor makes requests or demands of a sexual nature, with the implication that there could be negative consequences if not met.
Hostile work environment harassment is when the is conduct that creates an “intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.” It could include crude jokes, inappropriate pictures, or innuendo.
The employer can be held liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor, and, in some cases, even by a co-worker.
These cases are typically filed first with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and sometimes may then be removed to Massachusetts Superior Court. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has published a helpful online guide called Sexual Harassment in the Workplace that explains more about the standards used to handle a harassment claim.
If you have been harassed, our office provides confidential consultations that will treat you with dignity and respect, and can often represent you at little or no cost.