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Massachusetts Law About Sexual Harassment

Massachusetts Laws

Massachusetts Regulations and Policies

Federal Laws

Federal Regulations and Guidelines

Selected Massachusetts Case Law

College-Town, Division of Interco Inc. v. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, 400 Mass. 156 (1987) The court established a strict liability rule whereby the employer is liable for acts of its supervisory personnel.

Cuddyer v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., 434 Mass. 521 (2001) Based on the continuing violation doctrine, claim was not barred by the six month statute of limitation period under M.G.L. chap. 151B.

Green v. Wyman-Gordon Co., 422 Mass. 551 (1996) The remedies and procedures under M.G.L. chap. 151B are exclusive and bar the plaintiff's claim under M.G.L. chap. 214 sec. 1C.

Lowery v. Klemm, 446 Mass. 572 (2006) The court held that MGL c. 214 s. 1C "does not apply to volunteers, although volunteers retain their common-law rights regarding sexual harassment."

Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285 (1997) The court concluded that neither the gender or sexual orientation of perpetrators or victims are an element of a sexual harassment claim under M.G.L. chap. 151B.

O'Connell v. Chasdi, 400 Mass. 686 (1987) The court held that "sexual harassment accomplished by threats, intimidation or coercion constitutes precisely the kind of conduct" prohibited by the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.

Selected Federal Case Law

Burlington Industries v. Ellerth, 524 US 742 (1998). "An employer is subject to vicarious liability to a victimized employee for an actionable hostile environment created by a supervisor with immediate (or successively higher) authority over the employee. When no tangible employment action is taken, a defending employer may raise an affirmative defense to liability or damages, subject to proof by a preponderance of the evidence"

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 US 775 (1998). A companion case to Burlington, above. "We hold that an employer is vicariously liable for actionable discrimination caused by a supervisor, but subject to an affirmative defense looking to the reasonableness of the employer's conduct as well as that of a plaintiff victim."

Harris v. Forklift Systems Inc., 510 US 17 (1993) The court held that if conduct in the workplace is so discriminatorily hostile or abusive, Title VII is violated regardless of whether the plaintiff suffered psychological harm. All of the circumstances must be examined to determine whether an environment is hostile or abusive.

Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 US 57 (1986) Sexual harassment leading to non-economic injury is a violation of Title VII.

Other Web Sources

MCAD Model Sexual Harassment Policy, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.

MCAD Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Guidelines, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.

Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Individual Liability of Supervisors for Sexual Harassment Under Title VII, Scott J. Connolly.

Questions and Answers for Small Employers on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

What Constitutes a Sexually Hostile Work Environment, Harvey Schwartz. Reviews the standards applied in Massachusetts case law.

Print Sources

Employment Discrimination, 2d ed., by Lex Larson, LexisNexis, loose-leaf, chap. 46.

Handling Sexual Harassment Claims, MCLE, 2003.

"Joseph Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.: Redefining Workplace Sexual Harassment to Include Same-Sex Sexual Harassment and the Effect on Employers," 34 New England Law Review 941 (2000). Also available online to library card holders through Hein Online.

Massachusetts Employment Law, MCLE, loose-leaf, vol. 1, chap. 7.

Massachusetts Practice, 2nd ed., vol. 45 (Employment Law) West Group, 2003 with supplement, sec. 12.1 through 12.3.

Mock Trial of an MCAD Sexual Harassment Case, MCLE, 2005.

"Title VII Sex Discrimination in Employment--Supreme Court Cases," 170 ALRFed 219.

"When is Supervisor's or Coemployee's Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment Imputable to Employer Under State Law," 94 ALR5th 1.

"When is Work Environment Intimidating, Hostile, or Offensive so as to Constitute Sexual Harassment in Violation of Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964, as Amended," 78 ALRFed 252.

Your Rights on the Job, 5th ed., by Robert M. Schwartz, Boston Labor Guild, 2008, p.147-153.

Organizations


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
JFK Federal Building, Room 475
Boston, MA 02203
617-565-3200 or 1-800-669-4000

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
1 Ashburton Place, Room 601
Boston, MA 02108
617-994-6000