It may have been subtle—teasing, innuendo, or unwanted attention—or it may have been an overt threat or attack. Whatever form sexual harassment takes in your workplace, you do not have to stand for it. You can take action against the person who harassed you and your employer who failed to stop it or allowed for the creation of a hostile work environment. Trial attorney Carlin Phillips is experienced in all kinds of sexual harassment and hostile work environment cases having argued a seminal case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
How Does Massachusetts Define Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is broadly defined as any unwelcome or inappropriate sexual remark or physical advance in a workplace or professional setting. This behavior is illegal in Massachusetts. Same-sex harassment is also illegal in Massachusetts. Harassment can take either of the following forms:
- Quid pro quo. This Latin phrase basically means “something for something” and is used legally to refer to situations in which an action is expected in exchange for some other action. When an employee is forced to grant sexual favors as a condition of employment or continued employment, that is quid pro quo harassment. An example of this kind of harassment is a manager offering a promotion to an employee in exchange for a date or sex act. Celebrities in the entertainment industry pressuring aspiring actors into sexual relationships with the promise of career advancement is also an example of quid pro quo harassment.
- Hostile work environment. There does not have to be an exchange of favors in order for an act to be considered harassment. A workplace in which sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are commonplace would be considered a hostile work environment. While the harassment may be carried out by one or two employees, the employer may be held liable for allowing it to happen.
Even when no sexual contact occurs, if a supervisor’s or a co-worker’s words or actions make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you may have a claim for a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Your Employer's Responsibilities Under Sexual Harassment Laws
If you're the victim of sexual harassment at work, you may be able to hold your employer liable. In incidents of quid pro quo harassment, employers are strictly liable for the behavior of their employees. When a hostile work environment is created by managers or supervisors over subordinates, the employer is also strictly liable. In other cases of hostile work environments, the employer may be liable if he knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take action. Under Massachusetts law, employers with six or more employees are required to do the following:
- Adopt a written policy against sexual harassment.
- Inform employees that sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful.
- Make it clear to managers and supervisors that it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint of sexual harassment.
- Commit to investigating any complaint of sexual harassment.
The state also encourages employers to conduct education and training programs for all employees on a regular basis.
How We Build Your Case
You may not know that you have a sexual harassment case. In building a case of sexual harassment against an employer, we will help you prove that your employer failed in its responsibilities to create a harassment-free work environment and to protect you from the illegal actions of your co-workers, bosses, managers or superiors. The first step to building your case is spending time listening to your story about how you were harassed at work, how your employer failed to stop the harassment and how it has affected your life. We also investigate the following:
- Prior complaints of harassment by the harasser or harassers
- Prior complaints of sexual harassment against your employer
- Interview witnesses to prior incidents of sexual harassment
- Review your employer's policies, procedures and practices with respect to sexual harassment
- Research any prior lawsuits against your harassers and your employer
- Review any relevant documents, texts, e-mails and direct messages pertaining to the harassment
- Interview any relevant witnesses
- Conduct thorough legal research on the application of sexual harassment law to your facts
It's difficult for an employee to take on an employer alone, but with our legal team behind you and our process of building your case, you can be confident that your rights will be protected.
Don't Wait - You Can Miss Important Legal Deadlines; The "300 Day Trap" That Kills Your Case
You must file a claim of sexual harassment and discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to start your case. This filing, called a "charge," is mandatory by law. You only have 300 days from the last act of sexual harassment or discrimination to file a claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD"). Many victims of sexual harassment contact us too late after this important 300 day legal deadline has passed.
Also, waiting until you are at or near the 300 day deadline to file a claim with MCAD can seriously limit what claims of sexual harassment and discrimination can be included in your case. Although we can sometimes attempt to claim that there was a "continuing violation" where individual acts of harassment built up over time into full blown, actionable sexual harassment, filing sooner rather than later is the best way to preserve your claims.
Contact Our Dartmouth Office for Informed Advice
You may not know who to turn to when you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment. You might not trust anyone at your company to be on your side. Attorney Carlin Phillips wants to hear your story. If he thinks you have a legitimate case of sexual harassment, he will help you take the next steps. We work on behalf of clients throughout Bristol and Plymouth Counties. Contact us today.