BACK to Employment Law

Frequently Asked Questions about Harassment in Massachusetts Answered by an Amesbury Harassment Lawyer

Call (978) 388-1100 to talk to an Amesbury harassment lawyer today!

What is workplace harassment in Massachusetts?

There is a popular misconception that harassment needs to involve sex or be of a sexual nature, but that is simply not the case. Workplace harassment can take on many forms. It could be a stream of jokes that make a worker feel uncomfortable. It could be a coworker or boss that is a constant practical joker. It could be someone that calls names or otherwise demeans people in the workplace. If it is offensive or disrespectful behavior that makes it uncomfortable to work, it could be or could become workplace harassment. Federal law and Massachusetts law have taken strong stances against workplace harassment.

What is sexual harassment in Massachusetts?

There are two types of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo (2) and hostile work environment. “Quid pro quo” is a Latin term meaning “this for that.” It occurs when a manager either conditions some sort of benefit on receipt of sexual favors or threatens adverse employment action if an employee does not provide sexual favors. See below for “hostile work environment.”

What is a hostile work environment in Massachusetts?

You may be working in a hostile work environment if you are subjected to intimidating, abusive, or humiliating behavior that is unwelcome and that interferes with your work performance. There is not a rigid formula for what constitutes a hostile work environment because it depends on the facts of each situation. The law does set standards, but the application of these standards is very fact specific. Generally, whether conduct rises to the level of a hostile work environment depends on the severity and pervasiveness of the conduct. For example, a manager or employee may engage in conduct that is so intimidating or abusive that just a few instances are sufficient to constitute a hostile work environment. Alternatively, a manager or employee may make comments to another employee that, in isolation, would not constitute a hostile work environment. However, if those same comments are made repeatedly, they may eventually have a cumulative effect that becomes a hostile work environment.

What are some examples of behavior or conduct that could constitute harassment?

Harassment may consist of spoken words, but it can also include non-verbal communication or physical contact. Examples can include jokes, threats, offensive pictures/signs/graphics, insults, and mockery. Examples specific to sexual harassment can include inappropriate touching, gossip, leering, whistling, sexual gestures, and requests for sex. These lists are not all-inclusive. Also, they do not automatically rise to the level of harassment, as that generally depends on whether the conduct is unwelcome, whether a reasonable person would find it unwelcome, and the severity and pervasiveness of the conduct.

Does the offensive conduct need to be directed toward me in order for me to have a harassment complaint?

No. A third-party may have a valid harassment claim.

Does the harasser need to be my manager in order for me to have a claim?

No. It may be another manager, a co-worker, some other agent of the employer, or even a non-employee.

What if the harasser says that he/she didn’t mean to harm me?

The alleged harasser’s intent is irrelevant. What is relevant is (1) whether the alleged victim found the conduct to be hostile, intimidating, humiliating or offensive and (2) whether a reasonable person would find the conduct to be hostile, intimidating, humiliating or offensive.

What is the time limit to file a harassment complaint?

You generally have 300 days to make a claim in Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the MCAD dismisses your claim, you must file in court at least 30 days after dismissal and within three years of the alleged discrimination. If the EEOC dismisses your claim, you must file in court at least 60 days after you filed with the EEOC and within 90 days of receiving the notice that the investigation is concluded.

Find out Your Rights as a Harassed Person under Massachusetts and Federal Law from Our Harassment Lawyer in Amesbury and Hudson.

In our Amesbury MA office our employment lawyer, Attorney Santino is ready to meet with future clients from Amesbury, Georgetown, Merrimac, Newburyport, Haverhill, Lawrence, Rowley and all the other communities of the Merrimac Valley and the North Shore.

From our Hudson MA office, Attorney Santino serves the Metro West area including: Berlin, Bolton, Clinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Sudbury, Stow, and Westboro.

Don’t Let Your Current or Last Job Keep You from Moving Forward!

Take action today! Call us at 978-388-1100 for a free consultation. We can arrange after-hours appointments or meet clients off-site when necessary.  We are determined to provide attorney access to  all of our clients.

Too Busy to Meet or Call Right Now? You can Have the Amesbury Harassment Lawyer Review Your Situation Online

To read about recent developments in harassment and employment law, try our Employment Law Blog.