Sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful in Massachusetts. At a minimum, employers must have policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment and retaliation if an employee complains about sexual harassment.
Employers are strictly liable for sexual harassment done by supervisors, managers, and higher level employees. This means the victim of sexual harassment does not have to first complain about the supervisory sexual harassment before suing for sexual harassment. Cases in which the employee first complained of supervisory/managerial sexual harassment and the sexual harassment was not eliminated, but continued are especially egregious examples of sexual harassment cases. A failure to stop sexual harassment can lead to additional psychological trauma. Continuing sexual harassment, after complaints by the employee, will lead a jury to want to punish the employer and the sexual harasser.
Under Massachusetts sexual harassment law there is a doctrine called, “The continuing violation doctrine” in sexual harassment cases. This means that for the time limitations in which a sexual harassment case must be brought is extended through the last act of sexual harassment. The continuing violation doctrine is a factual test based upon legal principles a victim of sexual harassment can best get to the bottom of by consulting with an experienced Massachusetts sexual harassment lawyer.
In general the time in which to file a sexual harassment claim with the Massachusetts Commission against discrimination is very limited under Massachusetts law.
Sexual harassment involves unwanted physical and verbal conduct.
Physical sexual harassment includes touching and blocking movements. Conduct otherwise referred to as assault and battery is sexual harassment if the sexual harasser intended to touch the victim’s body. Many physical sexual harassment cases involve unwelcome touches on a woman’s breasts, buttocks, waist, vaginal area, shoulders, or other parts of their body.
Verbal sexual harassment includes requests for dates and unwanted comments about the sexual harassment victim’s body. Sexual jokes and descriptions of what the sexual harasser would like to do to another woman’s body can also constitute a sexually offensive hostile work environment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when the sexual harasser promises or claims job benefits are tied to the sexual harassment victim’s willingness to be sexually harassed. Coercion into sexual activity can constitute sexual harassment. O’Connell v. Chasdi, 400 Mass. 686 (1987) held “Sexual harassment accomplished by threats, intimidation or coercion constitutes precisely the kind of conduct” prohibited by the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.
Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285 (1997) concluded neither the gender or sexual orientation of perpetrators or victims are an element of a sexual harassment claim under M.G.L. chap. 151B. This is judicial recognition sexual harassment is done for power. In our experience many instances of sexual harassment are done by lower level supervisors who are abusing their newfound power as a supervisor. Sexual harassment can be sued for if the harasser’s goal is sexual gratification or otherwise.
Sexual harassment cases can be brought by men against other men even if the sexual harasser claims he is not gay and was not engaged in the episode of sexual harassment for the purpose of sexual gratification. Karl Gerber, Esq. has handled many cases in which men have sexually harassed other men, women have sexually harassed other women, and members of the opposite sex have sexually harassed an employee in the alleged hope of turning them straight or because they get a rise out of discussing their alternative sexual practices.
If you have any questions about discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace call 1-877-525-0700 to speak to a Massachusetts sexual harassment lawyer. We take cases in all parts of Massachusetts.