Sexual harassment in Massachusetts: What employees need to know.

Sexual harassment in Massachusetts can take one of two forms: quid pro quo or hostile work environment.

Sexual harassment is a problem throughout the United States, including here in Massachusetts. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that there were 119 charges of sexual harassment in 2014 in Massachusetts alone.,

In addition to protections under federal law, Massachusetts state law also provides protection against sexual harassment. It breaks sexual harassment down into two categories: 1) quid pro quo; and 2) hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment And Massachusetts State Law

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is defined by Massachusetts state law as:

[S]exual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when . . . submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions

Employees can be victims of this type of harassment in two contexts. The first requires a showing that an alleged harasser made sexual advances that were unwelcomed, that these advances were rejected and that the employee's employment was adversely affected. The second requires a showing that the harasser made sexual advances, that the advances were unwelcomed, that the employee submitted to the advances and that this submission was done in "reasonable fear of adverse employment action."

Hostile Work Environment Harassment And Massachusetts State Law

Hostile work environment sexual harassment under Massachusetts law is defined as:

[S]exual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when . . . such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.

Employees can establish that they were the victim of this form of harassment by showing that they were subject to conduct that was sexual in nature, the conduct was unwelcomed, the conduct resulted in an "intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment," and that the conduct unreasonably interfered with the employee's work performance.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination notes that inappropriate touching, sexual jokes, displaying sexually suggestive pictures or the use of gestures that are sexual in nature are all examples of conduct that may be unlawful.

Remedies Are Available For Victims of Sexual Harassment

Legal solutions are available to individuals who are the victims of sexual harassment. These remedies sometimes include reinstatement, back pay, damages for emotional distress as well as attorney's fees. Contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney to discuss your case. Our legal professionals will vigorously advocate for your rights, working to better ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

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