Sexual Harassment in the Massachusetts Workplace

Massachusetts law forbids sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is either “Quid pro quo” sexual harassment or hostile environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo is a latin term that means “this for that.” This type of sexual harassment occurs when an employer or manager gives a promotion or demotion or otherwise changes the terms of employment based upon the giving of sexual favors (or the refusal of sexual advances). An example of Quid pro quo sexual harassment is where a manager tells an employee that the employee will get a promotion if she sleeps with the manager on a company trip.
The second kind of sexual harassment is hostile environment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to conduct of a sexual nature that was unwelcome and had the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment. They type of conduct that can create a hostile work environment may include (1) inappropriate touching; (2)sexual jokes, gossip, sexual conduct or comments; (3) requests for sex; (4) displaying sexually suggestive pictures and/or objects; or sexual gestures.
In Massachusetts, employers are strictly liable for the conduct of supervisors. This means that the company is responsible for the sexually harassing conduct of a supervisor whether it knew or did not know of the supervisor’s actions. The courts and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will hold a company responsible for the actions of its supervisors because the company gave that individual authority and the supervisor is considered an agent of the company. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as same sex sexual harassment: the harasser and the victim of harassment may be of the same gender.

If you have any questions about sexual harassment in a Massachusetts workplace, please call Boston employment lawyer Maura Greene at 617-936-1580. Maura Greene, who has been named as a SuperLawyer in employment was listed in 2012 in the Boston Globe as on of Boston’s top-rated employment attorneys. She is AV-rated by Martindale Hubbell, which is a peer review rating and the highest rating an individual attorney may achieve. She is a graduate of Smith College and Suffolk University Law School where she was a member of the Law Review. She has been a practicing attorney in Boston for over 25 years.