About the Commission Against Discrimination

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) is working to eradicate discrimination in the Commonwealth.

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The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) enforces the Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws through the investigation of complaints of discrimination, the prosecution and adjudication of cases, and through preventative training and education.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) was founded in 1946 enforces the Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws through the investigation of complaints of discrimination as a neutral entity, the prosecution and adjudication of cases, and through preventative training.

Anyone who lives in, works in, or visits Massachusetts may file a complaint if they believe they were treated differently or unfairly based on their identity as a member of a protected class (e.g., race, disability, age, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or veteran’s status).

The MCAD has three offices: Boston, Springfield, and Worcester, where your can meet with an intake specialist for a free consultation and file a complaint. In most cases, there is a 300-day statute of limitations on filing a complaint at the MCAD from the last discriminatory act (6 months for higher education admission complaints). Complaints filed at the MCAD will be investigated by an MCAD staff member to determine if the treatment alleged constitutes unlawful discrimination. The MCAD conducts its investigation as a neutral entity.

The MCAD also offers training and outreach to address and prevent discrimination. The Commission also conducts policy reviews, drafts model policies, and issues guidance on Acts that affect the work of the Commission.

MCAD Leadership

Sunila Thomas George, Chairwoman

Reappointed as the Chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination by Governor Charles D. Baker in September 2018, Attorney Sunila Thomas George continues to serve the people of the Commonwealth in her fifth consecutive term as a Commissioner at the MCAD.

As a Commissioner, Attorney George is responsible for the administration, adjudication, and education of civil rights matters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She serves as the Investigating Commissioner on cases filed south of Boston, in the southeastern part of the state, Cape Cod and the Islands, and holds public hearings on various cases found to have Probable Cause. Attorney George is a certified mediator and trainer in areas of discrimination and sexual harassment. Attorney George is an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law School; she serves as a faculty presenter in seminars and on panels for the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE); and she is a frequent speaker at local, state and affinity Bar Association events.

Attorney George is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the 2018 SABA Outstanding Achievement Award, the Manuel Carballo Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service, the Executive Branch Award for Excellence in Government Legal Services, and in 2016, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Wheaton College.  Attorney George serves as a member of the Advisory Board for the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston (SABA GB).  She is a graduate of Wheaton College and Western New England University School of Law.


History of the MCAD

Massachusetts has always been a pioneer in the promulgation and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.

In 1944, in response to the findings of a legislative commission set up to investigate the problem of anti-Semitism and discrimination in Massachusetts, Governor Maurice Tobin appointed a four-member committee to study ways of combating discrimination. After much deliberation, the committee recommended that Massachusetts establish a Commission, as the State of New York had done just a few years earlier, with the power to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, or ancestry.

In 1946, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill, and on May 23, 1946, Governor Tobin signed into law the Fair Employment Practices Bill, Chapter 368 of the Acts of 1946. The bill, which took effect 90 days after being enacted, established the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practice Commission.

The new Commission began work with only two full-time employees and three volunteer Commissioners. With modest resources and few powers to bring about compliance, the agency focused primarily on holding hearings and educating the public. In its first year, the Commission took 96 complaints, conducted 60 interviews, handled 500 phone inquiries, and answered over 1,000 requests for information by mail.

In 1950, the Commission's name was changed to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), reflecting the expansion of its jurisdiction to include discrimination in housing and public accommodations. Not only was its jurisdiction broadened, but its powers to enforce a finding were strengthened. Since then, the MCAD's mandate has grown considerably. In 1965, gender was added to the Commission's list of protected classes, opening up a huge new front in the battle against discrimination. Protection for families with children and recipients of public assistance came in 1972 and 1973. In 1975, a law was enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of age. Discrimination on the basis of disability and sexual orientation was added to the Commission's jurisdiction in 1984 and 1989 respectively, while increased attention to the issue of sexual harassment generated a large number of complaints. Moreover, the Commission's expanded authority to award emotional distress damages, back pay, and legal costs contributed to the dramatic increase in filings.

Today at the Commission, after more than 70 years on the forefront of discrimination law enforcement, the agency handles 3,000 complaints annually on average, and educates and trains thousands of people across the State. The agency continues to innovate, wherever possible, pioneering proactive measures, while reaching out to individuals, communities and businesses alike in order to meet the ever increasing demand for its services.

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