Massachusetts law about discrimination

Laws, regulations, cases and web sources on discrimination law.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.4, § 7 Definitions of statutory terms; statutory construction
Clauses 62 & 63 define protective hairstyles historically associated with race. See also the "CROWN Act" St.2022, c.117 (effective October 24, 2022).

MGL c.93, § 102 & § 103 Mass. Equal Rights Act (MERA)

MGL c.149, §§ 105A-C Discriminatory wage rates based on sex

MGL c.151B Unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry or sex
Includes unlawful discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

MGL c.272, § 92A Advertisement, book, notice or sign relative to discrimination; definition of place of public accommodation, resort or amusement

MGL c.272, § 98 Discrimination in admission to, or treatment in, place of public accommodation; punishment; forfeiture; civil right

Federal laws

Laws enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services.
A link to the US Code and a summary of the law with helpful links. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act
Regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Massachusetts regulations

804 CMR Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Note: Many other state agencies maintain non-discrimination regulations. You can find other agency regulations by CMR number or by subject.

Complaints and enforcement

Depending on the violation, complaints of discrimination can be made to federal or state agencies. This is not a complete list, however it provides some of the most common enforcement agencies.


Agency File a complaint
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place, Suite 601
Boston, MA 02108
Main: (617) 994-6000
TTY: (617) 994-6196
How to file a complaint of discrimination
MCAD is the state agency that is responsible for enforcing and investigating violations of MGL 151B, including discrimination in housing and other complaints over which they have jurisdiction.
Massachusetts Attorney General's Civil Rights Division
Main: (617) 963-2917 (Mass relay dial 7-1-1 and connect via main number)
File a civil rights complaint
"[R]esponds to complaints related to civil rights and civil liberties. The office takes enforcement action when necessary and can mediate disputes."



Agency File a complaint
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1700 G St. NW
Washington, DC 20552

Main: (855) 411-2372
TTY/TTD: (855) 729-2372

Submit a complaint about a financial product or service

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights

Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100
Main: 800-421-3481
TDD: 800-877-8339

How to file a discrimination complaint with the Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Main: 1-877-696-6775

Filing a civil rights complaint
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20410
Main: 202-708-1112
TTY: 202-708-1455
Report housing discrimination
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Main: 800-514-0301
TTY: 1-833-610-1264 (TTY)
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
JFK Building, Room 475
Boston, MA 02203-0506
Main: (800) 669-4000
TTY: (800) 669-6820
Public portal
Use this portal to file a Charge of Discrimination against an employer.

Selected cases

Web sources

Civil rights for individuals and advocates, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. 
Laws against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and religion by certain health care and human services. 

CORI procedure reforms fact sheet, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (2010).
Outlines questions employers may and may not ask about a job applicant's or employee's criminal record.

Credit discrimination, Federal Trade Commission.
Protections when you deal with any organizations or people who regularly extend credit.

Federal antidiscrimination laws, Nolo.
Lists the major federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and which agency enforces them.

A handbook on the legal obligations and rights of public and assisted housing providers under federal and state fair housing law for applicants and tenants with disabilities, Mass. Housing, July 2015.
Explains fair housing / discrimination law to landlords, including: how to market your apartment legally, communication with prospective tenants, dealing with families and children, explanation of disabilities and the rights of the disabled, and more.

Inferring pretext in employment discrimination cases, Conforto Law Group, 2016.
Lists 13 ways in which pretext for unlawful employment discrimination may be inferred, with helpful links to the relevant cases.

“Know your rights: workplace discrimination is illegal,” EEOC.
Includes printable posters with info on discriminatory practices and what to do.

Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Mass. Attorney General.
As of July 1, 2018, the equal pay law provides more clarity as to what constitutes unlawful wage discrimination and adds protections to ensure greater fairness and equity in the workplace. The Attorney General's Office has issued guidance and resources to assist employers in complying with the law, and has a link to file a complaint.

MCAD guidelines, model policies, and posters, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.
The MCAD publishes Guidelines to provide the public with the Commission's interpretation of the application statutes on employment discrimination, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and public accommodation.

Overview of types of discrimination in Massachusetts, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination. 
Education, Employment, Credit & Lending, Housing, Public Places (Places of Public Accommodation).

Protections against employment discrimination for service members and veterans, EEOC, 2022.
This document helps explain where to get help if you are a service member or veteran and you feel that you have been discriminated against in employment because of your military status, veteran status, or another protected basis.

Proving "but for" causation after Nassar, Robert S. Mantell, 2016.
"It can be difficult to prove that the discrimination was the “but for” cause of an eventual rejection" before hiring. "One type of analysis, called “a motivating factor” analysis, permits a finding of liability, upon proof that an unlawful motive was a factor in the hiring process, even if that motive did not make a difference in the ultimate employment decision." Under Nassar, though, "proof of retaliatory bias is insufficient to establish liability, absent evidence that the ultimate rejection would not have occurred “but for” that bias." 

Workplace accommodation toolkit, Job Accommodation Network.
This online toolkit, funded by the US Dept. of Labor, helps employers ensure disability-inclusive workplaces. It "centralizes resources and guidance related to reasonable accommodations, including sample policies, templates and checklists, as well as training videos and access to thousands of specific accommodation ideas."

Print sources


Last updated: June 6, 2023

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