Massachusetts law about discrimination

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on discrimination law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.
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Massachusetts laws

MGL c.151B Unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry or sex

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

  • St.2016, c.177 , amended MGL c.149, s.105A. An Act to Establish Pay Equity, Effective July 1, 2018. Designed to reduce gender disparities in salaries

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

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

Massachusetts regulations

804 CMR Mass. Commission Against Discrimination

Selected case law

Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, 477 Mass. 456 (2017)
An employee who has been fired for using medical marijuana off-site, and not before or during work, may sue her employer for handicap discrimination.

Bulwer v. Mount Auburn Hospital , 473 Mass. 672 (2016)
"Massachusetts is a pretext only jurisdiction." "The plaintiff employee need only present evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that the defendant employer's facially proper reasons given for its action against the plaintiff were not the real reasons for that action... To survive a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff need only present evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that "the respondent's facially proper reasons given for its action against him were not the real reasons for that action."

Flagg v. AliMed Inc. , 466 Mass. 23 (2013)
SJC ruling approving an associational discrimination claim under the state’s non-discrimination statute, the Fair Employment Practices Act, or FEPA. View the case, the briefs and the oral arguments!

Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. 557 US 167 (2009)
Supreme Court held that a "plaintiff bringing an ADEA disparate-treatment claim must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that age was the “but-for” cause of the challenged adverse employment action...Unlike Title VII, which has been amended to explicitly authorize discrimination claims where an improper consideration was “a motivating factor” for the adverse action,... the ADEA does not provide that a plaintiff may establish discrimination by showing that age was simply a motivating factor."

Haddad v. Wal-Mart , 455 Mass. 91 (2009)
Sets forth "a new standard describing the circumstances in which punitive damages may be awarded." "Punitive damages may be awarded only where the defendant's conduct is outrageous or egregious." The court then goes on to explain the factors to be considered in determining whether conduct is egregious or outrageous.

Joule, Inc. v. Simmons , 459 Mass. 88 (2011)
Arbitration clause does not preclude MCAD proceeding

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. et al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission et al., __ U.S. __ (2018)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. But the decision was based on very narrow grounds and left the larger free speech issue of whether business owners have a right to refuse service to same-sex couples undecided.

McDonough, petitioner , 457 Mass. 512 (2010)
"(1) where a witness with a disability requests accommodation in order to testify, MERA requires that the court provide such accommodation, so long as it is "reasonable," G.L. c. 93, § 103 (a ); (2) where there is a dispute concerning such a witness's request for accommodation, a judge should conduct a hearing to resolve the dispute, preferably before trial, and the witness should be provided with reasonable accommodation, if available, during the pretrial hearing; and (3) where a judge precludes a witness with a disability from testifying by denying a request for accommodation, the party proffering the witness, but not the witness, may appeal the judge's interlocutory ruling as a matter of right to the Appeals Court."

Thurdin v. SEI Boston, LLC , 452 Mass. 436 (2008)
An employee of a business with fewer than six employees (who is thus unable to sue under MGL c.151B ) can sue for employment discrimination under a provision of the the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MGL c. 93, § 102 ).

Web sources

Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Criminal Record Fact Sheet , Mass. Commission Against Discrimination
Outlines questions employers may and may not ask about a job applicant's or employee's criminal record

Housing Providers Rights and Responsibilities Under Federal and Massachusetts State Fair Housing Law , Mass. Housing, Jan. 2011
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.

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.

MCAD Guidance on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination, 2018.
Includes specific guidelines and questions and answers on the law effective April 1, 2018. 

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." 

Your rights in the workplace , Nolo, 2018. 
Chapter 7: Illegal discrimination "provides information about illegal discrimination against employees such as remedies and filing a complaint or lawsuit under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It also discusses the Equal Pay Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act." Requires library card for access.

Print sources

Bringing and Defending a Fair Housing Case , MCLE, 2012

Employment Discrimination in Massachusetts , by Richard L. Alfred, MCLE, 2008

Massachusetts Employment Law , MCLE, loose-leaf.
Chapters 5-17

Massachusetts Superior Court Civil Practice Jury Instructions , MCLE, loose-leaf.
Chapter 5, Employment discrimination

Reasonable accommodations in housing demystified, MCLE, 2018

Representing Clients Before the MCAD in Employment Cases , MCLE, 2014

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: September 20, 2018

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