Massachusetts law about sexual harassment

Laws, regulations, cases, and web & print sources on sexual harassment, including in the workplace, in housing, and in educational settings.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.151B Fair employment practices act

  • § 1: Definitions
    Sexual harassment is sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
a) submission or rejection thereof become the basis for employment decisions or a term or condition of employment. (Quid pro quo) or b) it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment. (Hostile work environment)
  • § 3A Employers' policies against sexual harassment; preparation of model policy; education and training programs
  • § 5 Complaints; procedure; limitations; bar to proceeding; award of damages

    "Any complaint filed pursuant to this section must be so filed [with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)] within 300 days after the alleged act of discrimination."
  • § 9 Construction and enforcement of chapter; inconsistent laws; exclusiveness of statutory procedure; civil remedies; speedy trial; attorney's fees and costs; damages

    "Any person claiming to be aggrieved by a practice made unlawful under this chapter or under chapter one hundred and fifty-one C, or by any other unlawful practice within the jurisdiction of the commission, may, at the expiration of ninety days after the filing of a complaint with the commission, or sooner if a commissioner assents in writing, but not later than three years after the alleged unlawful practice occurred, bring a civil action for damages or injunctive relief or both in the superior or probate court for the county in which the alleged unlawful practice occurred or in the housing court within whose district the alleged unlawful practice occurred if the unlawful practice involves residential housing."

MGL c.12, § 11H Massachusetts civil rights act

MGL c.12, § 11I Massachusetts civil rights act

MGL c.93, § 102 Massachusetts equal rights act

MGL c.214, § 1C Superior Court jurisdiction in sexual harassment cases

MGL c.260, § 5B Civil rights actions
Statute of limitations is 3 years for civil rights actions.

Massachusetts regulations and policies

804 CMR 1 MCAD rules of procedure

804 CMR 3.01(4)(a)(4) MCAD discrimination in employment

Model sexual harassment policy (MCAD Policy, revised 2017-09-16)

Federal laws and regulations

Federal laws

9 USC §§ 401-402 Disputes involving sexual assault and sexual harassment
The law allows employees subject to pre-dispute mandatory arbitration agreements to pursue in court their claims related to sexual assault or sexual harassment.

20 USC §1681 et seq. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972
Prohibits sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) discrimination - including sexual harassment - in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

42 USC 2000e et seq. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

42 USC 3601 et seq. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act)
Prohibits discrimination - including sexual harassment - concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status.

42 USC 5309 Nondiscrimination in programs and activities
Section 109 of the HCD Act of 1974, Title I, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, and sex within Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs or activities.

Federal regulations

24 CFR § 100.600 Discriminatory conduct under the Fair Housing Act: Quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment

29 CFR 1604.11 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Sexual harassment

34 CFR 106 U.S. Department of Education: Non-discrimination while participating in education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance

Executive Order

Executive Order 14062, January 26, 2022.
Added "sexual harassment" to the Military Manual for Courts Martial.

Filing a complaint

File a complaint with MCAD, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.

File a sexual harassment complaint with EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Housing discrimination, Mass Access Housing Registry.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against by a real estate agent, landlord, or housing manager it is important to do something about it.

How to report sexual harassment, NOLO.
Learn how to protect yourself from sexual harassment at the workplace.

OCR complaint forms, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education.
This page provides specific and detailed information that will assist you in filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education.

Report housing discrimination, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
You can Report Housing Discrimination with Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) online, email or in person.

Selected cases

Web sources

About sexual harassment in the workplace, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.
Learn about what activities are considered sexual harassment in the workplace and how your rights are protected by the MCAD. Includes guidelines for complying with MGL chapter 151B.

Attorney General advisory: All tenants have a right to be free from harassment and intimidation, Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts.
The Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts issues this advisory to remind landlords and other housing providers that all tenants have a right to be free from harassment and intimidation.

EMACT sexual harassment policy package
Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres (EMACT), in partnership with an HR attorney, has created a harassment policy package that can be used by their member groups to define ethical standards of behavior and requirements. The document is customizable for groups of actors and producers.

Employer's responses to sexual harassment, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Center for Employment Equity. 
The report examines employer responses and the outcomes of 46,210 Title VII sexual harassment discrimination charges filed between 2012 and 2016 with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs).

Enforcement guidance: vicarious employer liability for unlawful harassment by supervisors, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Know your rights: Survivors of sexual harassment,
Sexual harassment includes any unwanted sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Protection from eviction: Survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and stalking, Mass. Legal Help, 2024.
Sexual harassment and renting: "If you are ... facing sexual harassment by [a] landlord, you have certain legal protections from eviction. If you get any eviction notice, get legal help as soon as possible. The rights that you have depend on what type of housing you live in. Check your lease to find out what type of housing you live in. If you do not have a lease, your housing is most likely unsubsidized, private market housing."

Questions and answers for small employers on employer liability for harassment by supervisors, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Questions and answers on the Title IX regulations on sexual harassment, U. S. Department Of Education, Office for Civil Rights (Updated June 28, 2022). 
In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education added specific legally binding steps educational institutions must take in response to notice of alleged sexual harassment. The 2020 amendments define sexual harassment to include certain types of unwelcome sexual conduct, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. This document details a school’s obligation and provides clarification on that definition.

Resources on discrimination and harassment, Mass. Dept. of Education.
A sampling of resources on discrimination and harassment, most of which are from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Schools must comply with new Title IX regulations, Massachusetts Municipal Association.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, in all education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including K-12 schools. The 2020 Title IX regulations, announced by the U.S. Department of Education on May 6 and effective on Aug. 14, focus exclusively on handling sexual harassment complaints.

Sexual harassment in housing, DOJ, District of Massachusetts. 
The Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division to combat sexual harassment in housing by addressing sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing.

Sexual harassment in housing, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sexual Harassment Officer listing, Massachusetts Human Resources Division.
For state employees only. Each organization across the Commonwealth has an employee designated as a Sexual Harassment Officer whose responsibility is to discuss any concerns the employee may have and to provide information to them about the Commonwealth’s policy on sexual harassment and the Commonwealth’s complaint process.

Summary of major provisions of the Department of Education's Title IX final rule

Print sources

Drafting employment documents in Massachusetts, 4th ed., MCLE, Loose-leaf, Chapter 15 and 16.

Emerging issues in Title IX compliance, investigations & litigation, by Scott A. Roberts, MCLE, 2019.

Employment discrimination, by Lex Larson, Matthew Bender, loose-leaf, chap. 46.

Employment discrimination in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, 2022, Chapter 8.
Discusses employer liability for supervisor’s conduct under Mass and Federal law.

Employment law, 3rd. (Mass Practice v.45), Thomson Reuters, 2016 with supplement. Sections 8.27-8:30.

The essential guide to workplace investigations, Nolo, 2022. (eBook available here with library card).

Litigating sexual harassment & sex discrimination cases, by Aaron B. Maduff, James Publishing, Inc., [2014]-

Massachusetts employment law, 5th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf, Chapters 11, 12.

Preventing & handling sexual harassment in the #metoo era, MCLE, 2019. 

Sexual harassment and retaliation : a practical handbook for plaintiff and defense, ABA, 2019.

Sexual harassment in the workplace : law and practice, by Alba Conte. Fifth edition. Wolters Kluwer, [2020]-

"When is Supervisor's or Coemployee's Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment Imputable to Employer Under State Law," 94 ALR5th 1.

Your rights in the workplace by Sachi Barreiro, Nolo, 2018. (eBook available here with library card).

Contact   for Massachusetts law about sexual harassment

Last updated: April 17, 2024

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