Massachusetts law about sexual harassment

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on sexual harassment law.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 151B Fair Employment Practices Act
MGL c. 12 s.11H, 11I Massachusetts Civil Rights Act
MGL c. 93 s.102 Massachusetts Equal Rights Act
MGL c. 214 s.1C Superior Court Jurisdiction in sexual harassment cases

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 96-2)

Federal laws, regulations, and guidelines

Federal laws

42 USC 2000e et seq. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Federal regulations and guidelines

29 CFR 1604.11 Sexual Harassment
Enforcement guidance on vicarious employer responsibility, EEOC, 1999

Selected Massachusetts case law

College-Town, Division of Interco Inc. v. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, 400 Mass. 156 (1987) 
The court established a strict liability rule whereby the employer is liable for acts of its supervisory personnel.

Cuddyer v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., 434 Mass. 521 (2001)
Based on the continuing violation doctrine, claim was not barred by the 6 month statute of limitation period under M.G.L. chap. 151B.

Green v. Wyman-Gordon Co., 422 Mass. 551 (1996)
The remedies and procedures under M.G.L. chap. 151B are exclusive and bar the plaintiff's claim under M.G.L. chap. 214 sec. 1C.

Lowery v. Klemm, 446 Mass. 572 (2006)
The court held that MGL c. 214 s. 1C "does not apply to volunteers, although volunteers retain their common-law rights regarding sexual harassment."

Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285 (1997)
The court concluded that neither the gender or sexual orientation of perpetrators or victims are an element of a sexual harassment claim under M.G.L. chap. 151B.

O'Connell v. Chasdi, 400 Mass. 686 (1987)
The court held that "sexual harassment accomplished by threats, intimidation or coercion constitutes precisely the kind of conduct" prohibited by the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.

Selected federal case law

Burlington Industries v. Ellerth, 524 US 742 (1998)
"An employer is subject to vicarious liability to a victimized employee for an actionable hostile environment created by a supervisor with immediate (or successively higher) authority over the employee. When no tangible employment action is taken, a defending employer may raise an affirmative defense to liability or damages, subject to proof by a preponderance of the evidence"

Burns v. Johnson, 829 F.3d 1 (2016)
A plaintiff need not provide direct evidence, but only sufficient circumstantial evidence to show conduct was severe and pervasive under Title VII for sexual discrimination and harassment.

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 US 775 (1998)
A companion case to Burlington, above. "We hold that an employer is vicariously liable for actionable discrimination caused by a supervisor, but subject to an affirmative defense looking to the reasonableness of the employer's conduct as well as that of a plaintiff victim."

Harris v. Forklift Systems Inc., 510 US 17 (1993)
The court held that if conduct in the workplace is so discriminatorily hostile or abusive, Title VII is violated regardless of whether the plaintiff suffered psychological harm. All of the circumstances must be examined to determine whether an environment is hostile or abusive.

Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 US 57 (1986)
Sexual harassment leading to non-economic injury is a violation of Title VII.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
JFK Federal Building, Room 475
Boston, MA 02203
(617) 565-3200 or 1 (800) 669-4000

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)
1 Ashburton Place, Room 601
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 994-6000

Web sources

Last update: November 18, 2016


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