“sexual harassment” means sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
(a) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions; or
(b) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.
Under these definitions, direct or implied requests by a supervisor for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job benefits such as favorable reviews, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits, or continued employment constitutes sexual harassment.
The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad and in addition to the above examples, other sexually oriented conduct, whether it is intended or not, that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating a workplace environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating or humiliating to male or female workers may also constitute sexual harassment.
While it is not possible to list all those additional circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct that, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness:
- Unwelcome sexual advances – whether they involve physical touching or not;
- Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life, comment on an individual’s body, comment about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies or prowess;
- Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons;
- Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments;
- Inquiries into one’s sexual experiences; and
- Discussion of one’s sexual activities.
In addition, Massachusetts law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who have complained about sexual harassment or a sexually hostile work environment or who have cooperated in an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint. This includes informal reports of sexual harassment to supervisors and sometimes co-workers, or formal reports to your employer’s human resources department, whether these complaints are verbal or written.
At Miller Employment Law, we help Massachusetts employees who have been subjected to unlawful employment discrimination. We can negotiate with your employer about unlawful discrimination, and we can represent you at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in Massachusetts state or federal court.
MASSACHUSETTS LAW REQUIRES EMPLOYEES TO FILE A CLAIM WITH THE MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION WITHIN 300 DAYS AFTER THE DISCRIMINATORY INCIDENT OCCURRED.
If you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment or retaliation at work, please contact us: