Employment discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly based on factors unrelated to job performance. It is illegal to use an individual’s race, gender, age, religion, disability, or sexual orientation against him or her with regard to hiring, firing, workers’ compensation, and eligibility for disability. These laws are federally regulated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In Massachusetts, the Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) enforces these laws. Any assumption made by an employer based on generalizations or stereotypes violates a variety of equal opportunity acts and is cause for a potential discrimination claim.
The EEOC defines harassment as any form of uncomfortable and unwelcome behavior based on race, color, religion, gender, age (40 or older), nationality, disability, or genetics. The basis of a harassment charge stems from two elements:
- The plaintiff must tolerate the offensive behavior as a condition of employment.
- The severity of the offensive behavior creates a hostile work environment.
In addition, it is unlawful to use harassment against any employee to keep him or her from testifying or disclosing any necessary information in a legal proceeding.
Harassment claims can be filed against a supervisor, agent of the employer, coworker, or non-employee. The person being harassed may not necessarily be the plaintiff. Any employee exposed to consistent offensive behavior may file.
Additional Types of Discrimination
Beyond harassment, a number of additional acts of discrimination include:
- Withholding workers’ compensation benefits to certain employees
- Denying proper disability or maternity leave to certain employees
- Withholding retirement selections
- Excluding certain people for recruitment or promotions
- Making layoff choices based on discriminatory reasons
- Offering different pay to equally qualified employees
Filing a Claim with the EEOC or MCAD
Before proceeding with an EEOC or Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Claim, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney with employment law experience to review your best options. In Massachusetts, MCAD and the EEOC communicate through a “work-sharing agreement.” It is only necessary to file one claim with either agency, indicating your choice to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency.
While both state and federal laws are extremely similar, an important difference lies within the required size of a company for claim eligibility. The EEOC enforces discrimination laws for employees with a minimum of 15 employees. MCAD covers smaller work environments, with a minimum of only six employees. Which agency you choose to file with may be dependent on the size of the company you work for.
- The EEOC reports that 436 total employment discrimination claims were filed in Massachusetts in 2014, up from 290 in 2009.
- Of that 2014 number, 24.5% were based on race, 27.3% were based on sex, 31.4% were based on age, and 29.6% were based on disability.
- Recent research conducted by Harvard and Princeton University professors found a 30%-35% wage gap between African American and white workers.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Employment Law Firm
Discrimination in the workplace – whether stemming from sexual harassment, unequal pay, or denial of benefits – is a serious civil offense. Because of the power dynamics between supervisors and subordinates, many employees feel they must endure hostile conduct to keep their jobs. Speaking up can be intimidating and overwhelming. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our seasoned attorneys have extensive knowledge of Massachusetts’ discrimination laws. We will fight tirelessly to protect your rights. Our goal is to protect your financial and emotional well-being. We will examine every detail of your case and determine the best strategy for moving forward. Contact us for a free consultation about your case.