The general rule in Massachusetts is that an employee can be terminated for any reason, or no reason at all. This is considered at-will employment. An employee can quit at will. An employer can terminate an employee at will. However, there are exceptions to this rule. One of the most well-known exceptions to the rule of at-will employment is the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is a law that prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of their race, sex, national origin, and other certain protected classes. However, Massachusetts has its own anti-discrimination law, called the Fair Employment Practices Act, codified under Mass. Gen. Laws, Chapter 151B. For the most part, Chapter 151B provides much greater protection to employees than its federal counterpart. Chapter 151B protects an employee from discrimination based on their race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, ancestry, and disability.
Filing a Claim
There is a very small window to file a discrimination claim. An employee must file a discrimination claim at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (the “Commission”), within 300 days of the last discriminatory act. If you wait longer than the 300 days, you will be forever barred from filing a claim for discrimination. Therefore, if you feel your employer may be discriminating against you, it is important you contact an employment attorney as soon as possible.
Chapter 151B applies to all employer with at least six employees. It protects both private and public employees, i.e., employees of private companies and non-profits as well as employees of towns and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If an employer is found liable for discriminating against an employee, they may be liable for the employee’s lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages (i.e., damages to punish the employer for committing a bad act), attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Types of Discrimination
Employment discrimination can often take many different forms. Sometimes an employer will terminate or demote an employee for a discriminatory motive. However, discrimination in the workplace can also take the form of harassment, also called a hostile work environment. There are a few rules to keep in mind to determine whether a hostile work environment exists. First, the harassment must be severe and pervasive. A few passing comments do not likely arise to a hostile work environment, but even a single extreme act, such as calling someone a racial epithet, may arise to meet this standard. Secondly, the hostile work environment must be discriminatory based on a protected class. It is not illegal to harass an employee because of their clothes, or their personality, or based on politics or friendship, it is only illegal if it is based on your race, ethnicity, sex, or some other protected class.
The attorneys at Keches Law Group have represented many employees who have suffered from employment discrimination. We assist in negotiating severance agreements, and pursue such claims at the Commission, Massachusetts courts, and federal courts. If you feel your employer has discriminated against you, take action and contact Keches Law Group immediately.
If you have experienced discrimination at work, call our toll-free at 617-898-0808, or visit us online for a free consultation.