I'm being harassed...what should I do? When is harassment unlawful? What is sexual harassment?
1. Not all "harassment" or bullying is unlawful. Whether there is anything the law can do for you depends on the nature of the harassment or hostile work environment and the motive. If your boss mistreats and abuses everyone (an "equal opportunity" jerk), there might not be a legal remedy. If possible, consult with an attorney to help sort this out and consider your options. To find a law firm, call the Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (617-742-0625) or the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (617-654-0400).
2. If you are a union member, you should consult with your union.
3. If you think you're being sexually harassed or harassed because of your race/color, national origin, age (over 40), sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation/identity/expression or other protected category, or because you have complained about unlawful discrimination, you need to consider whether to file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). If you fail to file a complaint at the MCAD within 300 days of any harassment, you might lose the right to take further legal action.
4. About sexual harassment
Sexual harassment (including same-sex harassment) is a form of discrimination. There are two main categories of sexual harassment: "Quid pro quo" harassment and "hostile work environment" harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment: sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct, which the submission or rejection thereof become the basis for employment decisions or a term or condition of employment.
Hostile Work Environment: Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that 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.
5. You need to decide whether to report the harassment to a supervisor or human resources official. If you don't report the harassment, the company might not know what's going on and won't be able to take corrective action. Also, if the company doesn't know about the harassment, it might not be legally responsible. If you decide to report the harassment, it is usually best to follow the company's procedures for reporting it. Check your employment handbook and discrimination/harassment policy, if the company has them.
6. Do not give your employer an excuse to take disciplinary action against you. Follow all workplace rules and policies, and act reasonably.
7. Keep a diary of significant events. Don't keep the diary at work, or on a employer-provided computer or device. Don't secretly record anyone. Don't take any documents or records or property if you do not have authorization.
8. If the harassment is causing medical or emotional problems, seek medical attention.
9. If you are not sure what to do, call us at 617-902-0192.
10. If you are interested in efforts to outlaw workplace bullying in Massachusetts, here is information about the Healthy Workplace Bill.
Fair Employment Project, Inc. | 777 Concord Avenue, Suite 302 | Cambridge, MA 02138 | 617.902.0192 | firstname.lastname@example.org