Massachusetts has three separate laws that prohibit age discrimination in employment:
The Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of age (MA Gen. Laws Ch. 151B Sec. 4et seq.). The FEPA protects individuals who are at least 40 years old and covers public and private employers with six or more employees.
A separate law prohibits employers from discharging or refusing to hire an individual on the basis of age. The law protects individuals over the age of 40 and covers all private employers (MA Gen. Laws Ch. 149 Sec. 24aet seq.). The courts in Massachusetts have ruled that this law provides only a penalty and cannot be used to bring a civil action for wrongful termination based on age discrimination (Treadwell v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 666 F. Supp. 278 (D. Mass. 1987)).
The Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MERA) gives any person, regardless of age, the same rights as other persons to make and enforce contracts. A similar law at the federal level has been interpreted to cover various aspects of the employment relationship (MA Gen. Laws Ch. 93 Sec. 103). The courts in Massachusetts have ruled that the MERA does not create an independent right to vindicate discrimination that can otherwise be addressed under the FEPA (Cargill v. Harvard Univ., 60 Mass. App. Ct. 585 (Mass. App. Ct. 2004)). As long as the FEPA applies to an individual's allegations, it provides the exclusive remedy for employment discrimination.
Under the FEPA, it is unlawful labor practice for an employer to:
• Refuse to hire or employ or to bar or discharge from employment because of age.
• Discriminate against an individual in compensation ...