Massachusetts Sexual Harassment laws & HR compliance analysis

Massachusetts Sexual Harassment: What you need to know

The Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation (MA Gen. Laws Ch. 151B Sec. 1et seq.). The FEPA defines "gender identity" as a person's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, regardless of whether it is different from the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth. The FEPA covers all public employers and private employers with six or more employees and expressly prohibits sexual harassment of employees.
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The term “sexual harassment” is defined by law to mean sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
• 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
• 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.
Supervisors. According to guidelines issued by the state Commission Against Discrimination, an employer is liable when a person with supervisory authority sexually harasses an employee, regardless of whether the employer knew of the harassment. Even in situations in which the alleged harasser is not formally designated as a supervisor and even if a supervisor lacks actual authority, an employer may be liable if the harasser has apparent supervisory authority. The employee's reasonable belief that the alleged harasser has supervisory authority may be a significant factor in determining the existence ...

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