Employment Discrimination in Massachusetts

There are comprehensive laws in place in Massachusetts which prohibit employers or their managers, supervisors or your co-workers from discriminating against a number of protected classes or categories. If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination where you work, you can file a claim of discrimination at either the state government agency which deals with enforcing discrimination laws or the equivalent federal agency.

What Kind of Discrimination Laws Are in Place in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B is the main state legislation in place which protects workers from discrimination in their place of employment. This is in addition to the suite of federal laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, updates to the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which covers discrimination against those with disabilities.

State and federal legislation is broadly parallels, but there are some differences between them, such as the size of the employer covered by the laws. Also, state legislation is not confined just to the employer.

Who is Protected by Federal and State Laws in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts state discrimination laws make it illegal to discriminate against any employers in these categories:

  • age (for workers over 40),
  • ancestry,
  • color,
  • disability,
  • gender identity,
  • genetic information,
  • military service,
  • national origin,
  • race,
  • religion,
  • sex (including pregnancy and childbirth),
  • sexual orientation,

These are the categories specifically protected by state law, but the federal laws broadly cover the same categories with a few variations. State law, for example, prohibits employers in Massachusetts from asking whether potential an employee has a criminal record.

What Employers are Covered by Discrimination Laws in Massachusetts?

State law affects employers with 6 or more employees, while federal laws affect employers with 15 or more employees. This means that if you work in a place of employment with between 6 and 14 employees that you should file your claim with the state agency.

For anyone in larger workplaces, you can choose either the state or federal agency. Because the state and federal agencies have a work-sharing agreement, you don’t need to file a claim with both agencies at the same time as they can be cross-referenced.

Which Massachusetts Agencies Regulate These Laws?

There are two agencies in Massachusetts that regulate employment discrimination laws. The state agency is the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). This agency has offices in the following state locations: Boston, Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford.

The federal agency is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) which has a single state base office in Boston. The EEOC now also has an online service which can be accessed by anyone across the state who may find arranging a face to face visit to the EEOC office in Boston impractical.

How do I File a Discrimination Claim in Massachusetts?

You should first choose which agency to file your claim with. There are pros and cons of each route to take, but there are several advantages of filing through the MCAD, not least if you are employed in a smaller workplace.

Ensure you include all relevant information when you file a discrimination complaint and show that you have made an attempt to resolve the issue with your employer first without success. The agency will make an effort to investigate the complaint and resolve it before considering penalties or giving permission for you to file a lawsuit in a state or federal court. These attempts at resolution may include arranging a mediation session, and interviewing your employer or other people at work of interest.

If there is a clear breach of state or federal discrimination law, your employer may be forced to address the discrimination existing or face penalties.

The EEOC may issue a “Right to Sue” letter if no resolution can be made. You then have the opportunity of pursuing the case through the federal court.

How Long Do I Have to File an Employment Discrimination Claim in Massachusetts?

There are strict time limits for filing an employment discrimination claim in Massachusetts, but these are quite long. The limits are called statutes of limitations. Both the MCAD and the EEOC allow you to file your claim within 300 days of the date when discrimination last took place, but it is advisable to not leave any claim for too long before you take action.

How Do I Get Help Filing an Employment Discrimination Claim in Massachusetts?

You may not need a lawyer if the MCAD or EEOC resolves your claim, but if there is no satisfactory resolution you may decide to file a lawsuit in a state or federal civil court with the help of an employment lawyer.  To get in touch with an independent, participating attorney who subscribes to the website, complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page today!

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