In Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Massachusetts discrimination statutes. Sexual harassment is defined under two distinct categories: “quid pro quo” harassment in which sexual conduct is made a condition of employment or the basis of employment decisions; and secondly “hostile environment” where an abusive work environment is created by either verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which makes it difficult, or impossible, for the victim to fully participate in the work environment. The law also prohibits employers from retaliation against employees for making a complaint of sexual harassment.
At the Law Office of Stark & Heiner, we strive to be sensitive to the experiences our clients have gone through. We understand the seriousness of what has happened, and how such experiences can sometimes have lasting effects. During our consultations, we patiently walk you through the events that brought you to us, all the while helping you provide us with the information we need to be able to fully evaluate your case.
Sexual harassment cases typically come down to the unique set of circumstances existing in a particular claim. While there can be certain conduct or actions that confirm the existence of sexual harassment in some cases, others are more subtle. Cases often come down to a subjective and an objective evaluation. Specifically, subjectively did the client reasonably believe they were being sexually harassed? What are the indicators? What was done? How did it make the client feel? Was it reported to the employer? If so, what did the employer do about the report? These, along with many other questions, need to be answered when evaluating a sexual harassment claim. After we have the answers we need, we look to the objective evaluation. Objectively, would a reasonable person, under these same circumstances, have reasonably believed they were being sexually harassed?
Over the years our lawyers have represented many employees, as well as employers, in sexual harassment cases both at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) as well as in Massachusetts Superior Court. Our experience, working on both sides, has provided us with the distinct perspective of being able to evaluate a case, and see the potential arguments, from both the employee’s and the employer’s positions. As an “employee attorney” we have successfully represented clients against small employers, fortune 500 companies, religious institutions, municipalities and school districts with awards up to a quarter of a million dollars. As an “employer attorney,” the firm has performed sexual harassment investigations for both national and international companies, as well as represent small locally owned companies at both MCAD as well as in Massachusetts Superior Court.
If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment, or if you are an employer who is being accused of sexual harassment, it is important to know your rights.