Employment Discrimination Laws in Massachusetts
Employment discrimination is a serious issue and deserves serious attention from employers, employees and from the legal community. For far too long, employees in all lines of work had no means of recourse if they were fired, demoted, passed over for promotion, harassed or made to feel uncomfortable in the work place because of their age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or national origin. However, times have changed and Massachusetts has been on the cutting edge of those changes when it comes to fighting for the rights of those who have been the victim of employment discrimination. In fact, Massachusetts was the second state in the country to include sexual orientation as part of a protected class pertaining to employment discrimination back in 1989. As a leader in the pursuit of justice for those affected by employment discrimination, Anna Shapiro, Esq., PC has the experience, grasp of the laws and skills necessary to ensure every Massachusetts worker knows their rights and gets the resolution they deserve if they have been the victim of employment discrimination.
What Constitutes Employment Discrimination?
There are specific laws on the books that outline exactly what constitutes employment discrimination and who can be legally held accountable for such conduct in the workplace. Any government or private sector business or entity that employs more than six people in Massachusetts has to abide by anti-discrimination laws in Massachusetts, with some religious organizations being exempt. The laws essentially state that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their race, color, religious creed, national origin, age, ancestry or sex. Other provisions, including sexual orientation discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and family responsibility discrimination, were also added into Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws. There are endless ways employment discrimination can manifest itself in the workplace.
Some of the more common events or actions in the workplace that can occur and can be pinpointed as discrimination toward an employee can include:
• Being fired or demoted • Being passed over for promotion as someone less qualified gets promoted • Being the target of harassing statements or behaviors • Being paid less than others doing the same job • Being disciplined more harshly that others who have committed the same offense • Being placed in a “dead end” position without reason
An employee may also feel singled out because of their race, gender, or other protected class or they may have evidence that they are being retaliated against if they have spoken out about possible discrimination. When someone has been on the receiving end of any of the above behaviors and they believe being part of a protected class (such as race, gender, age, etc.) is the reason, they may certainly have been the victim of employment discrimination.
Proving Employment Discrimination
While someone may have a definitive gut feeling that the reason they may have been fired, demoted, overlooked for promotion or otherwise made to feel discriminated against is because they are part of a protected group, it takes more than a gut feeling to bring a case to court and successfully garner damages or regain employment and benefits. It can be difficult to prove because employers can contend that there were other reasons that motivated them to fire, demote or take action against an employee. It is up to the employee and legal representation filing a case of employment discrimination to prove that the reasons given for the action taken by an employer are false. Successfully refuting the reasons or motivations an employer may give is the first real step. Then, the employee must show that the real reason for the actions taken against them rest with being in a certain protected class. One example may be if you are female and perfectly qualified for a job position, but have been passed over as an unqualified male employee gets promoted over you. Having statistical data, such as how many people in your protected class have suffered the same fate while others outside of that race, religion, age group, etc. have been rewarded in some way can help prove systematic behavior that can back up your claim. Once there is a pattern of discrimination against a certain group or class established, along with proof that this pattern of behavior has directly affected your employment or future opportunities within a company, then there may be a successful ruling of employment discrimination.
What to Expect From a Successful Suit
Once you have secured expert legal representation and proven your case in court, what kind of “win” can you really expect? More often than not, someone who has proven employment discrimination may win monetary damages. Those damages can coincide with lost wages if you were fired, lost wages if you were demoted or not promoted when you deserved it, pension money you may be owed, or even pain and suffering damages if you were harassed. Other resolutions can include being able to regain employment with the company or being placed in a position that you were initially denied due to discrimination.
The only way to definitively know if your situation truly qualifies is to seek the advice of a skilled employment discrimination attorney in MA who can help navigate your case and inform you as to what a likely outcome may be.
By Anna Shapiro