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When Does Workplace Harassment Violate the Law in Massachusetts? 

Employees should be able to enjoy safe, fair conditions in the workplace. They should not be made to feel unsafe, unwelcome, or uncomfortable because of harassment by a supervisor, co-worker, or any other party. Workplace harassment can constitute employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA)

You may be wondering: When does mistreatment become illegal workplace harassment? The short answer is that harassment is unlawful when it is based on a protected characteristic and is so severe or pervasive that it would make a reasonable person feel abused. Here, our Massachusetts workplace harassment attorney provides a more comprehensive guide to workplace harassment.  

Three Things an Employee Must Prove in a Workplace Harassment Claim

In order to bring an employment law claim for workplace harassment, an employee must meet all of the elements set forth under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and/or the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act. Workplace harassment is unlawful if the following three things are true: 

  1. Protected Characteristic: Workplace harassment violates the law if it is based on a protected characteristic. Some notable examples include race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy status, and disability status. 
  2. Subjectively Abusive: For workplace harassment to occur, you must have actually felt subjectively abused or mistreated by the conduct. Your view of the situation matters. 
  3. Objectively Severe or Pervasive: Finally, there is also an “objective” standard. Workplace harassment is only unlawful if the conduct in question is so severe or so pervasive that it would make an ordinary and reasonable person feel abused. 

How to Determine if Workplace Harassment is ‘Severe or Pervasive’

One of the primary challenges of workplace harassment claims is determining what constitutes “severe harassment” and/or “pervasive harassment.” It is a case-by-case issue. A number of different factors will be assessed, including: 

  • What happened and what was said or done about it; 
  • How often the offending conduct occurred; 
  • Whether there was any interference with work performance; 
  • Whether an employee was humiliated or embarrassed in front of others; 
  • The effect on the worker’s psychological health and emotional well-being; and
  • Any other deemed to be relevant in determining the severity of harassment. 

Workplace harassment claims are complex. Ultimately, the specific circumstances of the case always matter. An experienced Massachusetts employee rights attorney will review your case, explain your rights, and help you determine the proper course of action.

Get Help From a Massachusetts Workplace Harassment Lawyer Today

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Massachusetts workplace harassment attorneys have the legal skill that you can count on. If you or someone you care about was forced to endure illegal harassment on the job, we are here to help you get justice. Give us a call now or connect with us online to set up your strictly private initial case evaluation. From our law offices in Springfield and Northampton, we represent workers in harassment claims throughout Western Massachusetts.