Our Boston sexual harassment lawyers have secured substantial victories, in out-of-court settlements and in litigation, on behalf of clients who have been subjected to harassment or hostile work environments. Our firm takes an aggressive approach to these cases and has successfully taken on powerful interests across various industries on behalf of victims of sexual harassment. We also understand that it takes immense courage for an employee to accuse their employer, supervisor, or coworker of misconduct and that they may experience significant economic and emotional consequences as a result of that decision. We work with our clients to understand their needs and then tailor our legal strategy to ensure that their interests are our priority.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination in employment that is prohibited by federal law under Title VII, Title IX, and under various Massachusetts laws, including c. 151B. Both federal and state law provide that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when the conduct is either directly connected to a grant or denial of an employment benefit (quid pro quo) or where such conduct unreasonably interferes with the employee’s work environment (hostile environment). To establish quid pro quo harassment, an employee must prove that submission or rejection of conduct of a sexual nature is used as the basis for an employment decision against the employee. An example of quid pro quo harassment is the termination or demotion of an employee after he or she rejected a supervisor’s sexual advances. To establish a sexually hostile work environment claim, an employee must show that the unwelcome conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of his or her employment. A single act of harassment, if it is egregious, may be sufficient to establish a hostile work environment. Moreover, not all harassing conduct needs to be overtly sexual or gender-based in nature to establish pervasive sexual harassment. Examples of sexually hostile conduct include a supervisor or coworker repeatedly making unwelcome sexual comments or showing sexually inappropriate pictures or websites to the employee. The employee must also show that the employer was responsible for the conduct, either because the offender was a supervisor or, if the harasser was a co-worker, because the employer knew or should have known about the offending conduct and failed to take action to remedy it.
While many of the cases that grab attention in the media are already in court, most sexual harassment cases begin with internal complaints to the employer’s Human Resources department and lead to internal investigations, which can cause substantial stress and anxiety to the complaining party. Employers are required to investigate all complaints of sexual harassment, even if the complaint was verbal and not formally made, and they cannot promise the complainant that they will not investigate or will keep his or her name confidential. An employee who makes a complaint should keep all records they have of the harassing behavior, including any electronic records of texts, emails, voicemails, or social media. If an employer fails to investigate a complaint, the employer may be held liable for its failure to investigate and may also be required to pay to punitive damages. If an employer takes any adverse action against an employee who complains of sexual harassment or a co-worker who supports an employee’s complaint, such conduct may be considered retaliatory and may be a separate basis for a lawsuit against the company.
While workplace training or cultural shifts have started to improve some work environments in which such misconduct was tolerated in the past, the #MeToo movement has demonstrated that both quid pro quo and hostile workplace harassment continue to persist and impact employees, particularly women who work in traditionally male-dominated fields and those who are vulnerable due to power imbalances in their workplaces. Indeed, since the #MeToo movement began, there has been a fifty percent increase in sexual harassment lawsuits brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) nationally, even as overall discrimination claims have decreased. Even prior to the #MeToo movement, our Boston employment lawyers have had substantial experience successfully advocating on behalf of sexual harassment victims in internal investigations, within administrative agency proceedings at the EEOC or Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), and in court.
We have settled or litigated many cases involving serious claims of both sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, including obtaining six- and even seven-figure settlements in such cases. Several of our lawyers are members of the Legal Network for Gender Equity, a nationwide network of attorneys who represent women and girls who experience sex discrimination at work or school.
If you believe you or someone you know has been subjected to harassment by their co-worker or supervisor in the workplace or has been retaliated against after making a complaint of harassment or supporting a co-worker who is making such a complaint, please contact our Boston sexual harassment lawyers as soon as possible at (617) 742-6020 or by filling out the online contact form.