Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
FACT SHEET: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN EMPLOYMENT
Massachusetts and federal law prohibit both sexual harassment in employment and retaliation against persons who resist or object to sexual harassment or cooperate in investigations of sexual harassment. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination enforces these laws.
Sexual harassment consists of:
any verbal or physical acts or conduct,
of a sexual nature,
which is unwelcome by the victim, and
(a) submission to such conduct is necessary to obtain or keep your job, or (b) submission or resistance to such conduct affects your pay, job assignments, promotions, or other aspects of your job, or (c) the conduct unreasonably interferes with doing your job, or creates an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive working environment.
Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment include: inappropriate touching; sexual epithets, jokes, gossip, sexual conduct or comments; requests for sex; displaying sexually suggestive pictures and objects; and leering, whistling, or sexual gestures.
Unwelcome means “not received by choice or willing consent, regarded as undesirable or offensive.” Whether or not something is unwelcome is decided by the victim. Sexual harassment may exist even in the absence of economic or tangible job consequences.
Employers may be held responsible for acts of sexual harassment and
retaliation by their supervisors even if the employee has not complained.
Employers may also be responsible for the acts of co-workers if the employer
knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take prompt and effective corrective
Employers may be responsible for the acts of non-employees at work if the
employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take prompt and effective
corrective action within the employer's legal ability to do so.
Employers must investigate complaints of sexual harassment or retaliation
carefully and thoroughly in a timely manner.