As one of the most populated cities in the state of Massachusetts, Springfield has a large number of employers who must be aware of the local sexual harassment laws. Thankfully, there is one statute which gives all of the specific requirements for businesses who want to remain compliant with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and avoid lawsuits or other issues.
This can be crucial area of concern for businesses, as one bad lawsuit can cause a small business to lose significant amounts of money and even cease operations.
Requirements for compliance
The purpose of the law is to prevent sex based mistreatment as a form of discrimination in the workplace. This can even include harassment between two members of the same sex. The statute is divided into two types of misconduct which the state considers to be sexual harassment. The first is called “quid pro quo” and the other is related to creating a hostile work environment that amounts to harassment.
What is “Quid Pro Quo”?
This essentially means that a superior requests sexual favors or some other form of improper compliance in exchange for continued employment or incentives such as promotions, raises, or bonuses. Expecting some kind of sexual response related to normal workplace duties is one of the most common and widespread forms of sexual harassment.
What counts as a hostile work environment?
As a general rule, any kind of workplace that tolerates widespread mistreatment or misconduct from employees may be considered a hostile work environment. Within the context of sexual harassment claims, this is considered any type of verbal or physical advancements or inappropriate comments that are so widespread as to interfere with a person’s normal job duties or affect their performance. Sometimes this also happens in the form of consistent humiliation or threats.
Duties of an employer
Each employer is responsible for conduct that amounts to sexual harassment from anyone in a managerial or supervisory role, even if the employer is unaware that the conduct is taking place. This eliminates ignorance as a defense, which encourages employers to be pro-active in monitoring their workplaces for any kind of harassment or discrimination. In some situations, this liability can extend to disputes between employees with the same level of authority, or individuals such as customers or contractors who consistently come into contact with employees if they engage in the prohibited behaviors listed above.
Any employer within the state who has at least six employees must also adopt some kind of a written sexual harassment policy. The written guidelines have to inform employees of the definition of sexual harassment, inform them that it is illegal, and also tell them that retaliation against someone who exerts their rights under the sexual harassment statute is a serious offense that is prohibited. Relevant regulations also compel employers to engage in regular training and other forms of education regarding sexual harassment compliance and any changes that occur within these laws over the years.
What happens if my company is hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit?
Aside from the process of retaining legal counsel to defend against an employee’s sexual harassment claims, the most important thing employers are concerned with is the amount of money they will lose through a settlement or judgment against them. You may be forced to pay for an employee’s lost wages and future lost earning potential if they quit or were terminated. There may also be claims for damages related to someone’s mental health and psychological state which can include therapy, counseling, or hospitalizations. Obviously, all of these losses an employee experiences because of sexual harassment in the workplace can start to add up to thousands of dollars. Such a loss can be especially devastating to emerging businesses who do not have enough money on hand to pay out such large sums.
Get help from attorneys who specialize in sexual harassment laws
Avoiding lawsuits is one of the most important priorities for any business that wants to succeed in today’s competitive landscape. Dinsmore Stark Attorneys at Law have offices in Springfield and Northampton. They can help businesses with any questions about the state’s sexual harassment laws and how to take precautionary measures to remain compliant.