EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION
Massachusetts and federal law prohibit discrimination in employment because of a person’s age, disability, family & medical leave, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, military service, national origin, race, religion, and sexual orientation/gender identity. This conduct can include failure to hire or promote, demotion, harassment and, of course, termination. Differing treatment of similarly situated employees (for example, men versus women, employees of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, or older versus younger employees) is often important evidence in these types of cases.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Massachusetts law, employers are required to reasonably accommodate their disabled employees. Reasonable accommodations may include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities. It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to reasonably accommodate an employee or otherwise discriminate against them because of their disability.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires certain employers are required to provide their employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child, for a serious medical condition, or to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. Refusing to provide such leave, failing to allow an employee to return to their job (or a substantially similar job) upon return from leave, and/or retaliating against an employee for requesting or taking a leave is unlawful. Massachusetts law provides up to eight weeks of maternity and paternity leave, and further sets forth reasonable accommodations pregnant and nursing employees are entitled to. The Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act provides paid leave in certain situations.
The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act and Massachusetts law prohibit discrimination in employment against military veterans and reserves in employment. These laws also require employers to provide re-employment and retention rights to employees returning from military service.
Retaliation against an employee for reporting what they reasonably believe to be employment discrimination, or for asserting rights under any of the above laws, is also unlawful. Reporting discrimination can consist of complaints to supervisory employees about the discriminatory conduct, complaints to co-workers that supervisors learn of, and complaints to outside agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In disability cases, retaliation against an employee for simply requesting a reasonable accommodation for their condition is also prohibited by law. It is also a violation of law to retaliate against an employee for requesting or taking family medical leave.
Statutes of limitation are short, often less than a year (even shorter for federal employees), so it is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.