Under both federal and Massachusetts law, employees have a right to be free from sexual harassment. There are two types of sexual harassment: hostile environment and quid pro quo.

Hostile environment sexual harassment consists of unwanted physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature/because of sex, and may consist of touching, grabbing, physical gestures, comments concerning a person’s body or appearance, requests for dates or sexual favors, and/or use of sexually explicit terms. A harasser need not be sexually attracted to their victim.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment can occur when specific job benefits, including hiring, promotion and continued employment, are conditioned upon acceding to the sexual advances of a superior or coworker.

Sexual harassment is not solely limited to members of the opposite sex, but can occur between members of the same sex or gender identity as well.

An employer is required to take prompt, remedial and effective action to stop acts of sexual harassment it knew or should have known of.

Retaliation against an employee for reporting what they reasonably believe to be sexual harassment is also unlawful. Reporting harassment can consist of complaints to supervisory employees, 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.

Representative cases

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.