Attorney MacLellan: Boston’s Premier Discrimination Lawyer
Treating people less favorably at work because they are members of a protected class is illegal in Massachusetts. To bring and prevail on a discrimination case in a Massachusetts court you must:
Establish that you’re a member of a Protected Class
To be eligible to sue your employer under M.G.L. c. 151B, the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Statute, you must be a member of a protected class and the treatment of you at work must be because of your inclusion in a protected class.
Examples of Protected Classes are:
- Race/National Origin
- Gender - including sexual harassment
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
Establish that you suffered an Adverse Employment Action
After your membership in a protected class is established, you must show that you suffered an adverse employment action.
Massachusetts courts have stated: The term “adverse employment action” does not appear in the statute; M.G.L. c. 151B states that it is an unlawful practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
Cases have employed the phrase “adverse employment action” to refer to the effects on working terms, conditions, or privileges that are material, and thus governed by the statute, as opposed to those effects that are trivial and so not properly the subject of a discrimination action.
Material disadvantage for this purpose arises when objective aspects of the work environment are affected. As such, determining whether an action is materially adverse necessarily requires a case-by-case inquiry.
An employer's creation of a hostile work environment or failure to take adequate steps in response to an employee's complaints of discrimination can be considered discrimination.
Establish Material Harm
Experiencing subjective hurt feelings is not enough, an employee must establish that she or he suffered material harm, such as economic or professional harm or that she or he endured conditions which were objectively outrageous.
Establish that discriminatory animus was the reason the action was taken, or in the alternative, establishing pretext
To prevail in an employment discrimination case, an employee must prove that the reason the employer took the action was because of the employee’s membership in a protected class. It’s rare for an employer to admit that the reason forthe adverse employment action was based on discrimination, so an employee can prove this element using circumstantial evidence. In addition, Massachusetts is a “pretext only” state, which means that if the employer gives a legitimate business reason to explain its action but the employee can show that the reason is false, there is a presumption of pretext and that the action was not legitimate.