Employment Discrimination in Boston and Natick: Guidelines for Massachusetts Employers 


(Last Updated On: April 30, 2024)

workplace discrimination photo

In Boston and Natick workplaces, and in fact, throughout the state of Massachusetts, employees have a range of rights and protections against discrimination in the workplace. While it is essential for employees to understand their rights and to gain an understanding of what constitutes unlawful discrimination, it is also critical for employers to understand their responsibilities under state and federal law. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on their membership in protected classes. In addition, employers have a duty to take certain steps to prevent discrimination, to investigate claims of discrimination when they are made, and to take remedial actions when discrimination has occurred. In addition, Massachusetts employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report discrimination or participate in an investigation. 

Our Boston employment lawyers can provide you with more information about your responsibilities and duties as an employer in Massachusetts and speak with you if you have concerns about the steps you should be taking to create a safe workplace in general or to address a particular issue related to discrimination. 

Understand What Discrimination Means 

Employers in Massachusetts are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants or employees for a wide range of reasons based on the job applicant’s or employee’s membership in a protected class. We will explain what this means below, but first, it is critical for employers to understand what discrimination means and entails. 

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “to discriminate against someone means to treat that person differently, or less favorably.” Discrimination can include unfair treatment, harassment, and retaliation.  

Comply with the Relevant Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination 

Next, employers need to have a clear understanding of how legal protections under state and federal law prohibit discrimination in the workplace, including in the hiring process. As an employer, you are prohibited from discriminating against any employee in the job application stage, during employment, or in making a termination decision based on that person’s membership in a protected class. Protected classes include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Race; 
  • Religion; 
  • National origin; 
  • Sex; 
  • Gender and gender identity; 
  • Pregnancy; 
  • Disability; and 
  • Age. 

Broadly speaking, Massachusetts state law provides greater and broader protections to employees than federal laws tend to, so it is essential to understand what constitutes unlawful discrimination under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act, as well as under the wide range of federal laws that prohibit discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  

Prevent Discrimination in the Workplace 

Employers also have a duty to take steps to prevent discrimination from happening in the workplace. Often, employment handbooks or employment policies you draft for your employees can clarify the forms of discrimination that are prohibited in the workplace. In addition, employers must comply with posting requirements, which means posting posters in the workplace about laws that protect employees against discrimination.  

For example, the EEOC requires employers to post a “Know Your Rights: Workplace Discrimination is Illegal” poster, and employers can face penalties if they do not comply. To ensure that you are in compliance with all posting requirements and to ensure that you have taken effective steps to prevent discrimination, you should seek advice from an employment law attorney in Massachusetts. 

Investigate and Remedy Discrimination When it is Reported 

Employers in Massachusetts also have a duty to investigate employment discrimination when it is reported and to take remedial action when an investigation reveals that discrimination occurred. In the case College-Town v. MCAD (1987), the court concluded that Massachusetts employers who know about discrimination in the workplace and do not take any action to remedy it are in violation of Massachusetts law

Investigations must be taken seriously by employers, and they must actually seek to determine whether a report of discrimination requires remedial action. 

Avoid Retaliation 

Finally, Massachusetts employers are prohibited from retaliating against any employee for reporting discrimination, engaging in an investigation concerning employment discrimination, or otherwise exercising their rights under state or federal law. To avoid allegations of retaliation, it is essential to avoid taking any adverse actions against employees without clearly documented reasons for doing so that have nothing to do with allegations of discrimination or an ongoing discrimination investigation in the workplace. 

Contact a Boston Employment Law Attorney 

The best way for employers in Massachusetts to ensure that they are in compliance with discrimination laws is to have an employment law attorney review their practices and procedures, and our firm can help. In addition, if your business is facing a discrimination claim, one of our Boston employment law attorneys can speak with you today about your options. Contact Rodman Employment Law to find out more about the services we provide to employers in Massachusetts.

More articles