Workplace Discrimination

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As an employee in Massachusetts, you have rights regarding workplace discrimination. However, you may face challenges in enforcing them because federal and state law can be complicated. Plus, some unlawful discriminatory practices are not easily identifiable. Even if you suspect that you have been discriminated against, you may not know how to take action and follow the strict procedural rules for filing a claim.

Overview of Workplace Discrimination

 Unlawful discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats an employee or group of employees differently from other employees based upon the employee or group of employees having certain traits or characteristics. Unfortunately, employers do not always comply with their legal duties, so discrimination is more rampant than you may realize. The statistics on discrimination in the workplace are revealing.  The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that, in 2017, employees nationwide filed more than 84,000 claims alleging workplace discrimination.

Massachusetts and Federal Laws on Employment Discrimination

While both Massachusetts and federal law protect employees from discriminatory conduct, there are separate statutes regarding what characteristics make a person part of a protected group. Under Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act, employers may not discriminate because of an employee’s:

  • Race or national origin;
  • Religion;
  • Sex, including pregnancy and related conditions;
  • Disability;
  • Age;
  • Color or citizenship status; and,
  • Genetic information.

The Massachusetts’ Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) covers additional characteristics, including marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, criminal history, and military service.

Cases and Examples of Workplace Discrimination

It is not always easy to recognize when an employer is engaging in unlawful discrimination. Some examples may help you identify instances of discrimination in the workplace:

● A nurse prevailed on a claim of workplace discrimination against her employer, a Haverhill, MA hospital when her female spouse was denied healthcare coverage due to sexual orientation.
● A Boston-based insurance company was forced to pay out $1.3 million to an ex-employee who alleged in a disability discrimination claim that he was terminated due to his bipolar disorder.
● A New England employer that fired an employee for being pregnant settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Ironically, the employer in this pregnancy discrimination suit was a company specializing in maternity wear.
● Other examples of workplace discrimination may include:
○ Being fired or denied a promotion because of membership in a protected group;
○ Making less salary than others doing the same job when you have the same experience and qualifications;
○ Being denied a reasonable accommodation as necessary to perform work tasks with a disability; and
○ Harassment, abusive remarks, or being excluded from work matters.

You Have Rights as a Victim of Workplace Discrimination

 Both Massachusetts and federal law allow employees to seek legal remedies when faced with discriminatory practices. If you feel you have suffered employment discrimination, it is critical to take action to protect your rights. You may be able to seek help within your organization, especially where your employer has a human resources department or there is a manager you can trust.

However, your next step would be to file a complaint with either the EEOC or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). While you are not legally required to retain an attorney, it is wise to do so considering special circumstances and requirements related to these filings.

  • Depending on your circumstances, there may be certain advantages of filing with the EEOC over MCAD, and vice versa. For instance, federal law only governs employers having 15 or more employees; the state law applies to employers having 6 or more employees.  Note that if both federal and state law apply to your claims, you can cross-file with both agencies. A lawyer can explain the benefits that may apply in your situation.
  • Regardless of how you proceed, you must file a claim and go through the administrative process with either the EEOC or the MCAD before you can initiate a lawsuit in court.
  • There are strict statutes of limitations on workplace discrimination claims. In Massachusetts, you must file your claim within 300 days after you experienced a discriminatory act.
  • Even if you have already been fired, it is not too late to file a claim for discrimination in the workplace. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to recover back pay, future pay, losses related to your benefits, reinstatement at your job, reasonable accommodations for a disability, and other damages. In some cases, you may be entitled to compensation for emotional distress or punitive damages.

Workplace Discrimination – Links & Resources

Workplace DiscriminationMassachusetts state government website pertaining to workplace discrimination. Also provides links to specific types of discrimination.

Discrimination by TypeEqual Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) page listing the various types of discrimination each of which links to further details about the individual type of workplace discrimination.

Laws Enforced by EEOC –  Descriptions of the laws which the EEOC enforces. Each also has a link to the original text of the law.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) – The website of the Massachusetts organization, like the EEOC on the national level, which enforces anti-discrimination laws.

MCAD Hearing Decisions – Links to decisions on past charges of discrimination filed to the MCAD.

Massachusetts law about discrimination – Massachusetts state government run website which provides links to the “laws, regulations, cases and web sources on discrimination law.”


  • There were 84,254 charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC during the 2017 fiscal year.[1]
  • The 84,254 EEOC charges filed during the 2017 fiscal year contained the following types of charges (note that percentages add up to more than 100% as each charge can have multiple categories)[2]:
    • 33.9% were discrimination based on race.
    • 30.4% were discrimination based on sex.
    • 9.8% were discrimination based on national origin.
    • 48.8% were retaliation.
    • 21.8% were discrimination based on age.
    • 31.9% were discrimination based on disability.
    • Remaining categories were each less than 5% of the total charges.
  • There was $42.4 million in monetary benefit from the charges filed with the EEOC during the 2017 fiscal Year.
  • During 2017, the MCAD completed 2,717 investigations and 3,900 cases.[4]
  • 356 MCAD cases were resolved via settlement which resulted in $5,834,753 being obtained for the complainants.
  • 2017 MCAD complaints contained the following types of charges[6]:
    • 21% pertained to discrimination based on disability.
    • 18% pertained to discrimination based on color/race.
    • 18% pertained to retaliation.
    • 16% pertained to discrimination based on sex.
    • 11% pertained to discrimination based on age.
    • The remaining categories each represented 8% or less of the 2017 MCAD complaints


[1] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges.cfm

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/litigation.cfm

[4] https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/04/06/2017-mcad-annual-report-4-1-2018.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.


Trust a Massachusetts Workplace Discrimination Lawyer with Your Claim

Fortunately, our workplace discrimination attorneys at Rodman Employment Law know exactly how to take on Massachusetts employers that engage in prohibited discriminatory acts. We have been fighting for the rights of workers in Massachusetts for decades, amassing more than 70 years of combined experience with complex discrimination claims. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge and experience, backed by a dedication to ensuring fair treatment in the workplace.

If you have questions about employment discrimination or want to know more about your rights as an employee, please contact the Boston-based law firm of Rodman Employment Law. Our attorneys assist with all types of workplace discrimination cases and throughout all phases of a claim. Whether you need help identifying discriminatory acts, filing with the EEOC or MCAD, or assistance with the litigation process, we provide solid representation that prioritizes your needs. Please call our Newton, MA office at (617) 820 5250 to schedule a consultation regarding your case.



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