Massachusetts has laws against discrimination in the workplace. An employer cannot discriminate against you when hiring to fill a position, when firing, or when determining your pay or the conditions or privileges of your employment. An employer must not discriminate against you because of age (being over 40), race, national origin, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or genetic or medical information.
Age Discrimination in the Workplace
In Massachusetts, the Fair Employment Practice Act (for companies with 6 or more employees) and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (for companies with 20 or more employees) prohibits job discrimination because of age. These laws are applicable in situations involving employees who are 40 years or older.
Signs of age discrimination in the workplace can include: not being hired because the employer had a younger person in mind for that job; being passed over for a promotion to a mid-managerial position while someone younger was hired for the position for an invalid reason such as the company needing “new blood” or someone who can take the company in new directions; not being trained in newer
technologies or given training that other employees at the same level get to improve job performance; not being promoted or given additional responsibilities because they feared that “at your age” you wouldn’t be able to keep up; being laid off because the company wants to keep younger employees who will work for less; being given unreasonably negative or unfair job evaluations and then being demoted or fired as a result; your company is downsizing and only the older employees are being let go; or being placed in a menial job or reducing your responsibilities because of your age.
Sex, Pregnancy Or Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
By law a company cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender. While this law is most often seen to be for the benefit of women, there are also situations where men are discriminated against because of gender. Issues covered by this area of the law include sexual stereotyping in employment decisions, dress, grooming issues and marital status.
You have the right to equal pay for equal work. By equal work it means that if a job requires the same skill level, the same effort, the same responsibility and is performed under similar conditions, then those jobs are generally the same and should be compensated equally regardless of gender. What constitutes “equal” or “the same” requires an analysis of the facts related to the work and does not by definition mean identical.
Under Massachusetts and federal laws, an employer cannot discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability on the basis of that disability. To be a qualified individual with a disability, you should be able to safely perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. “Reasonable accommodations” might include altering the floor plan or workstations, modifying equipment, adding ramps, or other accommodations that would enhance your performance or allow you to do the job more easily.
Generally, an employer must provide reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee unless doing so would cause undue economic hardship on the employer.
A disabled person is generally described as a person who has a physical or mental impairment or condition that substantially limits one or more of his or her life activities. The definition may include people who have a record of the impairment or who are regarded to have the impairment.
Discrimination Based On Race, Color, Ethnicity Or Religion
Under federal law, an employer must not discriminate based on color, race, religion, sex or national origin (according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). As stated earlier, recognizing and proving discrimination can be difficult. Discrimination can also involve abuse in the form of a hostile work environment created through the use of ethnic or racial jokes, demeaning name calling, intimidation, or demanding you do humiliating work or suffer humiliation at the hands of fellow employees with or without the consent of the employer. If you are forced to leave a job because of intolerable conditions, such as these, you may have the right to file a claim based upon discrimination in employment. If you feel you are being discriminated against, see your employment lawyer as soon as possible.
If you blow the whistle on your company, exposing illegal activities such as accounting fraud, false claims or contractor bids with government projects and are fired or discriminated against as a result, you may want to act quickly and file a claim.
Some employers feel wronged when an employee files a claim against them or insists on their rights in a dispute. In some cases, an employer will attempt to “get even” through retaliatory acts against the employee. You have the right to insist that your rights or those of a fellow employee are observed and protected. As long as you are not attempting to foster disobedience, rejecting legitimate work or encouraging others to do the same, you have a number of “protected activities”. For example, you can testify on behalf of coworkers in discrimination lawsuits, you can file a discrimination suit, you can inform the employer that you will file a claim to encourage compliance, you can file a worker’s compensation claim and you can even take part in whistle blowing activities and expect your job to be protected. In situations such as these, employer retaliation can be quite obvious. You should speak to a lawyer on this and do it soon if you feel you have a legitimate claim. The key here is that an employer cannot punish you for insisting on your legal and protected rights.
Harassment based upon pregnancy can be actionable. Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy is a type of sexual discrimination under both Massachusetts law and federal law. An employer cannot fire, demote or apply rules to a pregnant person that are not applied equally to other employees. The employer must restore the employee to her previous position – the one held prior to any temporary changes made to accommodate her pregnancy – or to place her in an equal position with the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority as the previous position. “Hardship” is not an argument an employer can use to avoid this responsibility. This leave is also allowed in addition to earned vacation time and accumulated sick days. You may be entitled to accommodations for your pregnancy conditions.