Casner & Edwards

Sexual Harassment Policies For Employers

Both federal and state statutes proscribe discrimination by employers of prospective and current employees. In general, those laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against a prospective or current employee by reason of age, handicap, sex, race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry or genetics. Massachusetts law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The state law applies to employers with six or more employees (and additional state statutes apply to even smaller employers), while the federal statutes apply to persons with fifteen or more employees. Violation of these laws may subject an employer to liability for compensatory damages, punitive damages and an award of the attorneys’ fees incurred by the claimant. Damages awards can be substantial.

Sexual harassment is one form of sexual discrimination. Massachusetts law requires every employer of six or more persons to adopt a policy against sexual harassment. Further, the employer must provide to all employees, both upon hiring and annually, a copy of the company's sexual harassment policy. Implementing such a policy is also strongly advised to protect the employer under federal law.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”)has published a model sexual harassment policy to reflect federal and state statutory and regulatory requirements. The model policy may be viewed athttp://www.mass.gov/mcad/harassment.html.

It is best not to rely on the model policy alone, as the MCAD strongly encourages that the adopted policy outline the employer’s policies for investigating complaints concerning all forms of discrimination, not just those involving sexual harassment.

The employment lawyers at Casner & Edwards, LLP are experienced in drafting and reviewing company policies against discrimination and in investigating and defending against claims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. For assistance and further information about what Casner & Edwards, LLP can do for you, please contact Steve Perry at perry@casneredwards.com.     

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