Retaliation for Reporting Discrimination in Massachusetts
Protecting Your Rights: Reporting Discrimination at Work
Reporting workplace discrimination is a legally protected activity under both state and federal anti-discrimination laws. If you have a reasonable, good faith belief that you've experienced workplace discrimination and you report it, your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for taking this action.
Understanding Protected Activity
Protected activity encompasses several actions, such as participating in proceedings with organizations like the EEOC or MCAD or "opposing" discrimination in your workplace. "Opposing" discrimination could involve reporting it to management or HR, assisting a colleague in making a discrimination complaint, or refusing to participate in discriminatory activities. Most often, protected activity involves either filing a formal charge of discrimination or an internal complaint to your employer.
Reporting Discrimination: The Good Faith Belief
Your report or opposition to discrimination is protected as long as you have a "reasonable, good faith belief" that the behavior is unlawful. A reasonable belief must have some basis in fact. For example, if a female employee with similar qualifications complains that a male colleague was promoted instead of her due to discrimination, this is considered a reasonable, good faith complaint.
Conversely, if a female employee lacks a required license or certification and is passed over for a promotion given to a male colleague with the necessary qualifications, this may not be a reasonable complaint due to objective evidence supporting the promotion decision.
"Good faith" is somewhat subjective and fact-dependent. Raising a complaint without any factual basis and only after receiving legitimate performance-related discipline might be seen as acting in bad faith.
Retaliation refers to adverse employment actions taken against you because you reported discrimination. Not every negative action is considered "materially adverse employment action." A negative performance review alone usually isn't actionable, nor is a general sense of workplace tension. However, if these factors ultimately lead to termination or demotion, they may contribute to a larger pattern of retaliation.
Causation is another critical element. Employers often provide non-retaliatory motives for their actions, such as poor performance or strained relationships with a manager. You then have the opportunity to prove that these reasons were pretextual or just a cover for the true retaliatory motive.
Proving pretext requires a fact-specific approach, and consulting an experienced attorney can help determine the likelihood of establishing the connection between protected activity and adverse employment actions.
Key Steps When Reporting Discrimination
Need Help With a Retaliation Issue?
Wondering if You Have a Legal Claim for Retaliation?
Our Solutions Roadmap is a quick and easy way to share the details of what you are facing and receive preliminary feedback from a member of our team. Use the button below to get started- it is 100% confidential and 100% free.
How Our Employment Lawyers Can Help
Our experienced employment lawyers can guide you through the process, ensuring your rights are protected when reporting discrimination at work. You can use the button below to schedule a call back from a member of our team, or give us a call at 781-784-2322.