A former employee of a city water department in Palmer, Massachusetts has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that she was subjected to sexual harassment and later fired for filing a complaint about it.
USA Today reported recently that the number of sexual harassment claims made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been on the decline, with about 11,700 claims being reported in 2010, down from roughly 16,000 in 1997. But we know that while some of this may be attributed to improving workplace conditions, a larger part is likely the economic slump. When the economy is not doing well, employees may be afraid of coming forward, for fear of losing their job.
Unfortunately, as this allegations made in this case may illustrate, that may sometimes be a risk. But that certainly does not mean you should have to suffer through it. If you’re being sexually harassed at work and are unsure how to proceed, contact an experienced employment lawyer first. This way, you may potentially avoid having to take the case to court at all. But if you do, the series of events leading up to that point will be well-documented by a firm that is familiar with the laws and your rights.
From an employer’s perspective, it’s important to have an updated sexual harassment policy, and a clear process for reporting violations. Consulting a Massachusetts employment law attorney when designing and enforcing such a policy can help protect your legal rights should allegations surface.
In this case, the woman was an administrative assistant with the city’s water department for about two decades when she allegedly began suffering the overtures of the department’s treasurer. She claimed he would ask her whether she was wearing a bra. He would allegedly reach down the middle of her shirt to pull it down. She claimed he would make sexual innuendos and ask for sexual favors. He allegedly would bring to work lingerie advertisements and show her the pictures, asking about her own anatomy.
If the assistant made a comment about being tired, the treasurer would allegedly respond with a remark about how she and her husband must have engaged in sexual intercourse the previous night.
The employee said the harassment began sometime in 2008 and continued until she was fired from her position.
She reportedly not only informed her superiors about the harassment – she went to the board of commissioners. In a public meeting, she raised her concerns about the treasurer’s behavior and comments toward her. Rather than acting upon her concerns, or even investigating, the commission did nothing, according to the allegations in her complaint.
A month later, the assistant said she gave the department superintendent a letter detailing the continued sexual harassment she claimed to have suffered, despite her many complaints. Again, no action was reportedly taken.
Instead, soon after, she said her hours of work were slashed from a full-time, 40 hours per week down to just 15 hours a week.
She then filed a complaint with the EEOC. Soon after that, she was fired.
Her lawsuit claims four counts of sexual harassment and four counts of retaliation.
State law governing sexual harassment is found in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 151C, Section 1(e).
The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us online.
Western Massachusetts woman files federal sexual-harassment lawsuit against Palmer Water Department, Oct. 15, 2015, By Dan Ring, The Massachusetts Republican
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