Case Study 1: Racial Harassment in Massachusetts Workplace

Steffans Legal settles racial harassment suit for Massachusetts worker

In 2014, another lawyer contacted Ben Steffans about a woman with whom he had met that had been subjected to racial harassment. This lawyer referred the case to Ben Steffans, knowing that employment law and harassment law are Steffans’s area of specialty, including racial harassment claims arising under Title VII and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Act.  The conduct occurred in Pittsfield, and the employer was based in Methuen.   

Employment attorney Ben Steffans met with the client and quickly understood that she had been subjected to significant harassment, including being called an offensive word targeting her African American heritage, and being told that someone would burn a cross in her yard.   Needless to say, this employee’s workplace was, by any measure, hostile. Ben Steffans immediately sent a demand letter to the employer, seeking compensation and justice for this woman.

The employer admitted that the conduct had happened, but claimed it couldn’t be liable for the conduct because a non-supervisory employee committed it and because the employer claimed that it had done everything it could to remedy the conduct as soon as it learned it had happened.

Steffans and the employer agreed that the harassment was committed by a non-supervisory employee but disagreed that the employer had done all it could to remedy the harassment once it learned it had happened.  Employment attorney Steffans argued that the employer should have terminated the offender, or at least taken all steps to make sure he did not interact with his client at work.  He proved that the employer had not done this by examining work schedules after the harassment and establishing that the client and the harasser unnecessarily overlapped at work on a number of occasions.

The employer was unable to deny the fact that it did not take steps necessary to prevent the client and the harasser from interacting at work. As a result, it had to concede and settle the claim for a sizable sum that it insisted be kept confidential.

Have you been the victim of racial harassment in your Massachusetts workplace? Do you live in Fall River, the Cape, New Bedford, Lawrence, Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, or Pittsfield?  Contact Steffans Legal today to schedule your free consultation.