Workplace Bullying & Harassment
Steffans Legal Represents Massachusetts Employees Suffering from Unlawful Harassment in Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, and the Cape.
We’ve talked to 100s of employees over our 12 years of practicing employment law and have learned to appreciate that workplace harassment is incredibly common and incredibly devastating. Unfortunately, many employees suffering from unlawful harassment believe they have no options—and they think there is nothing they can do to make it stop. Others know that they have options but are afraid to exercise those options for fear of retaliation.
At Steffans Legal, our 12 years of experience allows us to know how to tackle workplace harassment claims and the steps to help employees avoid suffering from retaliation when they address that conduct. When we talk to employees who are suffering from harassment, we are frequently asked the following questions. Feel free to read those and the content throughout this site to determine if you have a valid harassment claim. As always, please contact us to schedule a free consultation at any time. We want to help.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Workplace Bullying and Harassment
Am I being harassed? If you are being bullied or subjected to a hostile / offensive work environment, you are probably being harassed. Not all harassment is illegal, however. Instead, laws make harassment unlawful only in certain situations.
Am I being unlawfully harassed? Unlawful harassment is defined as subjecting an employee to offensive conduct based upon a certain characteristic, including gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age (over 40), disability, or race. If you are being subjected to offensive conduct, that is severe or pervasive, and that relates to one of those categories, you are suffering from unlawful harassment.
What about sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is a type of unlawful harassment and definitely illegal when it occurs. Crude jokes, unwanted touchings, inappropriate comments? Never ok and often illegal.
What about hostile work environments. What are those? In this context, a hostile work environment is the same as unlawful harassment.
What about workplace bullying? Is that illegal? Only if it’s connected to the employee’s gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age (over 40), disability, or race. Put differently, someone who is just a jerk to all of their employees, regardless of race, gender, etc., is probably not committing unlawful harassment.
Does it matter if they claim to be joking? No. Employers frequently defend harassment claims by claiming that the comments were meant as jokes or were not made with bad intent. This gets them nowhere, as the proper analysis focuses on whether the employee was offended and felt it was harassing, not the employer’s intent. Put differently, intent behind the comment is irrelevant: only impact matters.
I feel forced to play along with the harassment. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. The mere fact that an employee participates in workplace harassment does not, by itself, prove that the conduct was welcome and not offensive or that she did not view the workplace as hostile—especially when the employee feels that she must participate in order to keep her job and minimize workplace friction.
Can I be fired if I complain about unlawful harassment? Of course you can be fired for complaining about unlawful harassment. But it would likely be unlawful retaliation if that happened.
I’m employed at will? Does that matter? Nope. Unlawful harassment is illegal as it relates to all employees, even those that are employed at will.
How do I prove it and what do I get if I win? The best way to prove a harassment claim is through direct evidence. Typically direct evidence comes in the form of comments or conduct that directly reveal harassing intent. Employees who successfully prove an unlawful harassment claim are awarded monetary damages to compensate them for lost wages, lost benefits, emotional distress, attorneys’ fees, and sometimes punitive damages.
Can you help? Yes. We have represented numerous employees that have been subjected to unlawful workplace harassment, including age harassment, disability harassment, racial harassment, sexual harassment, and gender harassment. We can help. And we want to. We've helped a number of employees address unlawful harassment, including those based in Pittsfield, Chicopee, Lawrence, Worcester, New Bedford, Fall River, and the Cape.
What do I do next?
If you think you have been subjected to unlawful harassment, you should set up a free initial consultation immediately. Strict deadlines apply to these claims. They are inflexible. If you miss them, you will lose the right to bring a harassment claim.