Massachusetts Sexual Harassment Statute of Limitations

Posted On December 5, 2017 by Administrator in Business Law

Due to recent allegations of sexual misconduct against several public figures such as Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore and Louis C.K., the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace has been thrust into the national news spotlight.  Many of these allegations involve incidents that happened years or even decades ago.  Although these national stories involve high-profile celebrities, sexual harassment is of course prevalent in businesses of all sizes across the country.

While it is encouraged to report instances of sexual harassment whenever possible, there are laws in place that require a victim of harassment to report his or her incident within a certain time frame. For this reason, it is important for employees and employers to understand the relevant statutes of limitations for sexual harassment in the workplace.  A victim of sexual harassment who waits too long to report their claim risks losing their chance at legal recourse and potential monetary damages.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)

In Massachusetts, a claim for sexual harassment must be brought before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (the MCAD).  The MCAD is the administrative agency that handles claims of discrimination and/or sexual harassment in Massachusetts.  A charge of sexual harassment must be brought with the MCAD within three hundred (300) days of the last instance of harassment.

The 300 day limitations period to bring a claim is strictly enforced.  A party who fails to bring a claim within the 300 day period risks losing any legal recourse he or she may have otherwise had.  It is important to know that for continuing violations of repeated harassment, the 300 day limitations period begins from the last instance of harassment.

Claimants in Massachusetts are required to keep their harassment claim in the MCAD for at least 90 days after the filing of the case.  After 90 days, the complainant may move their case to state or federal court.  If a complainant elects to move their case to state or federal court, then the MCAD no longer has jurisdiction over the claim.

If a complainant elects to keep his or her case in the MCAD, they should keep in mind that this does not change the statute of limitations for bringing a harassment claim in state or federal court.  In other words, keeping a case with the MCAD for longer than three years after the last incident of harassment can cause a claimant to lose their rights to bring a case in front of a jury.  This is one of the many reasons why a party may want to remove their case from the MCAD.  The MCAD can sometimes be backlogged with a heavy caseload and it could take well over a year to decide your case.

Massachusetts Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment Claims

The statute of limitations for a claim of sexual harassment in Massachusetts is three years.  This means that a party filing suit in state or federal court must do so within three years of the alleged incident.  However, as stated above all claims must be brought before the MCAD within 300 days of the last instance of harassment.  A party cannot bypass this stage.  A complainant who fails to bring a charge before the MCAD prior to filing suit in state or federal court risks dismissal of his or her claim.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, or you are an employer or individual defending against a claim of sexual harassment, it is important that you consult with an attorney.  The Murphy Law Group has experience representing employees and employers before the MCAD as well as in state and federal court.  Give us a call at our North Andover office at (978) 686-3200 to schedule an in-person consultation.