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Employee rights in MA

I'm pretty sure I have the world's worst boss and job. I find it hard to believe that most of what I got to put up with is legal. Everything from crude language to inappropriate emails. And there are other issues too like no lunch break sometimes. Can you lay out some of the employee rights MA law protects? I know it's kind of a broad questions, but whatever you have might be helpful. Thank you for your help!

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Well, that is a broad question.  There are countless employee rights and employer obligations in Massachusetts, rights that are created by federal and MA law.  I'll explain a few, starting with one that might be of most interest to you.

With respect to sexual harassment, employees in Massachusetts have the right to a non-hostile work environment, and to be free from overt harassment.   Massachusetts law recognizes two broad types of sexual harassment.  Quid pro quo harassment happens when an employer says something along the lines of "have sex with me or you will not get promoted or get a raise." However, there is another type of sexual harassment: where the employer (or other employees) creates a hostile work environment that unreasonably interferes with a persons work performance.  So, from the little you tell me about your case, if the boss is creating an environment that is humiliating or offensive, that may be sexual harassment.  If you are dealing with harassment on the job, I encourage you to talk to a  MA employment law attorney.

There are other employee rights in MA that are aimed at a specific group.  For example, a disabled employee has the right to expect that his employer will make reasonable accommodations for him.  There is a MA statute that defines whether a person is handicapped for the purposes of determining whether that person is entitled to "reasonable accommodation" by an employer.  (If an employee is handicapped, both Massachusetts and federal law requires the employer to work with the employee to find a reasonable accommodation.)  Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B, Section 1(17) states in relevant part: "The term “handicap” means (a) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities of a person; (b) a record of having such impairment; or (c) being regarded as having such impairment . . ."
Finally, there are a large number of employee rights dealing with the nuts and bolts of the employee and employer relationship.  For example, a MA employee has the right to expect there will be no unauthorized deductions from her paycheck.  With some exceptions (such as when an employee quits after getting a pay advance), the general rule is that employers should not make any deductions from paychecks unless it has the written permission of the employee.

As I stated at the outset, Massachusetts and federal law create a multitude of additional employee rights, everything from maternity and paternity leave to 30 minute (unpaid) breaks for meals.  The easiest way for you to get information from this site about any specific issues you may have is to scan the posts in our Employment Law Discussion Forum or use the search feature in the top right corner.  Simply type in key words from your question and hit 'search.'

For information about specific, less serious situations that do not call for the assistance of a lawyer, try the Attorney General's Fair Labor Hotline at 617-727-3465.  I hope all that is helpful.


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