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Massachusetts Laws Continue to Support Boston’s Service Industry Against Workplace Harassment

— December 8, 2021

Male customers often request that women service workers remove their masks so that the men could judge their looks for a tip determination.

The goal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is to promote a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment of employees occurring in the workplace or in other settings related to their employment is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the Commonwealth.

Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is similarly unlawful and will not be tolerated. 

A labor advocacy group called One Fair Wage has recently outlined unsafe, and unfair working conditions that food service employees who are tipped have been increasingly subjected to since the beginning of the pandemic in Massachusetts.  The report is based on survey responses from 1,675 food service workers in five states and Washington D.C., including 134 who work in Massachusetts.  Sexual harassment is one of the problems service industry workers continue to experience, and legal claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act can be pushed forward, as workplace discrimination. The protection under Title VII gives victims an avenue to sue for damages under the law, and experienced attorneys can help with guidance, and legal action when necessary.

Image by Julien L, via
Image by Julien L, via

Tipped food service workers in the state say they have experienced an increase in sexual harassment from customers during the pandemic, according to the Massachusetts report, with nearly half of all the Massachusetts survey respondents reporting an uptick in the frequency of unwanted sexualized comments from customers since the onset of the pandemic.   More than 40% of workers (44%) reported that there has been a change in the frequency unwanted sexualized comments from customers, and just over one quarter (26%) report that they have experienced, or witnessed a significant change in the frequency of such sexual harassment.  Male customers often request that women service workers remove their masks so that the men could judge their looks for a tip determination.  An attorney experienced in workplace harassment can guide actions for victims to take regarding incident reporting, and how to request an employer’s help when dealing with clientele.


Workplace harassment victims should talk to their employer about methods to decrease the negative behavior when it occurs.  Victims and/or witnesses to sexual harassment, or workplace discrimination in Boston can report it to their managers, employers, outside agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC, and legal counsel. It is best to check with the employer policy manual to ascertain steps to follow at the specific workplace where the incident occurred and speak with legal counsel.


Complaints should include proof of the allegations whenever possible to support claims taken to the EEOC.  If witnesses, and an employer can get behind employees, it will strengthen their case.  When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A positive settlement award may be the result of a strong case presented by experienced legal counsel. 

Legal counsel

Under Massachusetts Law, Title XXI, Chapter 151 B, Section 3A, all employers, employment agencies and labor organizations shall promote a workplace free of sexual harassment. Victims of sexual harassment have legal options against sexual harassment, and all employees working in the United States have the option of making a formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the alleged sexual harassment in the workplace, but it must be initiated within forty-five days of the alleged incident and follow all other requirements under the law. If an employee does not wish to proceed with any other steps before contacting EEOC, they do not need to, and may seek alternate professional legal counsel for guidance.  


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