Under Massachusetts law, a charge of discrimination must be filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) within 300 days of the last act of sexual harassment. While there are some exceptions, the time period is triggered once the victim knows or should know that he or she is being sexually harassed. This is a strict rule which, if violated, will bar the victim from receiving any compensation for the sexual harassment which he or she has endured.
For various reasons, some victims of sexual harassment prefer to have their cases heard in court rather than before the MCAD. Nonetheless, the law requires that the case first be filed with the MCAD within 300 days of the last act of harassment. The complaint must remain before the MCAD for at least 90 days, after which the victim may remove the case from the MCAD and file a lawsuit in state or federal court. The statute of limitations for filing in court is three years from the date of the last act of sexual harassment.
The law recognizes that incidents of sexual harassment serious enough to create a hostile work environment typically accumulate over time, and that any single incident, viewed in isolation, may not be serious enough to constitute sexual harassment. Therefore, if a continuing violation occurs, the filing period may be measured from the occurrence of the last act of discrimination. However, at least one instance of sexually harassing conduct must occur within the 300 day limitations period which is related to the previous harassment.