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By April 22, 2024No Comments

It was recently reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in an article entitled “Responding to threat of lawsuit, MCAD begs patience.” that the Lawyers For Civil Rights (“LCR”) and The Urban League of Eastern MA (“ULEM”) wrote the Commission a demand letter (“Demand”) seeking immediate action to address delays in taking in and processing discrimination claims filed at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”).

The MCAD is the independent state agency that enforces the Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws by investigating complaints of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other aspects of everyday life.  Generally, employment discrimination claims must first be filed at the MCAD within 300 days of any adverse action.  While the MCAD’s stated mission is to eradicate discrimination in the Commonwealth, the Demand highlights difficulties experienced by unrepresented parties in securing appointments and backlogs along with delays in issuing determinations on probable cause across the board.  These problems appear to have been exacerbated during the COVID pandemic and, unlike the courts that are methodically working through backlogs, they persist at the MCAD.

B&B Founding Partner, David E. Belfort whose practice involves a significant amount of MCAD work confirmed that the articulated concerns of the LCR and ULEM are indeed legitimate.  Belfort said, in part, “cases at MCAD often stagnate. It routinely takes an investigator, who is handling a caseload of hundreds of active cases, months to request information or documents and to schedule an investigatory conference.”

Mr. Belfort addressed why many cases involving attorneys are often removed from the MCAD and are filed in Court.  “In court, the attorneys drive the discovery process from the start, avoiding the prospect of long delays, fading witness memories, and stale evidence.”  Belfort furthers explained, “Many attorneys remove stronger cases from the MCAD due to long delays in getting a probable cause decision, a 20 percent probable cause rate, and because court offers jury trials, which benefits employees.”  Unfortunately, unrepresented parties usually find the prospect and complex process of removal and filing suit daunting and unattainable.  The old English adage that “justice delayed is justice denied” applies to any legal case that languishes.

LCR and the ULEM, through their Demand, appear to seek to engage in a dialogue with the MCAD and to enter a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the Agency to address many of these systemic delays and staffing challenges.  The MCAD has thus far declined the opportunity to enter into an MOU and has requested patience as they seek to hire more staff.

We will update this Blog with further developments as this story continues to unfold.  If you have any questions about or issues involving employment law, discrimination, retaliation, the MCAD or the litigation process please reach out to Bennett & Belfort, P.C.