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Massachusetts Harassment Laws Impact Plymouth County Local Government

A Boston Globe article reports that the recently enacted Massachusetts harassment laws have led state officials to place Kingston Town Administrator, Jim Thomas, on administrative leave. The board, acting on the advice of town counsel Jay Talerman, made this decision after Thomas was allegedly heard making threats to Selectwoman Susan Munford. Munford filed the complaint after learning of three alleged occurrences threatening the Selectwoman. The final incident was reported to Munford after two Town Hall employees allegedly overheard Jim Thomas making loud, expletive threats expressing his intent to “bring [Susan Munford] down.” Following Thomas’ administrative leave, other town employees came forward with their incidents of Thomas’ unprofessional conduct, claiming that Thomas “used threatening and retaliatory behavior against them, along with bullying tactics, and displayed lack of respect in his dealings” with other employees. A hearing is scheduled to determine whether to reinstate Thomas or to permanently dismiss him from his duties.

Government officials, local, state and federal, are highly respected individuals expected to uphold the law and make decisions for the community at large. Harassment, discrimination, and abuse are crimes that not tolerated in the workplace as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. government officials are not immune to harassment crimes law in Massachusetts. Crimes such as harassment often escalate to more serious crimes including assault and battery and violation of harassment prevention orders and should be addressed immediately. Crimes against the individual are considered serious in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are prosecuted vigorously. The implementation of laws to curtail harassment in Massachusetts has resulted in an increase in court filings, hearings and charges alleging violation of harassment orders.

The harassment law mentioned above came into effect in Massachusetts in February 2010 and allows a broader range of individuals suffering from harassment to obtain a harassment prevention order. In the past, the Massachusetts Superior Court was the only court permitted to grant a restraining order or Ch. 209A protective order, unless a petitioner qualified as family or household member of the perpetrator of harassment. However, the implementation of Chapter 258E of the General Laws, allows for the Superior Courts, Boston Municipal Court, District Courts, and Juvenile Court to issue Harassment Prevention Orders if an individual can prove that they suffered from three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct. The law provides that a Harassment Prevention Order may be granted to protect an individual from abuse, harassment, and may require the defendant to refrain from contacting the individual or visiting the individual’s workplace or household, and may require the defendant to pay monetary compensation for losses suffered resulting from the harassment. Ex parte (one side only at the hearing) or temporary harassment prevention orders may also be ordered by the court to protect an individual if they are in immediate danger of harassment. Typically, a harassment prevention order remains in effect for one year, and may be extended for an additional period at the anniversary of the original hearing date if the petition requests an extension on that date.

It is important to remember that the violation of a harassment protection order is a criminal offense. The violation of a harassment protection order is punishable by imprisonment in a house of correction for no more than 2.5 years or by a maximum fine of $5,000, or both. Acts such as willful and malicious contact by mail, telephone, telecommunication device, email, internet communication, instant message, fax, radio, etc. or through other forms of social media such as Facebook can support harassment charges or violations and will permit the defendant to be charged with criminal harassment in court. An offender in violation of the harassment protection order may be liable to the plaintiff for damages resulting from losses suffered as a result of the harassment.

Harassment can easily escalate to more serious crimes and a lawyer experienced with harassment crimes and prevention orders should be consulted. If you or someone you know has been the subject of a vindictive and false claim of harassment, you will need an aggressive lawyer on your side to defend the case in court. On the other hand, if you believe you are being harassed or abused by someone, please do not hesitate to contact a lawyer familiar with the law to accompany you to court to seek a harassment prevention order to help protect you or a loved one, including any children. To locate the court nearest you, please visit the link here. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy is experienced in defending and seeking harassment prevention orders and has provided successful criminal defense to clients charged with criminal harassment or violation of harassment prevention orders and abuse prevention orders in Massachusetts. Call Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. today to discuss the particular details of your case by dialing 617-367-0450 or by completing the contact form on our website which is emailed directly to us.