Section 11 of Chapter 12 of the General Laws, as appearing in the
2002 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting a new section
11M as follows:—
(a) No unit of State, county, or local government shall:—
(1) exclude a person from participation in, deny a person the benefits
of, or otherwise subject a person to discrimination in any program or
activity on the grounds of that person’s race, color, national origin, or sex; or
(2) utilize criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of excluding persons from participation in, denying persons the benefits of, or otherwise subjecting persons to discrimination in any program or activity because of their race, color, national origin, or sex.
(b) Any person aggrieved by conduct that violates subsection (a)
may bring a civil lawsuit, in a State court, against the offending unit
of government. This lawsuit must be brought not later than 3 years
after the violation of subsection (a). A violation of this section is
established if, based on the totality of the circumstances, it is shown
that any individual has been denied any of the rights protected by
subsection (a). If the court finds that a violation of paragraph (1) of
subsection (a) has occurred, the court may award to the plaintiff
actual and punitive damages and if the court finds that a violation of
paragraph (2) of subsection (a) has occurred, the court may award to
the plaintiff actual damages. The court, as it deems appropriate, may
grant as relief any permanent or preliminary injunction, temporary
restraining order, or other order.
(c) Upon motion, a court shall award reasonable attorneys’ fees
and costs, including expert witness fees and other litigation
expenses, to a plaintiff who is a prevailing party in any action
(1) pursuant to subsection (b); or
(2) to enforce a right arising under the Massachusetts Constitution.
In awarding reasonable attorneys’ fees, the court shall consider
the degree to which the relief obtained relates to the relief sought.
(d) For the purpose of this Act, the term “prevailing party”
includes any party:—
(1) who obtains some of his or her requested relief through a judicial
judgment in his or her favor;
(2) who obtains some of his or her requested relief through any
settlement agreement approved by the court; or
(3) whose pursuit of a non-frivolous claim was a catalyst for a
unilateral change in position by the unit of State, county, or local government relative to the relief sought.
(e) Nothing in this section shall be intended to require a plaintiff
seeking to enforce the protection afforded herein to exhaust any
administrative remedies applicable to discrimination actions under
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