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General Laws

Section 5. Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unlawful practice or alleged violation of clause (e) of section thirty-two of chapter one hundred and twenty-one B or sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A of chapter two hundred and seventy-two may, by himself or his attorney, make, sign and file with the commission a verified complaint in writing which shall state the name and address of the person, employer, labor organization or employment agency alleged to have committed the unlawful practice complained of or the violation of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A which shall set forth the particulars thereof and contain such other information as may be required by the commission. The attorney general may, in like manner, make, sign and file such complaint. The commission, whenever it has reason to believe that any person has been or is engaging in an unlawful practice or violation of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A, may issue such a complaint. Any employer whose employees, or some of them, refuse or threaten to refuse to cooperate with the provisions of this chapter, may file with the commission a verified complaint asking for assistance by conciliation or other remedial action.

After the filing of any complaint, the chairman of the commission shall designate one of the commissioners to make, with the assistance of the commission’s staff, prompt investigation in connection therewith. If such commissioner shall determine after such investigation that no probable cause exists for crediting the allegations of the complaint, the commission shall, within ten days from such determination, cause to be issued and served upon the complainant written notice of such determination, and the said complainant or his attorney may, within ten days after such service, file with the commission a written request for a preliminary hearing before the commission to determine probable cause for crediting the allegations of the complaint, and the commission shall allow such request as a matter of right; provided, however, that such a preliminary hearing shall not be subject to the provisions of chapter thirty A. If such commissioner shall determine after such investigation or preliminary hearing that probable cause exists for crediting the allegations of a complaint relative to a housing practice, the commissioner shall immediately serve notice upon the complainant and respondent of their right to elect judicial determination of the complaint as an alternative to determination in a hearing before the commission. If a complainant or respondent so notified wishes to elect such judicial determination, he shall do so in writing within twenty days of receipt of the said notice. The person making such election shall give notice of such election to the commission and to all other complainants and respondents to whom the probable cause finding relates. The commission, upon receipt of such notice, shall dismiss the complaint pending before it without prejudice and the complainant shall be barred from subsequently bringing a complaint on the same matter before the commission. If any complainant or respondent elects judicial determination as aforesaid, the commission shall authorize, and not later than thirty days after the election is made the attorney general shall commence and maintain, a civil action on behalf of the complainant in the superior court for the county in which the unlawful practice occurred. Any complainant may intervene as of right in said civil action. If the court in such civil action finds that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred or is about to occur, the court may grant any relief which a court could grant with respect to such discriminatory housing practice in a civil action under section nine. Any relief so granted that would accrue to an aggrieved person in a civil action commenced by that aggrieved person under said section nine shall also accrue to that aggrieved person in a civil action under this section. If such commissioner shall determine after such investigation or preliminary hearing that probable cause exists for crediting the allegations of any complaint and no complainant or respondent has elected judicial determination of the matter, he shall immediately endeavor to eliminate the unlawful practice complained of or the violation of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A by conference, conciliation and persuasion. The members of the commission and its staff shall not disclose what has occurred in the course of such endeavors, provided that the commission may publish the facts in the case of any complaint which has been dismissed, and the terms of conciliation when the complaint has been so disposed of. In case of failure so to eliminate such practice or violation, or in advance thereof if in his judgment circumstances so warrant, he shall cause to be issued and served in the name of the commission, a written notice, together with a copy of such complaint, as the same may have been amended, requiring the person, employer, labor organization or employment agency named in such complaint, hereinafter referred to as respondent, to answer the charges of such complaint at a hearing before the commission, at a time and place to be specified in such notice. The place of any such hearing shall be the office of the commission or such other place as may be designated by it. Before or after a determination of probable cause hereunder such commissioner may also file a petition in equity in the superior court in any county in which the unlawful practice which is the subject of the complaint occurs, or in a county in which a respondent resides or transacts business, or in Suffolk county, seeking appropriate injunctive relief against such respondent, including orders or decrees restraining and enjoining him from selling, renting or otherwise making unavailable to the complainant any housing accommodations or public accommodations with respect to which the complaint is made, pending the final determination of proceedings under this chapter. An affidavit of such notice shall forthwith be filed in the clerk’s office. The court shall have power to grant such temporary relief or restraining orders as it deems just and proper. The case in support of the complaint shall be presented before the commission by one of its attorneys or agents or by an attorney retained by the complainant, and the commissioner who shall have previously made the investigation and caused the notice to be issued shall not participate in the hearing except as a witness, nor shall he participate in the deliberations of the commission in such case except when necessary to decide an appeal to the full commission; and the aforesaid endeavors at conciliation shall not be received in evidence. If an investigating commissioner determines that probable cause exists to credit the allegations of a complainant that a respondent has refused to sell, rent or lease, or to negotiate in the sale, rental, or leasing of, housing accommodations or commercial space and if he determines that such respondent is a nonresident of the commonwealth and cannot be personally served with process in the commonwealth, such investigating commissioner may file a petition in equity in the nature of an in rem proceeding seeking appropriate injunctive relief against such property with respect to which a complaint has been made, including orders or decrees restraining and enjoining any sale, rental, lease, or other disposition of such property which would render it unavailable to the complainant pending the final determination of proceedings under this chapter. Such commissioner shall send by registered mail, with return receipt requested, a copy of such petition to the last address of such respondent known to the commissioner. An affidavit of compliance herewith, and the respondent’s return receipt or other proof of actual notice, if received, shall be filed in the case on or before the return day of the process or within such further time as the court may allow. A copy of the order or decree of the court running against such property of a nonresident respondent shall be recorded in the registry of deeds in the county wherein such housing accommodations or commercial space is located, and a copy of such order or decree shall be attached in a conspicuous place to the property which has been the subject of a complaint under section four by the sheriff of the county wherein such property is located, or by his authorized agent or employee. Any person purchasing housing accommodations or commercial space, subsequent to the recording of the order or decree in the registry of deeds, shall be, as a matter of law, bound by the terms of any order which the commission has made or may make relating to such property which has been the subject of an order or decree of the superior court. Any person renting or leasing housing accommodations or commercial space subsequent to the attachment of a copy of an order or decree referred to above by the sheriff of the county wherein such property is located or by his authorized agent or employee shall be, as a matter of law, bound by the terms of any order which the commission has made or may make relating to such property. The respondent may file a written verified answer to the complaint and appear at such hearing in person or otherwise, with or without counsel, and submit testimony. In the discretion of the commission, the complainant may be allowed to intervene and present testimony in person or by counsel. The commission or the complainant shall have the power reasonably and fairly to amend any complaint, and the respondent shall have like power to amend his answer. The commission shall not be bound by the strict rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity. The testimony taken at the hearing shall be under oath and be transcribed at the request of any party. If, upon all the evidence at the hearing the commission shall find that a respondent has engaged in any unlawful practice as defined in section four or violation of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A, the commission shall state its findings of fact and shall issue and cause to be served on such respondent an order requiring such respondent to cease and desist from such unlawful practice or violation of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A to take such affirmative action, including but not limited to, hiring, reinstatement or upgrading of employees, with or without back pay, or restoration to membership in any respondent labor organization, as, in the judgment of the commission, will effectuate the purposes of this chapter or of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A, and including a requirement for report of the manner of compliance. Such cease and desist orders and orders for affirmative relief may be issued to operate prospectively. If, upon all the evidence, the commission shall find that a respondent has not engaged in any such unlawful practice or violation of said clause (e) of said section thirty-two or said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A, the commission shall state its findings of fact and shall issue and cause to be served on the complainant an order dismissing the said complaint as to such respondent. In addition to any such relief, the commission shall award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to any prevailing complainant. A copy of its order shall be delivered in all cases to the attorney general and such other public officers as the commission deems proper. The commission shall establish rules of practice to govern, expedite and effectuate the foregoing procedure and its own actions thereunder. Any complaint filed pursuant to this section must be so filed within 300 days after the alleged act of discrimination. The institution of proceedings under this section, or an order thereunder, shall not be a bar to proceedings under said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A, nor shall the institution of proceedings under said sections ninety-two A, ninety-eight and ninety-eight A, or a judgment thereunder, be a bar to proceedings under this section.

If upon all the evidence at any such hearing the commission shall find that a respondent has engaged in any such unlawful practice relative to housing or real estate or violated clause (e) of said section thirty-two it may, in addition to any other action which it may take under this section, award the petitioner damages, which damages shall include, but shall not be limited to, the expense incurred by the petitioner for obtaining alternative housing or space, for storage of goods and effects, for moving and for other costs actually incurred by him as a result of such unlawful practice or violation. Any person claiming to be aggrieved by such an award of damages may, notwithstanding the provisions of section six and within ten days of notice of such award, bring a petition in the municipal court of the city of Boston or in the district court within the judicial district of which the respondent resides, addressed to the justice of the court, praying that the action of the commission in awarding damages be reviewed by the court. After such notice to the parties as the court deems necessary, it shall hear witnesses, review such action, and determine whether or not upon all the evidence such an award was justified and thereafter affirm, modify or reverse the order of the commission. The decision of the court shall be final and conclusive upon all the parties as to all matters of fact.

If, upon all the evidence at any such hearing, the commission shall find that a respondent has engaged in any such unlawful practice, it may, in addition to any other action which it may take under this section, assess a civil penalty against the respondent:

(a) in an amount not to exceed $10,000 if the respondent has not been adjudged to have committed any prior discriminatory practice;

(b) in an amount not to exceed $25,000 if the respondent has-been adjudged to have committed one other discriminatory practice during the 5-year period ending on the date of the filing of the complaint; and

(c) in an amount not to exceed $50,000 if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed 2 or more discriminatory practices during the 7-year period ending on the date of the filing of the complaint. Notwithstanding the aforesaid provisions, if the acts constituting the discriminatory practice that is the object of the complaint are committed by the same natural person who has been previously adjudged to have committed acts constituting a discriminatory practice, then the civil penalties set forth in clauses (b) and (c) may be imposed without regard to the period of time within which any subsequent discriminatory practice occurred.

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