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Daily News

AMHERST — Employees who file sexual harassment complaints often face harsh outcomes, with 65% losing their jobs within a year, and 68% reporting some form of retaliation by their employer, according to new research from the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity (CEE).

In their report, “Employer’s Responses to Sexual Harassment,” co-authors Carly McCann, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, and M.V. Lee Badgett analyzed more than 46,000 harassment claims sent to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) from 2012 to 2016. These cases represent only a small amount (0.2%) of the estimated 25.6 million experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace that occurred over this same five-year window.

“Since the legal standards are high, it is not surprising that only a very few file a charge,” said McCann, a UMass Amherst doctoral student and CEE research assistant. “The good news in the report is that the EEOC clearly takes sexual-harassment discrimination charges seriously. These charges are more likely to be found legally plausible, and the charging party is more likely to receive benefits, than other discrimination charges. At the same time, only a minority receive any benefit, and a majority lose their job and experience employer retaliation, so not filing a charge may also make economic and social sense. There are often severe negative consequences to filing a charge, and most people who do file a charge receive no benefits.”

Even among the 27% of cases that did result in a benefit, redress was typically unsubstantial. The most common benefit — and the result of 23% of total charges that proceed through the agencies’ processed cases — was financial compensation; however, the average settlement of $24,700 (with a median amount of $10,000) is unlikely to make up for the economic cost of job loss. The discrepancy between the average and median amounts is due in large part to a handful of high-profile cases. Large monetary settlements are very rare, with only 1% of those who received monetary compensation exceeding $100,000.

Just 12% of the total charges led to managerial agreements to change workplace practices. As the report notes, this lack of accountability often engenders further incidents of harassment. 

“Most employer responses tend to be harsh both via retaliation and firing employees who complain,” said Tomaskovic-Devey, professor of Sociology at UMass Amherst and CEE founding director. “The very low proportion of employees who file sexual-harassment complaints is very likely to be related to employers’ typically punitive responses.”

While these numbers represent averages across all cases filed with the EEOC or FEPAs, gender and race influenced both the number and outcome of cases. 

“Although they comprise 47% of the labor force, women file 81% of sexual-harassment charges,” McCann said. “Black women, in particular, report a disproportionality large percentage of workplace sexual-harassment charges; they account for 7% of the labor force but file 27% of sexual-harassment charges.”

The researchers have also considered what may be done to help those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace, given the often disappointing outcomes of the legal route.

“Sexual harassment, and perhaps discrimination of all types, should be addressed proactively and affirmatively by management, rather than leaving it to the targets of discrimination to pursue legal remedies as individuals,” said Badgett, a professor of Economics and Public Policy at UMass Amherst. Following recommendations given by the EEOC, the authors also advocate having workplaces address sexual harassment internally through better managerial training and programs that train employees to identify and address harassment incidents.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Join Ranger Susan Ashman on Saturday, Dec. 22 for her holiday program, “Christmas at the Armory in WWII.” The program begins at 2 p.m. in the museum theater and continues with a tour of the Commandant’s House on the grounds of the national historic site. Admission is free.

During WWII, the Springfield Armory celebrated Christmas with time off from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. Office and shop parties were held as well, both at the Armory and in downtown hotels. During wartime, the somber realities of the cost of total war steadily showed itself as critical materials and personnel were increasingly engaged to fight the Axis powers.

Rationing affected everyone, even during the holiday season. Christmas trees were stripped of their aluminum tinsel strips and glass, to be replaced with homemade substitutes. Before long, popular Christmas music also changed, reflecting separation and longing of loved ones, as in “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “White Christmas.”

After the presentation, join Ashman for a rare tour inside the Commandant’s House. Built in 1845-46 at a cost of $24,900, it has been occupied by 34 superintendents and commandants, starting with Major James Ripley and ending with Lt. Col. C.B. Zumwalt when the Armory was closed in April 1968.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Arrha Credit Union recognized Ludlow High School Honor Students for collecting $7,159.50 in non-perishable food items and donations. The total amount raised by schools was $22,982.91.

“We were proud to be the sponsor of the School Challenge in which many districts were involved,” said Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union. “Congratulations to Ludlow High School on being the top winner this year. We applaud their efforts for collecting the most items and donations for the Springfield Open Pantry.” To show appreciation, Arrha Credit Union donated $1,000 to Ludlow High School’s community efforts.

Springfield Open Pantry is an emergency food kitchen that serves more than 30,000 people each year. These donations were part of the Rock102 Mayflower Marathon challenge to benefit the Springfield Open Pantry, in which more than $95,280.96 in food and monetary donations were raised.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Members of the Holyoke Community College (HCC) community will help spread some holiday cheer today, Dec. 13, as they deliver piles of wrapped, donated gifts to representatives from five local charities at the closing reception for the college’s 19th annual giving-tree campaign.

This year, the HCC community fulfilled the holiday wishes of a record 400 clients from Homework House, WestMass ElderCare, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, and — for the first time — Enlace de Familias, the Holyoke agency that has been working closely with Puerto Rican refugees who left the island last year after Hurricane Maria. 

The Giving Tree closing reception will begin at 10 a.m. in the PeoplesBank Conference Center on the third floor of Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

“This is an amazing tradition and always brings out the best of HCC,” said President Christina Royal. “Last year was my first to partake in the giving-tree experience, and I was really blown away by the generosity of our community here at the college.”

Each year during the annual campaign, giving trees are set up in designated areas around campus. Participants choose colored-coded tags from one of the nonprofit agencies based on the age of the recipient and their wish for a gift. The wrapped gifts are then piled on tables for the closing celebration, when HCC faculty, staff, and students join with representatives from the agencies to distribute the gifts and share food and stories.

Past giving-tree closing ceremonies were held in the smaller board of trustees conference room in the Frost Building. “We’ve outgrown the room we’ve been using all these years,” said Gail Golas, chair of the HCC giving-tree committee.

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and SI Financial Group Inc. announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Berkshire will acquire SIFI and its subsidiary, Savings Institute Bank and Trust Co., in an all-stock transaction valued at $180 million based on Berkshire’s stock price as of the close of business on Dec. 10.

Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $13.6 billion, including the $1.6 billion in acquired SIFI assets. SIFI reported $1.3 billion in loans and $1.3 billion in deposits as of Sept. 30. This merger agreement increases Berkshire’s market presence with 18 branches in Eastern Conn. and five branches in Rhode Island, adding to Berkshire’s nine existing Connecticut branches.

“We’re pleased to welcome Savings Institute’s customers and employees to the Berkshire family,” said Richard Marotta, Berkshire CEO. “This transaction is a natural fit and brings with it a stable, longstanding deposit base with leading market position. The Savings Institute franchise strengthens our Northeast presence, as we gain scale in Connecticut and enter into attractive Rhode Island markets. Savings Institute is a well-established and trusted financial institution with deep client and community relationships. We look forward to expanding those relationships with the depth and breadth of our products and services. This partnership will produce attractive returns for both our existing shareholders and the new shareholders from SIFI joining us in this transaction.”

Added Rheo Brouillard, president and CEO of SIFI, “we’re excited to be joining with a successful regional bank that shares our commitment to community and customer service. Like Savings Institute, Berkshire Bank was established in the mid- to late 1800s and has grown over the years as a result of that commitment. The combination of our two banks will provide greater convenience and a broader array of products to our customers, who will continue to have the personalized service they have come to expect.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, a leading commercial real-estate brokerage firm, announced it represented the seller in the sale of 1665 Main St., a 2,010-square-foot commercial building, formerly Hampden Savings Bank, located in downtown Springfield.

The building was constructed in 1918 and has a glass ceiling with an ornate supporting structure, marble walls, and copper entrance. The asset sold for $285,000, although it last assessed for $127,600. Wilfredo Lopez of NAI Plotkin was the listing broker for the property. RLTY Development Springfield LLC secured the property and, as the new owner, plans to complete restoration of the original bank building and open a retail cannabis location. The building is also located directly across the street from the Paramount Theater and one block from the newly renovated Union Station.

The next steps for the new owner will be to gain approval for the retail establishment by the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Commission, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and the City Council.

“We have had several establishments looking to either lease or buy for a recreational marijuana location in the downtown Springfield area,” Lopez said. “There is a mix of local, national, and even international companies looking to start a cannabis dispensary or cultivation site here in Western Massachusetts utilizing the Opportunity Zone Program. This program has piqued the interest of investors interested in buying property in distressed communities listed in the program. This allows them the opportunity to participate in preferential tax treatment and possibly be able to defer or eliminate their tax on capital gains over time. I have worked with several owners and investors in the Opportunity Zone and have been involved in many conversations regarding these opportunities. I look forward to assisting anyone looking to invest in one of these Opportunity Zones.”

Daily News

DEERFIELD — The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce (FCCC) will present its holiday breakfast on Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 7:25 to 9 a.m. at the Deerfield Academy Dining Commons, Old Albany Road, Deerfield. In addition to the breakfast buffet, the program highlight will be the Greenfield Recorder’s 36th annual Citizen of the Year Award.

The Skip Hammond family will sponsor the musical entertainment performed by Gary Maynard and Friends. Parking is available primarily on Albany Road behind the administration building and on the lower level. Call for further directions if necessary.

There is a great need for donated food during the holiday season. The chamber is asking everyone who attends the holiday breakfast to bring some packaged non-perishable food. Suggested foods are cereals, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna, peanut butter, canned meats, or other healthy items — nothing in glass, only boxes, tins and plastic. These items will be given to DIAL/SELF Youth Program food pantries in Greenfield and Orange. Checks for the Warm the Children Fund will also be accepted.

The cost is $26 for chamber members and their employees, $27 if invoiced, and $28 for general admission. All breakfast reservations should be paid by Friday, Dec. 14 unless other arrangements are made with the chamber office. To register, call (413) 773-5363.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Richard Venne, CEO of Viability, announced that Patty Morey Walker, former mayoral candidate in Greenfield, has accepted the position of program manager in Viability’s Greenfield office.

Morey Walker was also president and CEO of Walker, West and Associates. As founder of this insurance consulting firm, she oversaw program development, product development, and marketing. She received her bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation from Springfield College and master’s degree in rehabilitation from Boston University, and was a 2014 graduate of Western Massachusetts Women’s Fund’s Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact.

In addition to her multiple years of experience in the insurance-technology field, Morey Walker has several years of experience in the human-services field, including positions working in residential homes for individuals with intellectual disabilities, a residential treatment center for girls in the Department of Youth and Family System, a recreational program for children with development disabilities, and a work center for adults with intellectual challenges. She looks forward to returning to the human-services industry and aims to utilize her skills from past experiences in both the public and private sector to help Viability achieve its mission of supporting individuals with disabilities and other societal disadvantages in reaching their full potential.

Daily News

BOSTON — Business confidence in Massachusetts recovered slightly during November amid a swirl of contradictory economic indicators ranging from agitated financial markets to international trade tensions to steady-but-slowing growth in the Bay State.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index gained 0.6 points to 61.6 in November, ending a three-month slide that brought confidence to its lowest level in more than a year. The November reading was one point lower than in November 2017 and 2.5 points lower than at the beginning of the year.

Increased optimism about the state and national economies balanced employer concerns about their own operations and hiring plans during November. The reading remained well within optimistic territory, but employers also clearly see risk on the horizon.

“The survey reflects the uncertainty facing employers amid a still-strong state and national economy,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “Employers are increasingly confident in the economy but less so in the prospects for their own companies and in their own hiring plans. Economic growth remained at a solid 3.3% in Massachusetts for the third quarter, but that was a slowdown from earlier in the year. Payroll employment was up for the quarter but weakened in August and September.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during November. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 2.4 points to 67.1, leaving it 1.9 points higher than in November 2017. The U.S. Index gained 2.1 points to 63.7, up 1.5 points from a year earlier.

The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations dropped 0.4 points to 59.2, down 3.1 points year-to-year. The Employment Index slid 3.8 points for the month while the Sales Index was up 2.3 points.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.7 points last month to 62.6 and 0.8 points for the year. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.1 points for the month and lost 1.1 points for the year.

Manufacturers (62.4) were slightly more optimistic than non-manufacturing companies (60.8), reversing a trend that has existed for most of 2018. Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (64.0) were significantly more bullish than those in Western Mass. (58.5). Large companies (62.3) and medium-sized companies (62.4) registered higher confidence readings than small companies (59.7).

AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also BEA member, said employers at least have a clearer view of the political landscape now that the 2018 midterm elections are completed. “The prospect of divided government in which Democrats will control the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans the Senate and the White House provides some assurance to employers who do not relish policy lurches to the left or right,” he noted.