Do state and federal harassment laws apply to all employers and employees?

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 15, 2021Fact Checked

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is a United States federal employment law designed to protect employees against sexual harassment in the workplace, does not protect all employees, and it does not cover all employers.

Title VII only applies to businesses that employ fifteen or more people. If a company is smaller than that, technically they do not have to comply with this aspect of federal employment law. 

Do state have their own laws on sexual harassment?

Yes. Sexual harassment statutes are on the books in various forms in all states, usually modeled on the Federal law, but extending the same rights to employees of smaller businesses. What principally differs from state-to-state are the remedies and damages given in a successful sexual harassment claim. Some states allow an employee to collect workers’ compensation in sexual harassment cases. Others allow money damages for personal injuries. Still others allow punitive damages to be awarded.

Many local counties and cities have also enacted ordinances outlawing sexual harassment, some of which may be more generous than your state’s laws.

If a business is exempt from this federal employment law, are there are other forms of employment law that can protect its employees?

While employees may not have protection from sexual harassment under federal employment laws, every U.S. state has its own rules and regulations regarding harassment. Many of these laws are quite similar to Title VII, but are designed to apply to companies of much smaller size, even those with just a single employee. 

Should your particular state not have an employment law that provides protection in a given situation, there are usually other laws, either state or federal employment laws, that can be used in order to provide protection against sexual harassment. In some cases, for example, harassment of a female in the workplace might fall under another type of anti-discrimination law. The vast majority of employers have their own rules that disallow this type of behavior in the workplace.

Employees who feel their rights are being violated and are unsure how to find protection should speak to a local employment lawyer to discuss options. If this describes you, your attorney can provide you with more details about the state and federal employment laws that could apply to you. You should also make sure to keep detailed records of any harassing behavior so that you will have sufficient evidence and can take advantage of any legal recourse or remedies available to you in your particular situation.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

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