Most people who follow current events with high-profile sexual harassment cases in the entertainment industry and government know that this type of harassment in the workplace is prohibited by law. What most may not know until it affects them or a loved one is that a significant percentage of U.S. workers are exempt from the law and may not have their day in court.
Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination that is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It can include pressure to comply with unwanted advances to maintain employment or employment benefits, such as a promotion or pay raise. Sexual harassment also includes unwanted behavior of a sexual nature that is repeated and creates a hostile or offensive work environment. So, if sexual harassment is prohibited by federal law, why are only some workers covered in the United States?
Categories Exempted from the Law
The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. If a worker is employed at a small business with fewer than 15 on staff, they are not a covered class of employee. In the U.S., small businesses make up a significant portion of businesses and yet, employees’ rights are unprotected by the law.
Another category of concern is agricultural workers, which applies to those workers who are employed as farm laborers. Agricultural workers are not covered under Title VII. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this category comprises over 470,000 workers. Also, exempt are domestic workers and laborers who are also predominantly women and work mainly for private employers. Non-citizens who experience harassment, especially those who are undocumented workers, have compounded risks of exposure to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by reporting a claim.
The law also applies only to those who meet the legal definition of employees, so independent contractors who are not categorized as employees are also exempt. Employers sometimes categorize workers as contractors when they should be employees and there are specific regulations for determining the difference. This is one of several reasons to consult a skilled sexual harassment lawyer who can assist with the complex areas of employment law.
State Laws Plus Arbitration Agreements
In certain states, an individual has 180 days to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is required for sexual harassment claims as an initial step. If the EEOC declines to take the case, then the victim has 90 days to retain an attorney and file a civil harassment suit. That presents a time crunch and financial barrier for many to find and retain an attorney.
Yet, one more legal wrinkle exists for anyone who may have unknowingly signed a workplace arbitration and confidentiality agreement. These agreements prohibit employees from taking any legal action on a workplace issue, including sexual harassment, and require the issue be resolved within the workplace. They also bar the victim from discussing the case. This was most recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cherry Hill Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Those Harmed by Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
If you suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, the Cherry Hill sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can advise you on the relevant employment laws that apply so that you are not negotiating these complexities alone. Contact us for a free consultation via our online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients from the surrounding areas.