The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that workplace sexual harassment is “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal law that prohibits discrimination that applies to employment based on sex, color, national origin, gender, or religion. It applies to employers who have more than 15 employees.
State Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws
While the federal laws apply to businesses across the country, many states have their own employment laws that pertain to workplace sexual harassment. Here is a state by state rundown of workplace sexual harassment laws:
Alabama – the state has no anti-harassment laws, so any sexual harassment claims are handled by the EEOC
Alaska – Sexual harassment is prohibited in Alaska through the Alaska Human Rights Law, and the law applies to anyone with one or more employees. State laws protect state government employees from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. Workers can file a claim against the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights.
Arkansas – There are no state sexual harassment laws, so all claims are investigated under federal law by the EEOC. Federal laws only apply to companies who employ 15 or more people.
Arizona – The Arizona Civil Rights Act protects employees in the state from sexual harassment. The Act has the same provisions as federal law and Arizona courts often look to federal precedent when deciding cases. Arizona protects state government employees based on sexual orientation. Employees can file a claim through the EEOC or with the Arizona Civil Rights Division.
California – The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects workers from sexual harassment, which also protects unpaid interns and independent contractors. The law allows harassers to be held personally responsible in court. There are no caps on compensatory or punitive damages in court. California mandates two hours of sexual harassment training for all supervisors in companies who have 5 or more employees every two years and one-hour of training for all non-supervisory employees every two years. State laws protect employees from sexual harassment that is based on sexual orientation and gender identity with an exemption for religious organizations and requires supervisors to participate in mandatory sexual harassment training.
Colorado – The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits sexual harassment in workplaces within the state. The state sexual harassment law applies to any employer who employs who has 1 or more worker. Colorado laws protects all private and public employees from discrimination and harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation with an exemption for religious groups. Employees should be notified of their right to file a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC or with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Connecticut – The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA) prohibits sexual harassment in Connecticut workplaces. The state requires 2 hours of training for supervisors and suggests refresher training every 3 years. Unpaid interns are protected by the law, and state law protects all public and private employees in the state from discrimination and harassment based on gender identity or sexual harassment with an exemption for religious organizations. Connecticut employees should be aware of their right to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Activities or the EEOC.
Delaware – Sexual harassment in Delaware is prohibited by the Delaware Discrimination Employment Act (DDEA). Delaware law protects public and private employees from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation with an exemption for religious organizations. Delaware law protects state government employees from discrimination and harassment based on gender identity. Delaware employees should be told of their right to file a complaint with the Delaware Office of Human Relations or the EEOC. Supervisors in the state must receive 2 hours of sexual harassment training every 2 years.
District of Columbia – The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment as sex discrimination. The D.C. sexual harassment law applies to employers who have 1 or more workers. In D.C., supervisors can be held for sexual harassment. Unpaid interns are protected by the D.C. sexual harassment law.
Florida – The Florida Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Florida requires supervisors in executive branch agencies to receive sexual harassment training. Employees in Florida workplaces should be apprised of their night to file sexual harassment with the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the EEOC.
Georgia – Georgia’s Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits discrimination that is based on sex, and Georgia employee should be advised of their right to file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Labor or the EEOC.
Hawaii – The Hawaii Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. The state sexual harassment law applies to any employer who has 1 or more workers. The law doesn’t limit judgments in sexual harassment lawsuits and protects all public and private employees in the state from harassment and discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation with an exemption for religious organizations. Employees in the state should be informed of their right to file a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission or the EEOC.
Idaho – The Idaho Human Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment in Idaho workplaces, and the state law applies to employers who have 5 or more employees. Employees in the state must be informed of their right to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Idaho Commission on Human Rights or the EEOC.
Illinois– Sexual harassment is prohibited in Illinois through the Illinois Human Rights Act. The state law applies to employers who have more than 1 employee. Illinois protects unpaid interns from sexual harassment as part of the Act and the law provides the same protections to consultants and contractors as it does employees. Illinois law protects all private and public employees in the state from harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity with an exemption for religious organizations. Illinois requires every employee to undergo annual sexual harassment training and that every employee be informed of their right to file a claim with the EEOC or the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
Indiana – The Indiana Civil Rights Law prohibits sexual harassment in the state’s workplaces.
As you can see, the laws do vary from one state to the next, so be sure to check your state’s laws so you can understand your protections, the legalities, and how to proceed with a claim against your employer if you have been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination.
Get Help Understanding Your State’s Laws
If you have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, you will want to enlist the help of an employment law attorney who is familiar with the state and federal laws that apply to your situation. With the help of an attorney, you can get your claim filed properly and promptly. There is a time limit of 180 days to pursue a claim after the sexual harassment takes place. Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share details with an employment law attorney in your area.