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Does Sexual Harassment Break a Federal Law?

Sexual harassment does break a federal law–it is unlawful according to both federal and state laws. Legislation that prohibits harassment, discrimination, and assault includes Title VII, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the South Carolina Human Affairs Law


The first step in deciding how to pursue legal action following an incident of harassment, assault, or discrimination is to consult our experienced team of sexual harassment lawyers, who can clarify which laws apply and ensure you have support and guidance while holding the perpetrator to account.


In this guide, we’ll explore how to file sexual harassment lawsuit claims, the legal statutes that may be relevant to your case, and clarify the contrasts between sexual harassment laws.


Which Laws Relate to Sexual Harassment Lawsuits?


As we’ve explained, several laws prohibit sexual harassment and other types of unwanted behavior. Federal laws are overseen by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, whereas the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, or SCHAC, governs South Carolina state laws.


  • Title VII is a federal law and part of the Civil Rights Act.
  • The South Carolina Human Affairs Law is a state anti-discrimination legislation.


Employers within South Carolina are obligated to observe both sets of legislation and actively prevent sexual harassment from impacting people within their workplace. Businesses with larger workforces of fifteen or more people are subject to sexual harassment investigations by the EEOC. The SCHAC may investigate smaller organizations following an allegation of sexual assault or discrimination.


However, both bodies work with mutual agreements. If a complaint is filed by your attorney, it may be investigated by the federal EEOC, depending on the size of the company and the severity of the harassment.


How Do State and Federal Laws Protect Employees From Sexual Harassment?


The EEOC is currently consulting against a proposal to introduce new enforcement guidance for US employers. It reports that in the four years from 2018 to 2022, 35% of discrimination complaints lodged related to harassment based on a protected characteristic of the victim, such as ethnicity, gender, or disability.


Unlawful harassment takes many forms, but in all cases, it may be illegal and subject to a formal complaint, compensation claims, legal action against the perpetrator or employer, and investigation by the authorities.


Any form of harassment, regardless of the individual’s gender, is unlawful and might include the following:


  • Unwanted advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical harassment
  • Offensive remarks


The law doesn’t necessarily prohibit isolated, very minor incidents. However, harassment considered frequent, severe, detrimental, or harmful to the victim should be pursued to the full extent of the law. In many cases, sexual harassment victims suffer financial losses due to leaving employment, being fired, being passed over for promotion, or being excluded from opportunities for progression or additional working hours.


State law covers a broader range of protections against discriminatory conduct and applies to all businesses and employers, irrespective of the number of people employed.


Understanding South Carolina Sexual Harassment Lawsuits


Most sexual harassment victims must file a formal complaint with the SCHAC within 180 days of the harassment. In contrast, the federal law provides a statute of limitations of 300 days from the incident. In the first instance, you may need to inform the employer of the complaint, giving the organization the opportunity to conduct an appropriate investigation and take decisive action to address the issue.


Where this process does not result in a satisfactory conclusion, or you feel unsafe at work or exposed to ongoing harassment or discrimination, the best way forward is often to file an official complaint. The SCHAC and EEOC may investigate and impose penalties against businesses that have failed to take action.


Seeking Professional Legal Support For a Sexual Harassment Case


Every individual in South Carolina and the US has the legally protected right to work without harassment, discrimination, intimidation, threat, or belittlement. We urge you to contact the Strom Law team if any of these scenarios apply. Our capable, compassionate attorneys can walk through the next steps with you and ensure your complaint is heard and upheld, with ongoing support while the most suitable body investigates, and you receive reparations or compensation as appropriate.


Damages may relate to lost income, pain and suffering caused by stress and anxiety, and punitive damages imposed on the business. At the same time, the legal process taken on your behalf will protect future employees from similar harm and hold employers who have failed to protect their workforce to account. 



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