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Law might not protect workers at small companies from harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers in New Jersey from discriminating against workers. Mistreatment inspired by someone's race, religion, national origin or sex is illegal for employers. However, federal law fails people who work for small companies or private households. Federal law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Nationwide, millions of people fall through the cracks in federal employment law. Everyone who works at small businesses with under 15 employees, as well as farm hands on small farms and domestic workers in private households, might experience harassment with limited legal protections. Domestic workers and farm hands often face their problems in isolation behind closed doors or in remote fields. In many cases, existing laws also expose contract workers in the rising gig economy to discrimination that the law does not apply to.

A movement to increase legal protections for these people resulted in close to 200 activists organizing the Unstoppable Day of Action protest at Capitol Hill. They called on lawmakers to correct the failings of federal employment law that leaves so many without protection from discrimination.

If a person experiences harassment on the job, an attorney familiar with workplace discrimination might suggest how to resolve the situation. Legal counsel could review the evidence and identify the federal or state laws that an employer may have violated. The attorney could recommend filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and informing the employer of the problem. Initial communications from an attorney might prompt an employer to correct behavior and provide a financial settlement.

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