Are employment discrimination cases determined by state laws as well as federal discrimination laws?

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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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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Federal and state laws prohibiting employment discrimination can be somewhat confusing, since these laws can apply to various types of discrimination across a variety of contexts, from housing to employment. The discrimination laws that apply to any given case will depend largely upon where the case is located and the type of case in question.

How do state laws affect employment discrimination?

For the most part, states do not necessarily need their own laws regarding discrimination in the workplace or during the hiring process, since these situations tend to fall under federal law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and various federal laws mandate that employers cannot engage in discrimination, either during the hiring process or on the job, due to an employee’s race, gender, age, disability, etc.

However, state laws often expand on the protections afforded by the federal laws. For example, states may cover smaller employers since some provisions of the federal civil rights laws apply only if an employer has 15 or more employees. State laws may also protect classes of people that are not necessarily protected by federal laws, for example by instituting laws that protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

There are also various federal and state laws applying to discrimination in a number of other situations aside from employment discrimination. Should a particular state not have a law against a certain type of discrimination, the case will fall under federal law. But if a state does have its own laws, those will tend to work in conjunction with federal law. For this reason, it’s important to know what laws in your area apply to any given discrimination situation. Such situations might include housing, public accommodations for the disabled, hate crimes, or any other situation either in or out of the workplace where a person may experience discrimination based on any factors.

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