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Our Practice Areas
Discrimination and Harassment
Understanding Discrimination & Harassment Laws
South Dakota, like many states in the U.S., has its unique cultural, historical, and legislative context concerning discrimination and harassment. While the state upholds federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and religion, there have been regional debates and challenges specific to South Dakota's population and values. Local industries, indigenous communities, and rural-urban dynamics further shape the experiences of discrimination and harassment. Understanding these nuances is crucial for anyone wishing to delve into the intricacies of how South Dakota addresses these pressing issues.
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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Understanding Discrimination and
Harassment Laws

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can create toxic environments that hinder productivity, damage morale, and violate employees' rights. Thankfully, comprehensive laws are in place to address and prevent these issues. Our South Dakota employment law attorneys at Denevan Falon Joyce can help you get the compensation you deserve. This guide sheds light on discrimination and harassment laws, equipping both employees and employers with essential knowledge to promote a safe and respectful workplace.

South Dakota Discrimination Laws


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), and national origin. This landmark legislation covers hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and other employment-related decisions. Employers are required to provide a discrimination-free environment and address complaints promptly.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The ADEA safeguards employees and job applicants aged 40 and above from age-related discrimination. It ensures that age is not a factor in employment decisions and prohibits practices that disproportionately affect older workers.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal employment opportunities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless it causes undue hardship.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): The PDA amends Title VII to prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers must treat pregnant employees similarly to other employees with temporary disabilities.

Harassment Laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Title VII also addresses workplace harassment, including sexual harassment. Employers are responsible for preventing and addressing harassment, and they can be held liable if they fail to take appropriate action.

Hostile Work Environment: Harassment can create a hostile work environment where unwelcome behavior interferes with an employee's ability to perform their job. To be considered actionable, the conduct must be severe, pervasive, and interfere with the employee's work environment.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment: This form of harassment involves a person in authority demanding sexual favors in exchange for job benefits. It's a violation of Title VII and creates an abusive power dynamic.

Retaliation Protection: Employees are protected from retaliation for reporting discrimination or harassment. Employers cannot take adverse actions against employees who assert their rights or participate in investigations.
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Protected Classes Against Discrimination and Harassment in South Dakota

In South Dakota, both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination and harassment based on certain protected classes. Protected classes are categories of characteristics that are shielded by law, and employers are prohibited from taking adverse actions against employees or applicants based on these characteristics. Here are the main protected classes against discrimination and harassment in South Dakota:

Race and Color: Employees are protected from discrimination based on their race or skin color. This includes protection from racial harassment or mistreatment. National Origin: Discrimination based on a person's country of origin, ancestry, or linguistic characteristics is prohibited. Employers must not treat employees unfavorably due to their national origin.

Sex and Gender: Both males and females are protected from sex-based discrimination and harassment. This includes actions based on gender identity, gender expression, and pregnancy-related conditions.

Religion: Employees have the right to practice their chosen religion without facing discrimination or harassment based on their beliefs. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for religious practices.

Disability: Discrimination against individuals with disabilities is prohibited. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to enable them to perform their job duties.

Age: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age and older from age-based discrimination. Employers must not take negative actions against employees solely due to their age.

Genetic Information: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) protects employees from discrimination based on their genetic information or family medical history.

Marital Status: South Dakota state law prohibits discrimination based on marital status. This includes whether an individual is single, married, divorced, separated, etc.

Sexual Orientation: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been interpreted to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, providing protection to LGBTQ+ employees.

Military Status: Employees who are members of the military or veterans are protected from discrimination based on their military status. Retaliation: Employees who engage in protected activities, such as reporting discrimination or harassment, are safeguarded from retaliation by their employers.

It's important to note that both federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as state laws, govern these protections. If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment based on a protected class in South Dakota, you should consider reporting the issue to the appropriate agency or consulting with an employment law attorney to understand your rights and options.
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How Our Experienced Employment
Law Attorneys Can Help You

How do I file a discrimination or harassment claim in South Dakota?


To file a discrimination or harassment claim in South Dakota, you can follow these general steps. Keep in mind that this information is meant as a general guide, and it is recommended that you consult with an attorney or the appropriate agency for specific guidance based on your situation.

Identify the Type of Discrimination and Harassment: Determine the type of discrimination or harassment you believe you've experienced. Discrimination can be based on factors such as race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, or other protected characteristics. Harassment involves unwanted behavior that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment based on a protected characteristic.

Determine the Appropriate Agency: In South Dakota, you can file discrimination and harassment claims with the South Dakota Division of Human Rights (SDDHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), depending on the nature of your claim.

Gather Information and Documentation: Collect evidence that supports your claim, such as emails, messages, witness statements, photos, or any other documentation that shows discriminatory or harassing behavior. This evidence will help support your case during the investigation.

Contact the Relevant Agency:

For Employment Discrimination and Harassment Claims:
-If your employer has 15 or more employees, you can file a discrimination or harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can file a charge online, by phone, or in person at the nearest EEOC office.
-If your employer has fewer than 15 employees, you can file a discrimination or harassment claim with the South Dakota Division of Human Rights (SDDHR). Contact the SDDHR to initiate the complaint process.
-For Other Types of Discrimination and Harassment Claims: For claims related to housing or public accommodations, contact the South Dakota Division of Human Rights (SDDHR).

Complete the Necessary Forms: The agency you contact will provide you with the appropriate forms to fill out. Provide accurate and detailed information about the discrimination or harassment you've experienced.

Submit Your Complaint: Submit the completed forms along with any supporting documentation to the relevant agency. Make sure to meet any required deadlines for filing your complaint.

Investigation and Resolution: The agency will initiate an investigation into your discrimination or harassment claim. This may involve interviews, evidence review, and contacting relevant parties. The agency will determine whether there is evidence of discrimination or harassment.

Cooperate with the Process: Cooperate fully with the agency throughout the investigation. Be prepared to provide additional information or evidence if requested. Await a Decision: After the investigation, the agency will make a determination. If they find evidence of discrimination or harassment, they may work toward a resolution, which could involve mediation, conciliation, or other remedies.

Seek Legal Counsel: If you're unsure about the process or need legal advice, consider consulting an attorney who specializes in discrimination and harassment law.
AN IN-DEPTH LOOK

Denevan Falon Joyce
Experience That Matters

Racial Discrimination & Harassment: Our South Dakota employment law attorneys represented an individual who was verbally and physically assaulted in the workplace on the basis of his race and ethnicity and suffered significant emotional distress as a result of the experience.

Pregnancy Discrimination: Our attorneys represented an individual who was disciplined due to her need to take leave and attend medical appointments for a high-risk pregnancy, was repeatedly denied timely, private breaks to express breast milk, and was ultimately terminated after she voiced concerns to her supervisor.

Sexual Harassment: Our attorneys represented an individual who received hundreds of suggestive messages from her supervisor and was threatened with a demotion based on her complaints to management.
Retaliation & Age Discrimination: Our attorneys represented an individual who, as a manager, forwarded a concern that a subordinate employee was being sexually harassed. When he advocated for the harassed employee in the course of the ensuing investigation, his employment was terminated.

Sexual Harassment: Our attorneys represented an individual who, along with her co-workers, was repeatedly subjected to suggestive comments, jokes, and other conduct in the workplace, causing her to make the decision to leave her position with the company.

Disability Discrimination: Our attorneys represented an individual who was terminated for various unsubstantiated allegations that he had violated company policy after he requested accommodations for a mental health condition.
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