Most people who work in Georgia are protected by federal laws against harassment and discrimination, but state employees also are covered by the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act of 1978. State employees can file a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity's Equal Employment Division. All other employees should file with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Federal Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws against harassment and discrimination at work, including the the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Under federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against or harass an employee because of sex, race, religion, color, disability, age if above 40, national origins, genetic information or pregnancy. Because Georgia has no equivalent workplace discrimination or harassment laws of its own affecting private employers, most hostile work environment complaints in Georgia are handled by the EEOC.

Hostile Work Environment

The EEOC handles two distinct types of harassment complaint. One is when an employee is expected to accept offensive behavior as a condition of employment. The other is when the behavior of supervisors or coworkers creates a hostile work environment.

Random comments or minor rudeness aren't serious enough to be considered a hostile work environment. The pattern of offensive behavior has to be based on illegal discrimination and has to be so severe that any reasonable person would find it intimidating or hostile. For example, an employee subjected to frequent or offensive jokes about his ethnic background might have a strong case for a hostile work environment complaint. It is also illegal to harass an employee for opposing discrimination or testifying in a discrimination case.

Filing a Complaint

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a district office in Atlanta, Georgia and a local office in Savannah, Georgia. Employees can file a complaint at these offices or by e-mail, fax, or phone call.

Although the state doesn't have an anti-discrimination law, some cities and counties in Georgia have local ordinances of their own. In these areas, the employee must file a complaint with the local agency first. The deadline for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is 180 days from the day the discrimination occurred, unless a previous charge was filed with a local agency. In this case the deadline is either 300 days or 30 days after the local agency dismisses the case, whichever comes first. If the complaint is dismissed, the employee will receive a Notice of Right to Sue. The deadline for filing a lawsuit is 90 days from receiving this notice.

Public Employees

Georgia's Fair Employment Practices Act protects state employees from discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, handicap, age or national origin. The Act also prohibits public employees from conspiring together to discriminate against a coworker. Employees who feel they were discriminated against have 180 days to file a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity's Equal Employment Division. The Equal Employment Division will investigate, and announce its determination within 90 days of receiving the complaint.