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Freelance or contract workers are often treated differently than employees under state and federal employment law. For instance, a Tennessee freelancer can’t sue for gender discrimination or harassment. This could lead such an individual to stop pursuing their passion or otherwise slow their potential for growth in their chosen career. As the number of freelance or contract workers continues to rise, there are questions being raised about how to better protect them in the workplace.

One woman claims that she was groped while working as a member of a salsa band when she was 18. She also claims to have been harassed years later while working as a tutor. However, there was nowhere to turn as there was no employer to hold liable or employee representative to talk with.

While Pennsylvania, California and Washington state offer protections for contract workers, most major federal statutes don’t apply. For instance, a contract worker can’t file a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While employers claim that these rights aren’t needed because contract workers control their own working conditions, questions have been raised as to whether this is truly the case.

Individuals who are considered to be employees of a company are generally entitled to a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. Those who are exposed to a hostile working environment may be entitled to compensation or other relief from their employers. Workers who are labeled as contractors might be able to challenge that designation in court. Generally, a person may be considered an employee if a company exercises control over how or when a job is done.