Employment Law Firm in California
The existence of sexual harassment in the workplace is unfortunate, because the law dictates that most employers have a legal responsibility to prevent this type of behavior. FEHA specifically requires employers to take “all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring” (Gov.C. § 12940(k)).
If you were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace you may be entitled to damages for:
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not always easy to objectively identify. The difference between friendliness and inappropriateness can mean different things to different people. Fortunately, there are clear signs of true offensive behavior, as well as protections in place to combat it.
Sexual harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, includes unwanted sexual advances, requests or demands for sexual favors, and many other forms of sexually suggestive verbal or physical behaviors.
However, sexual harassment does not necessarily have to explicitly be of a sexual nature. It’s important to understand that this type of harassment includes offensive comments about a person’s sex, whether they are male or female. In order for sexual harassment to cross the line into unlawful territory, it must be severe or frequent enough that it results in an adverse employment decision or serves to cultivate a hostile work environment for its victims.
In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) exists to prohibit all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. FEHA protections will apply to:
The primary federal law that prohibits all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Much like FEHA, Title VII applies to most public and private employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and also includes employer-union apprenticeship programs that have 15 or more employees.
It is common for someone in a position of power to offer an employee either benefits or a promotion in exchange for sexual favors. This is known as quid pro quo harassment. A common example of quid pro quo harassment is when a supervisor asks an employee for sexual favors in exchange for a pay raise or a promotion.
Another example of quid pro quo harassment is when an employer threatens an employee with an adverse action if he or she rejects their requests for sexual favors. This happens when, for example, a supervisor gives an employee an ultimatum to go out with him or her, and if the employee refuses, he or she will be disciplined or fired for rejecting the employer’s offer.
Quid pro quo harassment is a type of conduct that has the potential to adversely affect a person’s employment or unreasonably interfere with his or her work performance. It can also create a hostile or offensive work environment.
California takes the issue of sexual harassment very seriously. Despite various legal protections intended to prevent this egregious behavior, the issue persists as if without impunity. Anytime a job applicant or employee is subject to unwanted sexual advances or verbal and or visual harassment, it is likely that they have been the victim of behaviors that the FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act) define as instances of sexual harassment.
Below are just a few examples of sexual harassment in the workplace:
If another employee is touching you and it is unwelcomed, this may be a form of sexual harassment. Some examples of unwelcome physical contact include:
The coworker who subjects you to this physical contact may think of it as “accidental” or “harmless”, but you have the right to feel safe and free from unwelcome touching while in the workplace.
Some inappropriate behaviors in the workplace are obvious, such as forcibly kissing a coworker, but other examples are more subtle and include innuendos or sexual touching that is disguised as “accidental.”
However, there are several ways to make someone feel uncomfortable and they may have nothing to do with physical touch. Text messages, memes, videos, and emails can all easily
subject someone to uncomfortable and unwelcome sexual behavior. The main issue is whether the sexual advances or behaviors are unwanted.
If you are unsure, ask yourself whether an employer or coworker is making you feel uncomfortable. If you feel uncomfortable when someone make advances towards you, this can be indicative of sexual harassment.
If you have already recognized that an employer’s behavior is making you uncomfortable, it’s important to consult with an experienced sexual discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. A sexual discrimination lawyer will help you determine whether you were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
In short: sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex discrimination. Being singled out or treated in a particular way because you are a woman or a man is another sign that you may be the victim of sexual harassment.
For example, an employer may only treat the female employees in a special way. Or an employer may show favor exclusively to the male employees. Some instances of sexual harassment can make an employee feel uncomfortable while referencing their sex. For example, a manager may say something like,“Hey, you’re a gorgeous young woman. You should let a real man take you out to drinks one of these nights”.
It’s worth repeating: sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex discrimination.
Sexual harassment includes offensive comments about a person’s sex, whether they are male or female. Furthermore, both males and females can be the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
It may not always be easy, but the first step is to be clear about how the harasser’s behavior is offensive. Say no if you are uncomfortable with any sexual propositions and firmly refuse any invitations or other forms of harassment. Make sure to put any complaints in writing and keep a copy of all communication.
Inform your direct supervisor or your Human Resources (HR) department about the harassment. As mentioned, it is always best to make any complaints in writing and keep copies of any communication throughout this process. Be very clear when you describe the problem and offer a solution for how you want the issue resolved.
It’s a good idea to first make an effort to address the harassment with your employer. In many cases, bringing up the issue with your employer may put an end to the harassment. Most employers are aware and committed to their legal responsibilities and will make an effort to keep their employees safe from harassment.
However, it’s entirely possible that your internal complaint will not be resolved and may even go ignored. Even if your complaint doesn’t achieve anything and the harassment persists, your claim will still be strengthened because:
The next step for an employee is to file a charge of harassment with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Filing a charge with the DFEH or EEOC is a requirement before an employee may file a lawsuit for harassment in the state of California.
In the majority of instances, a charge of harassment must be filed with the DFEH within one year of the harassment.
Sexual harassment laws apply to men and women and they explicitly prohibit all forms of sexual harassment, whether the offending behavior is directed at someone of the same or opposite gender.
Not necessarily. Sexual harassment may occur at any point during the employment process, from hiring to firing — this includes the interview process, and everything in between. Sexual harassment is against the law and retaliating against an employee who complains about or who participates in a sexual harassment investigation is also unlawful. This means that an employee who has been fired for complaining about sexual harassment may have a claim for harassment, whether he or she is currently employed or not. Please note that there are time limits for bringing forth a claim. Consult with an experienced sexual harassment attorney at West Coast Employment Lawyers to discuss your rights and options.
If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The sexual harassment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.
We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in California, contact our office at 1-800-247-9235.