With over two million residents, a bustling economy, numerous local resorts, and Joshua Tree National Park, Riverside County, California, is one of the most incredible places to live in Greater L.A. Area. But unfortunately, being the fourth most populous county in our state and a hub of business activity also brings with it all manner of workplace problems - including sexual harassment and discrimination by employers and coworkers.
But you don't have to put up with sexual harassment. California has very strict anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws and is considered an "employee friendly" state. By contacting an experienced sexual harassment lawyer, you can have your case assessed and get the legal advice you need to know how to proceed.
At Sexual Harassment Attorney, we have the depth of experience and of knowledge of the law in this very specific practice area that it will take to win a fair settlement or court judgment to compensate for the harassment you have suffered.
Contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 800-905-1856 for a free consultation, and we can offer you immediate assistance!
How Is Sexual Harassment Defined in California?
Sexual harassment can take place anywhere, but for the most part, sexual harassment lawsuits are filed based on incidents that occur at work.
There are many different forms of sexual harassment, but what they all have in common is that some form of belligerent, unwanted, unsolicited behavior is directed towards an individual based on the fact of that person's gender.
This can take the form of harassment, as such, or of discrimination. And harassment can further be subdivided into a "quid pro quo" proposition and creation of a hostile work environment.
California's Fair Employment & Housing Act is stricter than federal legislation protecting workers against sexual harassment, and under its terms and the precedents set in past California court rulings, the exact acts of harassment can vary widely.
Here are some of the more common types of sexual harassment that take place in California workplaces:
- Sexually charged "jokes," comments, double entendres, or innuendos.
- Unwanted touching, especially but not necessarily of private parts. In some cases, this could also constitute sexual assault & battery.
- Expressed or implied threats or "offers."
- Display of sexually explicit pictures in the work place where others can see them.
- Showing of favoritism based on gender or sexual relationships.
- Making sexual comments about a coworker's body and describing a desire to have sex with her/him.
- Aggressively or repeatedly asking for sexual favors.
- Harassing coworkers, while at work, via email, texts, or social media sites.
Note that sexual harassment is really, legally, "sex-based harassment." It doesn't have to be motivated by a desire for sex but could also be done out of pure meanness or hostility towards someone based on their gender.
Finally, realize that discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, marital status, race, immigration status, national origin, religious beliefs, and a host of other illegitimate reasons is also illegal and can form the basis of a lawsuit. The same can be said of harassment based on any of these reasons.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that can be literally translated "this for that." In English usage, it has the idea of conditioning some kind of job-related benefit on the provision of sexual favors.
Oftentimes, a supervisor might state or strongly imply he will give an employee a raise if she has sex with him, for example. Or, it could be a "deal" where a person is hired if he/she agrees to go on a date with the one making the hiring decisions. Finally, it quid pro quo also occurs if a threat is made, such as getting fired, demoted, or having one's salary or employee benefits cut, unless he/she complies with sexual demands.
Normally, but not always, a quid pro quo type offer will be accompanied by graphically describing an employee's body, displaying sexual images, making some kind of physical contact, or openly discussing one's fantasies about having sex with that person. If that occurs, or if a clear-cut negative employment action takes place right after a refusal of such an offer, then it's much easier to prosecute this kind of illegal sexual harassment.
Hostile Work Environment
Making a quid pro quo offer is not the only way an employer can be guilty of sexual harassment under California law. This can also happen if the employer purposefully creates or through inaction allows a hostile workplace where sex-based harassment or other types of discrimination are freely allowed to take place without any repercussions on the perpetrators.
When someone suffers abuse or intimidation at work because of discrimination or because of a desire of fellow employees for sexual favors from him/her, they may have a valid sexual harassment suit. But it can't be purely subjective, and it can't be a single, relatively mild incident but needs to be severe and/or ongoing.
Plus, it can't sexual attention that a person invited or asked for from another person. And the first step has to be to complain to the employer and ask for a redress of grievances. If, after a reasonable period of time, no significant action is taken to correct the situation, then it's time to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing and to contact an expert sexual harassment attorney for legal advice.
Also note that the harassment has to be of such a nature that a reasonable person placed in the sufferer's situation would find the work environment unbearable, to the point it was made difficult or impossible to continue as a productive employee.
Physical VS Verbal Harassment
What people think of when they hear the term "sexual harassment" varies from person to person, and it doesn't always correspond to what the law or the courts say constitutes actual sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment doesn't have to include anything physical, but it very often does. And physical harassment is normally considered to be more serious than verbal-only harassment. However, touching someone on the shoulders or in certain other ways can often be done from a variety of different motives and might be misconstrued by the one touched. On the other hand, the toucher might be using the vagueness of the touch to shield his/her true intentions.
If a crotch is grabbed at, the but is touched, the thighs are caressed, the breasts touched, or the penis touched, without consent, then that is a clear cut instance of sexual harassment. Otherwise, the context, severity, and frequency of the physical contact will become decisive.
More common, if less severe in most instances, than physical touching harassment is verbal harassment. This could take place as either derogatory or complimentary sexual comments, which are unwanted and that are continued despite telling the person to stop. It can be shrouded in humor, practical jokes, or vulgarity. And non-verbal communication of the same sort of idea can still count as sexual harassment.
Types of Illegal Discrimination
At Sexual Harassment Attorney, we handle cases not only for sex-based discrimination but also for any and all types of illegal workplace discrimination. Discriminatory actions can include firing, refusing to hire, demoting or not promoting, cutting a salary or denying a raise, and more - any job benefit being given or withheld or given only to others, based on illegitimate reasons.
Those reasons could include gender, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, medical conditions, marital status, military service, being a veteran, race or ethnicity, immigration status, and a host of other things. Anyone targeted for these types of reasons has legal recourse to seek correction of the situation and fair compensation from the liable party.
Very often, discrimination occurs against women, perhaps because some see women as more vulnerable and choose to take advantage. This may reveal itself in women getting unequal pay for equal work in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. If experience, work performance, education, and relevant matters do not explain the differences in pay and benefits packages, it could be that discrimination is taking place.
Also, in California, there are protections for those with families and for women who are pregnant in the workplace, and any violation of these laws amounts to a form of discrimination. For example, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires that reasonable accommodations be made for pregnant employees, and it is illegal to fire or take other employment actions against workers who are pregnant because they are pregnant.
Additionally, employers are not allowed to deny leave from work for when an employee is giving birth or recovering from medical issues to do with giving birth or being pregnant. Nor are they allowed to deny leave to attend to medical needs of children, parents, or a spouse.
Wrongful Termination, Constructive Discharge, & Retaliation
Three of the most common kinds of discriminatory behavior by employers are wrongful termination of an employee, constructive discharge, and retaliatory actions against an employee.
Wrongful termination means that someone was fired in violation of their employment contract or in violation of federal or state law. At-will employers cannot be sued for violating an employment contract when they fire someone, but they still must abide by all the rules of public policy in California.
A constructive discharge occurs when the employer decides not to actually fire someone but instead to essentially force an employee to quit by making their work environment unbearable. If a reasonable person in the same industry and same work position would find the employer's actions intolerable, and if you complained and received no redress after giving enough time for your boss to correct the situation, and if it can be shown the actions of your employer were taken to make you quit - then it is constructive discharge, which is legally treated the same as wrongful termination.
Finally, if a firing or any other negative employment action taken against an employee is done in retaliation for that employee filing a lawsuit for sexual harassment, discrimination, or something else - that is illegal and becomes the grounds of an additional lawsuit. Or, if reveling an illegal action of your employer results in retaliation, that also can trigger a lawsuit.
Preventing Sexual Harassment & Discrimination
Not only can an employer (or employee) be liable for a sexual harassment or discrimination suit, but employers also have a legally binding responsibility to take specific actions to help reduce the chances of sexual harassment/discrimination occurring in their workplace.
If an employer knew, or ought to have known, about illegal harassment/discrimination being done by a supervisor or other employee and then fails to take immediate and appropriate action to stop it - the business becomes liable.
All California businesses must also have a written policy for their business explaining how they intend to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. There are many specific elements that must, by law, be included in these policies - so they can't just be written any way the employer sees fit.
Finally, California requires all businesses employing 50 or more workers to conduct 2 hours or more of sexual harassment prevention training with each new employee within 6 months of hiring him or her. Then, that training must be repeated and duly updated and provided for every existing employee at least every 2 years.
Employee sexual harassment training must notify employees about federal and state of California anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, inform employees about how the employer intends to prevent and correct any violations, give specific examples of harassment/discrimination, and explain when the employer would be liable and when an employee could become liable. IF an employer of 50 or more people fails to provide this training course, the employer becomes automatically liable for any sexual harassment that takes place in its workplace.
Additionally, there is current legislation at work in the California State Assembly in 2018 that may extend this sexual harassment training requirement to businesses employing only 5 or more workers.
Contacting a Riverside County Sexual Harassment Attorney Near Me
At Sexual Harassment Attorney, we have helped numerous others in Riverside County and throughout the state of California secure justice after being targeted for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, or another form of illegal harassment/discrimination by an employer, supervisor, or coworker.
We know how the law works and how to successfully navigate the court system in California in order to win a fair settlement in as little time as possible. We have won millions of dollars in past settlements, and many defendants immediately come to terms as soon as they hear we are handling the case.