Living and working in San Bernardino County, California, is truly amazing experience. It's over 2 million residents inhabit a territory stretching from the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains in the west to Colorado River in the east and encompassing a vast, pristine desert larger than some states. And the eastern reaches of the county, which are part of Greater L.A., are a major economic zone with plenty of employment opportunities and area amenities.
But like everywhere else that businesses flourish, unfortunately, sexual harassment, discrimination, and other wrongful actions by employers, supervisors, and coworkers are a major problem. Despite federal and state legislation designed to curb this kind of behavior, sexual harassment still persists in the modern workplace.
At Sexual Harassment Attorney, we have deep experience in handling all manner of harassment and discrimination cases in San Bernardino County, the Los Angeles Area, and throughout the whole state of California. We will know how to assess your case, file the necessary documents, and pursue corrective action and fair compensation in an efficient manner.
Contact us today, anytime 24/7 at 800-905-1856 for a free legal consultation and for the full benefit of our expertise in this very complex practice area.
Defining Sexual Harassment Under California Law
Harassment or discrimination of any kind is illegal under federal law, specifically under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And it is illegal under state law in all 50 states. But California's Fair Employment & Housing Act goes further than federal and then most other state's laws on these matters - making California one of the most "employee friendly" states.
There are numerous forms that sexual harassment can take, but any negative employment action or negative behavior directed at an employee by his or her employer, supervisor, or even another coworker can constitute sexual harassment if it is "sex-based." That doesn't mean it has to be based on a desire for sexual favors, though it could be, but it could also just be based on the fact of the victim's gender.
The two main types of sexual harassment recognized by California courts are called "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment." Quid pro quo comes from a Latin phrase meaning "this for that" and refers to a positive employment action (like a promotion or raise) being conditioned on agreeing to sexual or romantic demands. Or, it can be the reverse: a threat of taking negative action if such demands are not met. Hostile work environment occurs when an employer creates or allows to exist through his/her negligence an unbearable, harassing workplace environment where acts of sexual harassment continually occur.
Further Elements of Sexual Harassment
As to specific acts of sexual harassment, there are specific criteria that must be met legally before it will qualify in a court of law. It can't just be based on how an alleged victim feels or felt or on assumptions he/she makes about the motivations of employers and coworkers. There must be substantial evidence to back up the claim, and there often is. But admittedly, some forms of sexual harassment are harder to prove than others.
To count as sexual harassment, the action or attention complained about cannot have been something that was wanted or solicited at the time by the victim. It must have been non-consensual in nature. However, if intimidation was used to pressure someone into "consent," it may still be considered non-consensual for legal purposes.
In one sense, offensiveness is a very subjective standard: what offends one person might not necessarily offend someone else. But for a sexual harassment charge to stick, there must be an objective element to the offense. That is, it must be something that (context and all relevant factors taken into account) would be sufficiently offensive to a "reasonable person" put in the same circumstances.
Severity OR Pervasiveness
Extremely mild offensive acts or words would not typically be enough of a basis for a sexual harassment suit. It has to be something rather severe or extreme in nature OR it can be a matter of less severe offensive behavior that continues over a longer period of time - even after reasonable efforts are made to get the person to stop.
Physical, Verbal, & Non-verbal Harassment
In one sense, we can divide all sexual harassment into three basic categories; physical, verbal, and non-verbal. Any one or any combination of these types of actions can count as sexual harassment if it is done to pressure someone into delivering sexual favors or done on the basis of one's gender, perhaps out of anger, hatred, or some kind of prejudice.
Physical touching in a sexual way or with sexual implications often constitutes sexual assault & battery besides sexual harassment. It may involve touching the breasts of a woman, the crotch area and/or genitals, the buttocks, or rubbing the victim's thighs or lower legs. But even touching an employee's shoulders or another seemingly innocent kind of touch could be harassment if done in a particular context from a particular motive.
Verbal sexual harassment can take the form of negative comments about another person's body or of complements of his or her body done in a sexually aggressive way. They can be made as "jokes," through texts, on social media sites, over the phone, or in outbursts of vulgarity or hostility. It's harder to prove sexual harassment is severe enough when words alone were involved, but if extreme enough or persistent enough, verbal harassment alone can win a suit.
Non-verbal sexual harassment might be done through body language, giving of the middle finger with a big smile or desirous look on one's face, by sharing or posting in a public place sexually explicit images, or even through intense, persistent leering at someone or at a woman's breasts. This kind of harassment is usually combined with verbal or physical but can occur alone as well.
Sexual harassment is only one of many forms of workplace discrimination. Not only can discrimination be sex-based, but it can also be based on such things as race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran/military status, age, national origin, and a host of other illegal criteria.
This kind of employment discrimination can be either positive or negative in nature - or it can be a matter of favoritism being shown to someone else on an illegitimate basis. For example, if you are fired, demoted, or have your salary cut because you are an immigrant; are not hired, not given a promotion, or do not get the same employee benefits because you are a woman; or if someone else is given a promotion because she has a sexual relationship with the supervisor - any and all of that is illegal discrimination. When sex or sexual favors are involved, then it's also sexual harassment.
Preventing Sexual Harassment
In California, employers can become liable for sexual harassment if they commit a quid pro quo offer or create a hostile work environment. But they can also become liable, where they otherwise wouldn't be, if they do not follow the law in regard to sexual harassment prevention.
Employers of 50 or more workers (possibly soon to become of 5 or more workers) must provide sexual harassment training to all new hires within 6 months of hiring them. Then, they must provide training every 2 years thereafter to all employees. The training course must follow very specific state-imposed guidelines and be at least 2 hours in length.
Also, employers are expected to provide a written employment policy on sexual harassment prevention and discrimination prevention. This policy handbook must be distributed to employees and contain all the required information. Plus, employers must distribute the Department of Fair Employment & Housing's sexual harassment brochure and post further information about harassment/discrimination prevention in a prominent place at the work site.
If an employer knew about ongoing harassment, or should have known about it, and did nothing or failed to take reasonable steps to correct it, it can become liable for sexual harassment. If a supervisor is guilty of sexual harassment, the employer is almost always liable, while negligence of some sort must be shown to make an employer liable when it's a "mere employee" who committed the offensive act(s). In more rare instances, an employer can even be liable for sexual harassment done by a customer or other non-employee. Not providing proper sexual harassment training and taking other preventative measures increases the chances of employer liability.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
One might think that with so many strict regulations and high awareness of sexual harassment in California, little of it would ever take place. But that unfortunately is not the case. Sexual harassment and other types of harassment and discrimination are all too common in today's California workplaces.
But what do you do if you believe you've become a victim of sexual harassment? The first step is to tell the immediate offender you don't appreciate their actions, and the second step is to inform your employer. In more severe cases, you should go to your employer immediately. You have to give your employer a chance and a reasonable amount of time to correct the situation.
The next step, if the situation is not yet resolved, is to contact a good lawyer with experience in sexual harassment and related practice areas. Find out where you stand legally based on the facts of your case and what your options are going forward.
Once you have a valid complaint, file it with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing. We at Sexual Harassment Attorney can help you do just that. The department will weigh the merits of your claim and decide within 60 days whether to open an investigation and/or seek damages in your behalf.
Usually, employers faced with administrative action claims come to terms and make a fair settlement, if you have a good lawyer fighting in your corner. But if the employer still resists, the final step is to file an actual lawsuit and head to court. By seeking rectification, you can gain compensation, punitive damages, and sometimes get your job back.
Wrongful Termination, Constructive Dismissal, & Retaliation
One of the most common discrimination is to lose your job due to an illegitimate, illegal reason. This is called a wrongful termination. If an employer violates the employment contract in firing you or violates state or federal law, then the termination is illegal. Often, such illegal firings are done based on sex, race, religion, or another discriminatory basis - or because an employer refused to comply with a quid pro quo sexual proposition.
Sometimes, employers try to avoid a lawsuit for wrongful termination by forcing you to quit instead of just firing you. This is called "constructive discharge." It involves targeting you and purposefully creating an unbearably hostile work environment, hoping you'll finally cave and bail out. This is illegal and if proved, it counts the same as a wrongful termination legally.
Finally, many people lose their jobs when an employer retaliates against an employee who has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him/her. Or, it may be the employee exposed some illegal activity the employer was involved in or a health/safety violation. Besides a wrongful termination kind of retaliation, the employer may also retaliate with constructive discharge, a demotion or pay cut, or in some other work-related way. This is illegal and forms the basis for a second lawsuit.
Contacting a Sexual Harassment Attorney Near Me
If you believe you have suffered from a violation of California's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in your current or prior place of work, you don't have to fear to come forward and seek legal assistance in securing full and fair compensation. We at Sexual Harassment Attorney can help you to fight back against harassment in the workplace and win.
We have successfully assisted numerous other clients in San Bernardino County, CA, and throughout our state in the past, and we stand ready to do the same for you! Contact our Sexual Harassment Lawyer anytime 24/7, 365 days a year, by calling 800-905-1856, and we will give you a free, no obligation consultation and immediate attention to your case!