Sexual harassment has become a more widely-recognized issue in recent years. Current allegations of sexual harassment are taken much more seriously now than they have in the past. These kinds of cases are generally referred to as workplace discrimination. This means that any instances of harassment that occur in the place of employment can fall under the statutes that explicitly make this kind of behavior illegal. This includes both federal and state laws. California, however, has some of the most stringent anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws on the books. Consequently, any resident of San Francisco or California should seek out the expert legal help of Sexual Harassment Attorney. This ensures that you will receive the most comprehensive and effective legal counsel in your workplace discrimination lawsuit.
Federal Anti-Harassment Laws
Residents of San Francisco will be subject to both federal and state anti-harassment laws. The federal law that deals with workplace discrimination is the Civil Rights Act, Title VII. This law was passed in the early 1960s and represents a milestone in the development of equal rights. However, it does not explicitly make sexual harassment illegal. It does, however, explicitly forbid the discrimination of anyone based on their ethnicity, race, religious background, gender, and/or nationality. Furthermore, it only applies to companies with at least 15 employees.
This federal law is colloquially referred to as just “Title VII”. At the time of its passing, it created innovative new standards in civil rights. However, the law has its serious limitations: it does not maintain an explicit standard that outright outlaws sexual harassment. Title VII only makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee because of sex and/or gender. Thankfully, the residents of San Francisco are also protected by California statues, most of which were created specifically to deal with sexual harassment under the wider practice area of workplace discrimination.
Sexual Harassment Statutes in California
Due to a widespread change in the overall culture in terms of sexual misconduct and harassment, there have been a plethora of recent statutes that deal with sexual harassment directly. The California legislature has recognized the limitations of Title VII protections and has taken significant steps to protect the victims of sexual harassment. There is also a general recognition that victims of sexual harassment are reticent to speak out because of the fear of retaliation, judgment, and the negative repercussions associated with doing so.
The California State Assembly is actively developing new laws that would expand the following protections from companies with at least 50 employees to companies with at least 5 employees:
- The company in question is legally required to provide mandatory sexual harassment training and education to all their workers.
- The legal right to hold the specific employee liable if they retaliate against their colleague who may have complained about sexual harassment.
- Allow non-employees to bring forward sexual harassment complaints and/or lawsuits.
- The mandatory requirement that all employers must have a comprehensive inventory of all complaints dating back at least 10 years.
This represents a major expansion of these sexual harassment laws. Furthermore, California workers are afforded various protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (also known as FEHA). This law was enacted in 1980 and, unlike Title VII, makes sexual harassment explicitly illegal. It also delineates the crucial differences between sexual harassment and sexual discrimination based on sex. Sexual harassment, according to FEHA, occurs when a worker is exposed to sexual contact and/or advances that are non-consensual, sexually explicit pictures and/or language, innuendo that is sexual in nature, threats or intimidating behavior, or the offer of advancement within the company in exchange for sexual contact.
According to FEHA, sex discrimination happens when a worker suffers from loss of pay, demotion, being hired, being fired, exclusion from benefits, being required to do unpleasant tasks, being assigned a subpar office space, or any kind of general discrimination on the basis of their gender and/or sex. In a sexual harassment case, however, it is possible to pursue the lawsuit on the basis of both harassment and discrimination. A skilled attorney will develop a tactic that covers as much ground as possible to ensure the highest probability that you will be victorious in your legal proceedings.
What Are The Kinds of Sexual Harassment In California?
There are two basic kinds of sexual harassment in California. These are not explicitly described under FEHA, so instead, they were developed over the years as the result of various legal cases and lawsuits. This is also referred to as legal precedent and it occurs when legal principles and/or rules come about from the outcome of prior cases. The two types of sexual harassment in California jurisprudence are:
- A hostile work environment. This is a situation whereby the harassment is chronic and general in the workplace.It asserts that the employer has created and/or allowed an environment that is abusive, hostile, oppressive, offensive, and/or threatening. In order for a work environment to be considered explicitly hostile, your legal team will have to prove that the circumstances in the said environment were persistent. This means that it was not just one or two occurrences but a repetitive pattern of behavior.
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment. This is a kind of sexual blackmail and is unfortunately very common. If a subordinate is promised employment or some benefit therein based on whether or not they fulfill a sexual favor, then quid pro quo sexual harassment has occurred. It can also occur when an employee is threatened with some repercussion due to not submitting to the sexual advances.
It is also important to note that either of these forms of harassment can occur with threats, actions, and/or promises that are implicit, explicit or both. That means that harassment occurs if either vague remarks or clearly stated declarations are made.
It is crucial to note that most, but not all, harassment cases happen when there is a power differential. That means that it is usually a manager harassing a subordinate. However, it can also occur if two colleagues are on the same level. Furthermore, if the company has been notified of said harassment but failed to do anything, they can also be held liable.
The Protocol for Filing a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit or Complaint
Now that you have determined that you have been sexually harassed, you must now begin the terrifying process of actually bringing your aggressors to justice and have them answer for their wrongs. This is an intimidating and potentially overwhelming task. Consequently, it is best handled by a legal counselor who can guide you through this complex and exhausting process. If you have someone on your side, with your best interests at heart, it will immeasurably increase your likelihood of success.
There are several regulatory bodies that handle sexual harassment and/or discrimination cases. If you wish to pursue the case via Title VII then the federal agency that will handle your complaint is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Their regional office in San Francisco is located at 450 Golden Gate Avenue. If you contact them, your first step will be able to sit down for an interview with them to ascertain the exact nature of the discrimination and/or harassment.
If you wish to file a complaint with the state of California under FEHA, then you would be compelled to contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). They do not have a district office in San Francisco itself, though they do have one in Fremont at 39141 Civic Center Drive, Suite 250. You will follow a similar protocol at the DFEH office and sit down for a preliminary interview.
It is perfectly acceptable, and in some cases advisable, to file with both agencies. Your lawyer can advise you on how best to proceed. It is also crucial to retain as much evidence as possible to make your case. Time is of the essence, however, as there is a requirement to file within one year of the date of your harassment. Following this, the DFEH has 60 days to make a decision about whether they wish to push the investigation forward. It is in your best interest to have already retained legal counsel at this point in time as they can more effectively make your case for you.
If the DFEH decides to move forward, then they will start a full-scale investigation that will probe all the relevant details of the case. This includes more extensive interviews with you, your aggressor, and any related parties. If the investigation concludes that sexual harassment did in fact occur, then the DFEH will compel all parties to attend mediation to come to some kind of settlement. This settlement should entail some amount of financial remuneration that will be offered to you. If no settlement is offered, or it is unsatisfactory, then the case will proceed to trial. It will be a civil proceeding, meaning no jury will be present and can occur in either federal courts (under Title VII) or state courts (under FEHA).
Discrimination Against Families and Women
It is absolutely vital to note, however, that sexual harassment and/or discrimination do not necessarily need to be motivated by sexual desire. In fact, a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013 (SB 292) explicitly states this fact. Harassment can entail any number of unacceptable behaviors with any number of motivating factors, including just general misogyny and/or hostility. SB 292 was created to promote an overall “civility code” for the workplaces in California. This civility code is meant to protect the more vulnerable members of the professional organization.
Furthermore, the California Family Rights Act of 1993 guarantees that leave for family matters is a legal right under certain circumstances. These circumstances include the woman giving birth to a child, issues pertaining to adoption and/or foster care, and any major health issues as they relate to a spouse, partner, child, parent, and/or the employee themselves. This act was meant to protect the integrity and function of families and preserve some fundamental rights of employees.
A woman who is career-oriented need not sacrifice her right or desire to give birth to a child simply to retain her professional status (or even to avoid termination). If an employer cuts said woman’s pay, fires her, demotes her, and/or subjects her to discriminatory practices, they would be in direct violation of this California statute. It also states that each company is responsible for making any and all “reasonable accommodations” for the female employee in question while she is pregnant. She is protected from unfair repercussions while she is going through her pregnancy, her birth, and/or the recovery period following these.
Wage Disparity and Equal Pay
Wage disparity is a major practice area in overall sexual harassment and/or discrimination law. There is a federal law, known as the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963, which guarantees this right. Much like Title VII, however, it is limited in its scope and efficacy.
Thankfully, California has several laws that explicitly guarantee equal pay to try and combat what is officially known as the gender wage differential. California also has an Equal Pay Act, this one enacted in 1949, which makes some provisions regarding equal pay. More significantly, however, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Pay Act, also known as SB 358, in 2015. This was part of the overall trend in the state legislature to address issues of discrimination and/or harassment.
This act clearly states that it is a fundamental right of the worker to be given equal pay for equal work. This rate of pay will be determined by skills, experience, and/or effort. The rate of pay cannot, however, be determined by gender, nationality, and/or religion. If you win a harassment/discrimination lawsuit under this act, you may receive reimbursement of these wages (plus interest) to ensure that you have been paid equally to your colleagues.
How to Find A Sexual Harassment Lawyer Near Me
Workers in the city of San Francisco or the state of California are afforded protections under both federal and state laws. As you can see, however, there are numerous statutes that address various aspects of your sexual harassment and/or discrimination case. Consequently, you absolutely must find the best legal representation available. Our Sexual Harassment Lawyer is here for you and we can help you get that settlement that you deserve. Contact us at 800-905-1856 for a complimentary consultation.