There has been a recent change in how we as a culture process and prosecute sexual misconduct, harassment, and/or discrimination. This has resulted in a variety of new laws and statutes that aim to protect the victims of these crimes. Though they are technically two separate offenses, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination exhibit a large degree of overlap. Despite these changes, these types of workplace harassment cases remain stubbornly persistent. If you are the victim of sexual harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace, then you may be entitled to financial compensation. Residents of Ventura County and California State can count on Sexual Harassment Attorney to put together the best case possible, thereby giving you a better chance to receive said compensation.
What is Sexual Harassment and Discrimination?
Sexual harassment is a type of workplace discrimination. It consists of unwanted sexual advances, threats, attempts to coerce, bribes, and/or physical contact. Sexual discrimination consists of any action that may be considered discriminatory, such as demotion, termination, and/or pay decreases, on the basis of someone’s gender or sex. Though California law differentiates between these two concepts, they are related to one another and a person can suffer both sexual harassment and discrimination.
In fact, most cases argue that an employee is a victim of both. An experienced legal team, one who specializes in these types of workplace discrimination lawsuits, has the potential to make an effective argument so that you can get the justice you deserve.
It can be confusing, however, to determine what exactly constitutes sexual harassment. There are a wide variety of behaviors and/or actions that are illegal, including:
- Saying sexually explicit things or making sexually explicit jokes, including talking with an employee about another employee who may not be present for the actual conversation.
- Sending out written material that is comprised of these comments and/or jokes.
- Sending out inappropriate and/or sexually explicit images.
- Offering or threatening to exchange amenities and/or favors at work for sexual acts and/or contact.
- Asking repeatedly for sexual contact and/or favors.
- Touching someone non-consensually (in some situations this can cross over into criminal conduct and result in sexual assault charges).
- Showing favoritism to a subordinate on the basis of their gender and/or in exchange for sexual contact.
Furthermore, there are two fundamental types of sexual harassment: a hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. The former is apparent when an employee is subjected to a pattern of harassing behavior that is persistent and damaging. In many cases, both the specific aggressor committing the harassment and the overall workplace that allowed (or at least ignored) said harassment will be held liable.
Quid pro quo harassment is slightly different. This is essentially a form of blackmail that is sexual in nature. The victim is promised some kind of perk, amenity, promotion, pay increase, and/or accolade in exchange for granting the aggressor some sexual favor. In some cases, the aggressor will outright threaten the victim if they do not grant their sexual favors. These threats usually constitute a demotion, pay decrease, and/or even a termination of the employee in question.
What Are The Sexual Harassment Laws?
The federal law that deals with workplace discrimination is Title VII of the Equal Rights Act. This law states that no employer, under any circumstance, may discriminate against an employee due to their racial identity, gender, religious affiliation, and/or nationality. It essentially outlaws any kind of workplace discrimination, thereby requiring that companies judge their employees on the basis of their ability or performance.
Title VII does not explicitly outlaw sexual harassment, however. It is an older law, passed in 1964, and therefore is partially limited in its protections. Residents of Ventura County, as well as the state of California, will be protected by local laws as well. Thankfully California has very strict, stringent, and comprehensive laws on the books that deal with sexual harassment directly. These laws are also expanding rapidly to keep pace with the overall cultural change in how sexual harassment lawsuits are handled.
Some of the California statutes that outlaw sexual harassment and discrimination are:
- The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Section 12940. Passed in 1980, this law expands on the basic protections afforded by Title VII. It also specifies that both sexual harassment and discrimination are illegal.
- Senate Bill 292 (SB 292). This law was signed in 2013 by Jerry Brown, then governor of California. It is a kind of addendum to FEHA and it states that sexual harassment does not need to have a primary motivating factor of “sexual desire”. This means that an aggressor can be motivated by simple hostility and still be guilty of sexual harassment.
- Senate Bill 820 (SB 820). Governor Brown also signed this law in late 2018 to take effect on January 01, 2019. It outlaws non-disclosure provisions in sexual harassment and discrimination settlement agreements. These are also known as “secret settlements” and allow wealthy and/or powerful aggressors to continue their harassing behavior while evading public scrutiny.
- Senate Bill 358 (SB 358 or the California Fair Pay Act). This bill was signed in 2015 to correct the gender wage differential. This is the technical term for the fact that female employees are paid less than their male counterparts. SB 358 guarantees that all employees, regardless of gender or race, are paid equally and not discriminated against.
- The California Family Rights Act. This law was signed in 1993 and it provides protections for employees who must take leave for family and/or personal matters. It also explicitly forbids a company from discriminating against a woman who is pregnant and or who just delivered a child. Furthermore, it holds the company in question responsible to make “reasonable accommodations” during the female employee’s pregnancy.
These are only the most commonly used statutes in sexual harassment or discrimination cases. Because of the complexities of the law, and the fact that there are various areas of overlap between state and federal laws, it is essential that you seek out professional help. A legal team with skill and verve can construct a case for you that takes advantage of these protections afforded by the various laws.
How Do I File A Sexual Harassment Claim?
Dealing with sexual harassment or workplace discrimination is bad enough; now you also have to start the legal proceedings to ensure you get your due compensation and justice. Many victims are frightened or intimidated, but with top-notch legal representation, you can face each step of your case with confidence.
Your sexual harassment lawyer will counsel you on whether to pursue the case with a federal regulatory agency, a state regulatory agency, or both. It is fairly common to pursue the harassment case on both the federal and state levels. Though the various other laws will apply during the ensuing court case (if it goes that far), the initial step is to file a claim under Title VII or FEHA.
When filing a federal claim under Title VII, you will have to go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (also known as the EEOC). They have regional offices all over California, but for residents of Ventura County, the nearest one would be in the city of Los Angeles at the Roybal Federal Building, 255 East Temple St on the 4th floor.
When filing a state claim under FEHA, you will be dealing with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (also known as the DFEH). This agency also has regional offices all over the state, but the office nearest to Ventura County is located in the city of Los Angeles at 320 West 4th Street on the 10th floor.
Filing a claim with either agency will result in an initial interview to ascertain the nature of the harassment and/or discrimination. It is advisable that you already have your attorney present because the agency may have to be convinced to take on your case. It should also be noted that each victim has only a year to file the claim from the time of the incident and that each agency has sixty (60) days to render a decision on whether or not to take your case.
If they do take it on, a full investigation will be implemented and all related parties will be extensively interviewed. At this point in time, all evidence and any kind of paper trail should be shared entirely with the agency in question. Once the investigation has concluded then the regulatory agency will hold a mediatory meeting to try and reach terms for a settlement. Remember that SB 820 disallows non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment and/or discrimination cases. If the settlement offered is not satisfactory to you, then you and your legal team can take it to civil court.
One of the greatest challenges in pursuing a sexual harassment case is that so many victims are intimidated or frightened to speak out about the abuse they suffered. This is because they seriously fear any retaliation that might be inflicted upon them by their aggressor. This also includes instances where the company covers up for the illegal behavior of one of its employees.
Both Title VII and FEHA protect workers from any kind of retaliatory action that has the intention of silencing them during the course of their harassment case. This applies during the entire process, including the initial investigation. These laws were developed specifically to allow victims to seek remuneration and justice and to not allow abusive and harassing behavior to continue unchecked.
If you have been fired for making a sexual harassment claim, this would be known as wrongful termination. It is illegal under all the various harassment statutes. It is likely that your former employer will make the argument during the case that they are an “at will employer”. This means that they have the legal right to fire anyone they want for any reasonable cause. This privilege afforded to employers does not extend, however, to instances of wrongful termination.
When you began working for your employer, you entered into an employment contract that affords you certain rights. Wrongfully terminating you would be considered a breach of said contract and is itself an actionable offense that your former employer can be held liable for. This scenario would also hold true if you were an independent contractor or freelance employee as opposed to a regular full-time employee. It should also be noted that recent additions to the California legislature also allow for non-employees to sue for sexual harassment as well.
In an attempt to skirt around these wrongful termination protections, some employers will create a hostile work environment to effectively force you out of the company. They can either explicitly or implicitly foster a workplace culture so hostile or toxic that you have no choice but to quit the job. This is known as constructive discharge and is also an actionable offense.
Both constructive discharge and wrongful termination are known as retaliation and are violations that are related to sexual harassment or discrimination claims. If your claim is accepted by a regulatory agency or if it goes to court before a judge, then these various offenses will all be judged separately. That means that if you filed a sexual harassment claim and were consequently fired, then you would have a wrongful termination case even if your sexual harassment is not accepted and does not go to court.
If your employer is found to be guilty of both the harassment and retaliation charges, then you may be entitled to financial compensation for each offense. It is important to work with a knowledgeable legal team so that they may present a full and accurate picture of your case.
How Do I Find A Harassment Attorney Near Me?
There are so many ins and outs to a sexual harassment or discrimination case. There are a multitude of laws that may apply and a wide variety of ways to approach the case. Because most of these cases occur when a more powerful employer abuses a less powerful subordinate, it is important that you give yourself the ability to fight back. Sexual Harassment Lawyer is the right legal team for the job. If you are located in Ventura County or the state of California, call our office at 800-905-1856 and get a free consultation on your case.