Sexual harassment is a major concern in every industry and in every city, county, and region of California. If you have suffered from sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you may have initially been shocked and surprised that it could happen to you. And then, you may have felt frightened over the possibility of losing your job and seeing your career interrupted or even ended. Finally, you may have been concerned about your complaint, if you made one, being disregarded and disbelieved or even triggering retaliation from your employer.
At Sexual Harassment Attorney, we understand the dynamics of how sexual harassment and discrimination cases work in California. We have a detailed knowledge of the law on these matters and of both administrative and courtroom processes potentially involved.
Have you suffered from harassment/discrimination at the hands of a financial planner, either as an employee or a client? If so, do not hesitate to call us for help, anytime 24/7, by dialing 800-905-1856. We will give you a free consultation and waste no time getting started on your case!
About the Financial Planning Industry in California
Between 2008 and 2018, California's financial planning industry saw growth of around 21% as to number of job opportunities offered in the industry. Insurance brokers dealing in fixed annuities also saw a 6% increase in employment positions, and industry sales agents’ jobs increased by 3%.
Those in any of the specific job-types and business-types under the financial planner umbrella typically have to work hard to obtain one or more state-issued professional licenses in order to act as financial advisers, stockbrokers, or life insurance agents who can sell fixed annuities.
The booming nature of the industry, the often lucrative earnings, and the special privileges that come with state-issued licenses can sometimes make a financial planner feel he is allowed to take advantage of his employees or even his clients in a sexual or sex-based way. On the other hand, those who have worked hard to get a position at a top financial planning firm can have their career thrown in jeopardy when a supervisor or employer suddenly makes offers or threats based on a demand for sexual favors.
But remember that, in California, no one is above the law. Anyone who commits sexual harassment or other forms of harassment/discrimination in the workplace is liable to pay damages and take corrective actions. And in many cases, a financial planner found guilty of sexual harassment can have his/her license suspended, be forced to pay fines to the licensing board, or even have his/her professional license revoked.
When Can You File a Sexual Harassment Claim in California?
In California, there is a time limit on when you can file a sexual harassment claim. The statute of limitations extends one full year from the date of the most recent incident, although it can sometimes be extended an additional 90 days if the victim didn't know about the full facts of the case till after one year had passed.
It's always best to file a claim sooner rather than later since the ability to gather compelling evidence and supporting witnesses is greater the nearer you are to the incident. But you also want to first attempt to resolve the issue with your employer, if possible. If that fails, you should contact a good lawyer and file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing.
You can file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, as well. But you only have 180 days from the last act of harassment to file with them, while you can file for a state of California claim, as we've seen, a year after the last incident. This, plus the fact that California law is stricter on sexual harassment, is why most choose to file the claim with the state instead of with the federal government.
The Department of Fair Employment & Housing can begin an investigation as soon as you file a complaint with them, but they can also wait up to 60 days to make a decision. You can request an immediate investigation and a "right to sue" letter to help speed things up.
How to Go About Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
Before deciding to file a sexual harassment claim and pursue it, you should be sure you have a valid case. That's why contacting an experienced sexual harassment attorney should be done early on. The consultation is free, so it's not as if it need cost you anything to get a quick opinion from a lawyer about the viability of your case.
You should also have already exhausted other options before escalating to an administrative complaint and possible lawsuit. That means informing your employer of the relevant incident(s) and giving a reasonable amount of time for things to be corrected. In more extreme cases, however, a lawsuit against an individual or a business might be viable immediately and without any back and forth with the employer. It all depends on the nature of the alleged harassment.
As soon as you suffer from sexual harassment or as early as possible, you should begin keeping detailed records of what happened, when, where, and who was responsible. These kinds of records can greatly help your claim, along with any evidence you can collect, such as texts, emails, photographs, cellphone logs, or social media site messages/posts.
Normally, you begin by filing a written complaint with your employer, often through the HR department or your supervisor (unless he/she is the one responsible for the harassment.) Your employer must then investigate and correct the situation without serious delay. Otherwise, your employer could become liable for what otherwise would only be a personal liability of a coworker.
Once it's clear your employer can't be trusted to correct the situation or that he is already liable for a serious violation, then you can file with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing without delay. You'll do well to have the assistance of a lawyer in making up the paperwork for the complaint and to let the department know you mean serious business and have skilled legal help on your side.
Next, the department will contact your employer concerning the complaint and he/she will have a chance to give a response. It's possible some interviews, document collection, and other aspects of an investigation will also take place. If they decide your employer is guilty and liable, they will seek to arrive at a settlement with your employer in your behalf. If that fails, it will have to go to court.
Note that even if the department's investigation ends with a statement saying no harassment took place, they will still likely give you a "right to sue" letter, and you can choose to still pursue the matter in a court of law.
Types of Sexual Harassment
By this point, you may be wondering, what exactly defines sexual harassment and what different types of sexual harassment are there? In general, any negative employment action or harassing targeting directed at you based on your gender or on an attempt to get you to comply with sexual demands, constitutes sexual harassment.
This can mean physical touching, especially in private areas (but even, in the right context, on the shoulder), verbalizing sexual comments about an employee, displaying sexually explicit images in one's work cubicle where all can see, making non-verbal gestures to persecute someone based on sex or for sex, or a host of other specific actions.
But the two main classes that most sexual harassment falls into, at least when the employer is liable, are called "quid pro quo" and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo, meaning "this for that" in Latin, means an offer is made or a threat is issued, where sexual or romantic favors are to be exchanged for an employment benefit or to avoid a negative employment action. So, it could be those who have sex with a supervisor, for example, get a promotion or pay raise or those who don't get fired.
The second common type of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, refers to an employer creating or permitting to exist a workplace where sexual harassment continually takes place. The workplace becomes unbearable to the point one can barely, if at all, continue to work there and be a productive, well adjusted, worker.
Types of Discrimination
Sex discrimination is only one among many potential types of discrimination that might occur in the workplace. Anytime a person's sex, sexual orientation, age, race, national origin, marital status, or other illegitimate reason becomes the basis for hiring, firing, promoting, pay raises, and the giving or withholding of any employment benefit - that is illegal discrimination.
But there are more subtle ways of perpetrating discrimination in the workplace too - like assigning work duties based on race, verbally abusing only women, giving harsher disciplinary actions to immigrants, not being invited to work meetings, never getting a promotion or raise while others with a sexual relation with a supervisor do, not getting the same employee benefits package, or getting assigned a bigger workload without extra compensation or always being given the worst shifts.
Even when you have a valid sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit, it's important to determine who exactly is liable for your claim. It could be the business is liable or that an individual is liable, for example.
If the business owner or the corporation as a body committed quid pro quo or hostile workplace harassment against you, your employer is liable. If it's a supervisor who's to blame, your employer is most likely liable as well. But if it's just a coworker, then it depends on whether you made a complaint to your employer or not and how he/she responded.
Additionally, if an employer failed to provide sexual harassment training to its employees as mandated by California law or to develop a legally valid sexual harassment prevention policy and distribute it to its employees, then the chances of employee liability are greatly increased.
Wrongful Termination & Retaliation
One of the most common things that happens when sexual harassment or discrimination are a way of life at a particular workplace is that people get fired in violation of their employment contract and/or in violation of state law. This is called a wrongful termination.
Note that many times an employer may choose to create an unbearable work environment for a specific employee he/she wishes to force to quit, instead of just firing that employee. This is called "constructive discharge" and counts just the same as wrongful termination legally.
Finally, people are often fired or suffer other negative employment actions in retaliation against an employee who filed a sexual harassment suit against them. Or, it could be because of reporting health & safety violation or illegal activities of an employer to the authorities, for filing a discrimination suit, or even just for submitting a written complaint to the employer.
Retaliation in any form, be it pay cuts, passing by someone for a promotion, laying someone off, or cutting his/her hours, is illegal in California and is in itself grounds for a serious lawsuit. Often, winning such a lawsuit can get you compensation for the financial and career impacts of wrongfully losing your job and may even get you your job back.
What If I See Someone Else at Work Being Sexually Harassed?
A final question you many have is, "What if I see a coworker being harassed or discriminated against? What can I do about it?" Now, that depends. At the least, you can talk to your coworker and encourage him/her to take action. You can't file a lawsuit in an employee's behalf, however, if he/she is the only victim and refuses do act.
BUT, if the harassment also affects you, you can indeed pursue the matter. For example, let's say the sexual harassment is done out in the open where you and others can hear and see it - that could be arguably be said to create a hostile work environment that intimidates everyone present.
Finding a Sexual Harassment Attorney Near Me
Sexual harassment can take many forms and can happen in the office of a financial planner, insurance broker, tax consultant, other financial industry expert, or in any other type of business for that matter.
If you have suffered from any kind of illegal harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace, do not hesitate to reach out for immediate help. At Sexual Harassment Attorney, we stand ready on a 24/7/365 basis to answer your call. Contact us at 800-905-1856 for a free, no obligation consultation, and we will help you get started in seeking justice and fair compensation.