California Sexual Harassment Attorney is dedicated to helping employees with work-related problems throughout all of California and we have a wealth of experience in handling sexual harassment cases. Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited by law in the state of California. You can always reach us on 800-905-1856 if you are facing sexual harassment at your workplace.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is sex/ gender-based discrimination. This includes pregnancy, childbirth, gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. You can be a target of sexual harassment either as a man or woman. You can also be sexually harassed by a person of the same gender as you. According to FEHA sexual harassment constitutes of unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances of any form. This includes verbal or physical conduct or visuals that are of a sexual nature.
What are the two main types of sexual harassment?
Quid pro Quo: This basically means one thing for another. This is a situation where a senior puts a condition on being promoted or receiving any other work benefit based on you submitting to their sexual advances or other sex-based conduct.
Hostile Work Environment: This is when you experience unwelcome conduct or comments that are of a sexual nature that interfere with your performance at work or subject you to an intimidating or hostile work environment. Sometimes you may experience sexual harassment even though the conduct that is of a sexual nature is not aimed at you.
For your case to be legally remedied the sexual harassment you experience must be severe. This means that it severely affects the conditions of your employment and subjects you to an abusive work environment. You may experience just one act of harassment but it may so severe that you need legal intervention.
What Comprises Sexual Harassment?
- Unsolicited sexual conduct
- Promising employment benefits based on sexual favors
- Making derogatory comments, jokes or epithets
- Deliberate physical actions such as touching, assault and confining a person’s movement.
- Retaliating or making threats to retaliate after the person refuses your sexual advances.
- Deliberate suggestions to engage in sexual activity.
- Making sexual gestures such as displaying visuals, pictures, posters, objects that are of a sexual nature.
- Sexually oriented verbal abuse; this may include snide remarks on a person’s body, sexual orientation and use of derogatory language.
What do you do if you are facing sexual harassment?
If you are an employee or job applicant and you have experienced sexual harassment. You are required to file a sexual discrimination complaint within one year of the last act of harassment. DFEH operates as neutral fact-finder that aims at helping the parties to voluntarily settle the dispute. If DFEH finds out that you were discriminated and are unable to resolve the dispute. They may file a civil complaint in either a state or federal court on your behalf as the aggrieved party. DFEH may request that the employer be ordered to amend their policies and practices, penal damages and if it prevails with litigation; attorney fees and costs. You may also choose that your attorney files a private lawsuit in a civil court after filing a complaint with DFEH and receiving a right to sue notice.
What are the employer’s obligations and liability?
In California, all employers are prohibited by law from sexually harassing employees. All employers are subject to harassment provisions of California law and are held liable for any kind of harassment carried out by their agents or supervisors. All harassment perpetrators may be held personally liable for subjecting an employee to sexual harassment or for aiding and abetting harassment. The law requires that every employer takes reasonable measures to prevent harassment in the workplace. If your employ fails to take the necessary measures, they may be held liable for harassment. Nonemployees can also hold an employer liable; this includes a job applicant, a client or customer of an employee or someone providing services to the employer. Your employer can only be held liable for this type of harassment if they were aware or should have been aware of the harassment and failed to take urgent corrective measures.
All employers in California are charged with the duty of implementing precautionary measures to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination in the workplace and to provide a workplace that is free of harassment. Programs that inhibit sexual harassment in the workplace are not only a legal requirement, but a practical and effective way of avoiding and limiting liability in case harassment occurs.
What actions must an employer take to prevent and correct harassment?
- Distribute copy that complies with government code 12950.
- Post a copy of the official poster entitled “California Law Prohibits Workplace Discrimination and Harassment.”
- Develop a harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy that complies with CCR 11023.
This policy must:
- Be in writing
- List all protected groups by FEHA
- Clarify that the law prohibits an employee being subjected to sexual harassment by managers, supervisors, co-workers, third parties and any other people they come into contact with in the course of their employment.
- Establish a confidential complaint process and ensure a timely response an impartial and timely investigation, documentation and tracking for progress, the best remedial actions and resolutions and timely closures.
- Establish a complaint procedure through which an employee doesn’t have to complain to the immediate supervisor. This complaint procedure must include but is not limited to providing for direct communication either in writing or orally with a designated company representative. Provide a company hotline, access to an ombudsperson. Including DFEH and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as alternative avenues for lodging complaints.
- Supervisors must report any misconduct complaints to someone designated to handle such; for example, human resources to have these cases resolved internally. Employers with 50 or more employees must include this in the compulsory sexual harassment prevention training.
- This policy should contain a clause stating that when allegations of misconduct are received; fair thorough and timely investigations will be conducted. This will provide all relevant parties with the appropriate due process and ensure reasonable conclusions are reached based on evidence collected.
- State that employees will not be retaliated against for making a complaint or participating in an investigation.
Your employer should distribute the harassment prevention policy by doing one or more of the following:
- Printing it and distributing it to employees with an acknowledgment form for them to sign and return.
- Distributing it via email with an acknowledgment form
- Posting its most current version on the company intranet with a tracking system to ensure all employees read it and acknowledges receipt of the policy.
- Discuss the policy when hiring employees.
- Employ the best method to distribute and ensure employees understand the policy.
- If more than ten percent of the employees do not speak English, the employer shall translate the harassment policy into every language spoken by these employees.
- Employers in California who employ 50 or more employees whether part time or full time are required to provide more than two hours of training on sexual harassment or gender-based harassment.
When you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, California law gives you the right to recover money from your harasser. Though individual harassers may be held personally liable acts employers are equally liable.
If your harasser is a supervisor or employer, the employer will be held strictly liable for the violation. This means that the employer will be required to pay you damages even if he was not at fault.
If your harasser is a non-supervisory employee or just a coworker, your employer will only be held liable for the violation if:
- They were aware or should have been aware of the harassment
- They failed to effect corrective action
This ensures that employers are not negligent when handling sexual harassment issues in the workplace. Employers can also be held liable for sexual harassment for offenders who are not employees. However, the extent of their liability is dependent on the extent of control they have to prevent offending conduct from non-employees.
When the court finds that an employee or the company is liable for sexual harassment the consequences may be severe. Some of the damages may include:
- Giving the violated employee back pay, making contributions to the employee’s retirement fund, or paying them any other amounts to compensate them for the violations they have experienced.
- Paying the employee damages equal to the amounts, they may have lost from; being fired, receiving unequal pay or failure to be promoted as they should have.
- Repaying their legal expenses including attorney fees and litigation expenses.
- Reinstating the employee back to employment or repaying their future projected earnings if they cannot be re-employed.
- Punitive damages to penalize the employer for their wrongdoing
- Compensation to the employee for emotional pain and suffering caused.
What options do you have as an employee in California who has experienced sexual harassment?
- You can resolve it informally out of court with the employer.
- You can file a lawsuit in court
- You can raise an administrative claim to seek damages
What steps should you take if you have experienced sexual harassment in your workplace?
Document: It is advised that you keep a journal of the acts of sexual harassment that you experience. This should include the name of the person who harassed you, an explanation of what happened as well as the date and time. These details are of great help when seeking legal help.
Report: You should report the offensive conduct to the people in charge this can be human resources or your supervisor. If you feel that the problem is not being addressed, you can report the violation to your employer. It is advised that you do this in writing and keep a copy in case you need to produce evidence.
Use the channels put in place by your employer: If the employee handbook at your workplace gives guidelines on how to remedy your situation you should follow these. If the employer gives no guidance, then you should seek the services of an attorney.
Seek Legal Help. Consult your lawyer on the best legal course of action. Though you may consider leaving the job, it’s important that you know your legal rights before doing so.
Do you need a lawyer?
Though you are not required to have a lawyer to file a sexual harassment claim; it is advised that you have one. This is because the law can be complex and you need an attorney experienced in handling sexual harassment cases and who will help you maximize financial damages.
Understanding sexual harassment law
Federal and state laws stipulate that any form of sexual harassment is illegal. According to the federal law sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. The law places the responsibility of effectively handling sexual harassment in the workplace on private and public employers, employment agencies as well as labor unions. Implementing a policy against sexual harassment may not be enough on the part of the employer. Every employer should ensure that such a policy is adhered to and that complaints from employees are addressed.
Protection from retaliation after reporting sexual harassment
Not only does the law protect you from sexual harassment, but it also protects you from retaliation after reporting sexual harassment. This may include being demoted or fired or any other form of retaliation. The law also protects employees who give evidence in a sexual harassment case; it ensures that they do not face retaliation for exposing sexual harassment behavior in the workplace.
Sexual harassment in California is illegal, and every employee has a right to a workplace that is free of any form of sexual harassment. California Sexual Harassment Attorney is there to offer their legal expertise if you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace. California law provides remedies for you if you have been sexually harassed and your employer has failed to take action against the offender. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace you can always book an appointment with our experienced employment law attorney on 800-905-1856 they will listen to your case, answer any questions that you may have and advise you on the legal options that are available to you.