Federal law and California law issues severe punishments for sexual harassment. If you have been sexually harassed, you should know legal recourse is available. If your sexual harassment case has merit, you might be able to obtain significant compensation and ensure the offending party is punished to the letter of the law. However, your chances of success hinge on whether you hire an experienced attorney with a track record of success.
You deserve your fair shot at justice. The California Sexual Harassment Attorney Law Firm is here to help. We will cater a legal strategy according to the nuances of your particular sexual harassment case. We can help you pursue charges of sexual harassment or help defend against such charges. Our legal team understands the intricacies of this legal conflict and the best strategies for both positions. We invest the time necessary to custom tailor a legal approach that accounts for the details of your idiosyncratic case. This is the level of precision and attention you need to emerge with compensation for your pain, suffering, emotional trauma and/or lost wages.
Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment
According to the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), workplace sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance and/or actions that are sexual in nature that interfere with workplace performance. If the advance or behavior in question creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive working environment, the individual is guilty of workplace sexual harassment.
Anything from sexually-oriented jokes to touching or presenting offensive material in the workplace can constitute sexual harassment. The unfortunate truth is sexual harassment is a major society-wide issue that is much more common than most would like to admit. If you have been victimized by a sexual harasser or if you have been falsely accused of such behavior, our legal team is here to help every step of the way.
Protections Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Federal and California state laws are on the books to protect workers from sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment qualifies as discrimination by sex under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII. Title VII is the baseline for claims of sexual harassment yet states have their own nuanced sexual harassment laws as well. Our attorneys understand the details of these state laws and how they apply to your unique sexual harassment case. We have experience arguing in court and out of court to obtain lucrative settlement offers and court awards.
Title VII is also applicable to state government agencies as well as local government employees. It even applies to employment agencies and labor organizations including those who work for the federal government. The harasser or victim can be a man or a woman. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex as the alleged harasser. The harasser can be employed at any level in the company, whether it is as a supervisor, a co-worker, an agent of the company, an executive or a non-employee. The victim is the individual who suffered the harassment. However, the legal definition of victim extends beyond these individuals. It also applies to anyone impacted by the offensive behavior. Unlawful sexual harassment can take place with economic injury of the victim. Above all, what matters most is the alleged harasser's behaviors or words must be unwelcome by the victim.
The Different Types of Sexual Harassment
Title VII recognizes two distinct types of sexual harassment: Hostile work environment and quid pro quo. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a person in a position of authority insists a subordinate accept sexual harassment in the workplace. This harassment is a condition of obtaining, maintaining or otherwise benefiting from the job. Tolerance of sexual harassment for a promotion or raise also qualifies as a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment. One instance of sexual harassment constitutes the basis for a quid pro quo claim. As an example, if your boss requests that you touch him or her in order to keep your job, you have a quid pro quo claim. It does not have to be repeated in order to qualify as this form of workplace sexual harassment.
A hostile work environment sexual harassment claim is grounds for a lawsuit as long as the conduct in question is centered on sex, unwelcome and/or a significant or pervasive enough of form an offensive or abusive work environment. The court will weigh a number of different factors when determining if the sexual harassment claim is a hostile work environment claim. The frequency of conduct matters as does its nature, be it physical, verbal or both. If the conduct was patently offensive, hostile, directed at one or several people, those details will be considered. Even the number of people doing the harassing matters as well.
Whether the alleged harasser believed his or her behavior was hostile or offensive and whether a reasonable individual in the plaintiff's position would believe the conduct was hostile are also factors to be considered. The workplace title of the alleged harasser is important. If the employee is in a position of authority such as a supervisor, manager or executive, it will make it that much easier to frame the him or her as a manipulative and malevolent force.
Employer Liability for Workplace Sexual Harassment
Title VII is applicable to employers that employ 15 or more people. Companies that have fewer than 15 employees are also subjected to California's laws pertaining to workplace sexual harassment. If it can be proven the employer allowed for hostile work environment sexual harassment or the quid pro quo variety, the employer might be liable for compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. Examples of compensatory damages include monetary loss and financial compensation for the employee's pain and suffering. Liability hinges on which party committed the sexual harassment (co-worker or superior) and the action (or lack thereof) the company took to remedy it.
Sexual Harassment Performed by a Superior Versus Sexual Harassment Performed by a Co-worker
If the sexual harassment is performed by a superior in the workplace and there is a tangible employment action such as a firing, demotion or other punishment/reduction in duties, the employer is liable. If the sexual harassment is the hostile work environment variety, the employer is also liable. The best way for an employer to defend again such a charge is to show it exercised a reasonable level of care to stop the sexual harassment and also took timely correction action to stop the harassment after being made aware of it.
Furthermore, the employer's attorney must show the worker in question unreasonably refused to capitalize on the corrective measures put in place or suggested. Alternatively, if the sexual harassment is committed by a co-worker, the employer is liable if it should have known or knew about the sexual harassment. However, if the employer took timely corrective measures to bring an end to the behavior in question, it might not be found liable.
It is Illegal for Employers to Retaliate Against Sexual Harassment Claims
Employers are not allowed to retaliate against workers who file sexual harassment complaints. However, it is generally assumed by most who file such a complaint that there will likely be some form of subtle retaliation in the workplace. Perform your due diligence by obtaining a copy of your employment file with human resources prior to filing your sexual harassment complaint. Once you have your personnel file in-hand, you will have all the documentation you need to show you performed well at work. You will be able to use your workplace evaluations as evidence when/if the company retaliates by firing, demoting or otherwise punishing you. Think of yourself and your attorney as detectives who are constantly on the prowl to collect as much evidence of your workplace sexual harassment as possible.
The Role of Government in Sexual Harassment Claims
To file a civil lawsuit, you must first send the complaint to the EEOC. This is the federal agency responsible for the enforcement of Title VII that governs sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC will investigate the accusations. If a settlement is not in the works, it is then possible to officially file the Title VII lawsuit. Meet with our attorneys to ensure you file your claim prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
How to Proceed When Being Sexually Harassed at Work
If you are the victim of sexual harassment at work, request the offending party stop his or her behavior. If your personal attempt to end the sexual harassment does not work, take a look at the employee handbook to check out the policies your employer has in place for such conflicts. Escalate your complaint to that level after you have obtained a copy of your personnel report.
Document every step of this process including the incidents of sexual harassment. Write down the time and date of every instance of sexual harassment including your response and ensuing actions. Every little detail will bolster the strength of your sexual harassment claim. Your case will prove that much stronger if you took the initiative to inform the offending party his or her actions or words were offensive. If the harassers are aware his or her actions are offending you and the behavior continues, your case will have considerable merit.
However, some victims of sexual harassment are uncomfortable about verbally confronting the offender in a face-to-face manner. If you are in such a position, write a letter or email letting the offending party know you demand the behavior stop right away. If you are hesitant to go this far, reach out to your supervisor to issue a complaint. Follow your employer's protocols for handling sexual harassment. Document every step of the process down to the very last detail to show you complied with your employer's requirements. If management proves unresponsive to your complaint, continue to escalate it all the way to the executive level and even to ownership if necessary.
Above all, Your Most Important Responsibility is Documentation
Write it down! This is the best advice we can provide if you are considering filing a sexual harassment complaint at work and filing a lawsuit. If you document each sexual harassment event with nuanced detail, it will make your claim that much more credible. Furthermore, document management's responses to your complaint every step of the way.
Think of this documentation as evidence that will be presented in a court of law to bolster your case. Furthermore, you should back up your electronic files with copies. Keep them in a safe space away from work so no one steals them. Store all relevant emails, text messages, instant messages, memos and other communications. It will also help to write down the names and titles of witnesses to your workplace sexual harassment. Their testimony could prove essential to your quest for justice.
What Employers can do to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
If you own or manage a business that has been accused of allowing sexual harassment to occur, it might be time to change your workplace environment. Our attorneys will review the details of the allegations and help you build a rock-solid legal defense. Prevention is always the best means of stopping sexual harassment at work. Employers are advised to be proactive and take steps necessary to stop sexual harassment before it starts.
It should be clearly communicated to all employees that sexual harassment is not allowed in the workplace. Employers are advised to provide sexual harassment training. Establish a grievance or complaint process for sexual harassment claims and other workplace conflicts. If an employee complains, action should be taken in a timely manner to prevent additional discomfort. Furthermore, employers are barred by law from retaliating against an employee who alleges sexual harassment in the workplace.
Contact Us Today for Assistance with Your Sexual Harassment Case
If you have been sexually harassed or if you have been accused of sexual harassment, reach out to our law firm today. Give California Sexual Harassment Attorney a call at 800-905-1856 to schedule an initial consultation where we can review the nuances of your particular case.