Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in many workplaces across California. In fact, 86% of women and 53% of men have reported being sexually harassed or assaulted in their lifetime, some of them dealing with this kind of situation in their workspace.

Victims of sexual harassment in the California workplace often feel powerless, violated, and isolated — and it can have long-lasting effects on their physical and mental health, job performance, and professional future. 

Fortunately, California has some of the most comprehensive sexual harassment laws in the country, designed to protect workers from unwanted sexual advances, comments, or sexual misconduct.

Are you a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace?

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an illegal activity where a victim is harassed by an employer, supervisory employee, nonsupervisory employee, fellow employees, or client in their workspace. 

Unlawful harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, explicit jokes, quid pro quo harassment (requests for sexual favors), as well as verbal or physical abuse, and offensive behavior that is of a sexual nature. It is also unlawful to make offensive comments about someone’s gender expression.

Both victim and harasser can be either female employees or male, and those involved need not be of the same gender.

Types of Workplace Harassment

Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue that affects many people in the workplace. It can take many different forms, from overtly sexual behavior to subtle actions that create a hostile work environment. Some of the common types of sexual harassment scenarios include:

  1. Sexual jokes, unwanted sexual advances, and propositions of a sexual nature.
  2. Physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as touching and hugging without consent.
  3. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment; abusive conduct in which an employer or supervisor demands some kind of sexual favor from an employee in return for job-related benefits in exchange.
  4. Threats or acts of retaliation for rejecting sexual advances or requests for favors of a sexual nature.
  5. Displaying sexually explicit material in the workplace.
  6. Leering and intrusive questioning about an individual’s sex life.
  7. Making unwelcome comments or gestures about an individual’s body
  8. Emailing pornographic or offensive pictures to colleagues.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile environment at work can arise when sexual conduct becomes prevalent enough to create an intimidating, offensive, or hostile workplace. Harassing behaviors must be severe and pervasive enough to adversely impact employees’ work performance or the general workplace atmosphere.

Who is Liable for Sexual Harassment?

Harassment is deemed illegal when it creates a hostile working environment or results in an unfavorable decision about employment, such as termination or demotion. Simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not severe do not violate the law.

All employers are legally liable for any form of sexual harassment carried out by their employees during the course of their duties, meaning that they can be held accountable for damages in a court of law. 

However, employers may also be liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by others such as customers or suppliers. Therefore, it is important for businesses to create and enforce policies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to ensure that reports of misconduct are handled properly.

You have the right to feel safe and respected in your workplace. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can fight back!

Is your employer violating the law?

Reporting Sexual Harassment in California

Reporting incidents of harassment in the workplace can be a difficult and intimidating process, but it is important to take action to ensure that sexual harassment stops in your workplace. 

Everyone deserves to be able to work in a safe and respectful environment. In California, there are specific sexual harassment laws and procedures in place to protect employees who report sexual harassment.

To report a sexual harassment act, ask for legal advice for an experienced employment lawyer that can help you understand your rights, evaluate your case, and advise on the best options to take.

  • The first step to take in reporting sexual harassment is to document the incidents in writing, including the date, time, location, and description of the offensive behavior. This documentation can be important evidence.
  • The employee should report the incidents of harassment to their supervisor or manager, as well as the human resources department if the company has one. If the harasser is the supervisor or manager from human resources, the victim can report the incident to a higher-level manager or human resources representative.
  • If the employer does not take appropriate action to address the harassment, the employee can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Comission (EEOC).

Reporting sexual harassment in the workplace can be a challenging process, but with the help of employment law attorneys who ensure your rights and guide you in the process, it is possible to get a fair outcome.

Reach out to talk about your situation.

The Role of Employers in Preventing Sexual Harassment

Employers have a crucial role to play in preventing and addressing sexual harassment in their workplaces. It is the responsibility of employers to create a safe and respectful work environment that is free from harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment. By implementing effective policies and procedures, providing sexual harassment training courses and education, and taking appropriate action when necessary, employers can help prevent sexual harassment and create a workplace culture that promotes equality, respect, and dignity for all employees.

Employers have a responsibility to create a work environment that is free from sexual harassment. This includes:

  • Establishing a sexual harassment policy that is communicated to all employees
  • Providing sexual harassment prevention training to all employees
  • Investigating sexual harassment complaints promptly and thoroughly
  • Taking appropriate disciplinary and corrective action against employees who engage in sexual harassment
  • Ensuring that employees who report sexual harassment are protected from retaliation

Retaliation and How to Protect Yourself

Retaliation is illegal and occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for reporting sexual harassment or participating in an investigation. If you experience retaliation, you can file a complaint with the DFEH.

To protect yourself from retaliation, it is important to document any actions your employer takes against you after you report sexual harassment. This may include negative performance reviews, demotions, or termination.

Are you experiencing possible legal violations by your employer? You are working in an abusive work environment? Are you afraid to report incidents of quo harassment?

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: FAQs

What should I do if I experience sexual harassment at work?

If you experience sexual harassment at work in California, you should get legal advice for experienced sexual harassment lawyers that can guide you on the best option to report it and file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Can I sue my employer for sexual harassment in California?

Yes, you can sue your employer for sexual harassment in California. It is important to consult with a sexual harassment lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case and determine the best course of action.

How long do I have to file a sexual harassment claim in California?

In California, it is advisable to contact a sexual harassment lawyer right away in order to secure deadlines and protect legal rights. The official complaint should be filed with the DFEH within one calendar year from the date of the alleged harassment.

What damages can I recover in a sexual harassment lawsuit in California?

If you prevail in a sexual harassment lawsuit in California, you may be entitled to damages such as lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The number of compensatory damages awarded will depend on the specific facts of your case.

How much does it cost to hire a sexual harassment lawyer in California?

Labor Law Advocates work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us if you receive a settlement or verdict in your favor.a

If you have reported sexual harassment in the workplace and have not received a satisfactory response from your employer or human resources, you don’t have to feel alone. You deserve to feel safe and respected in your environment. We are here for you.

Our employment attorneys provide valuable advice, assist you in filing a legal claim, and advocate for you in court to safeguard your rights and ensure a just resolution.

Contact us today to schedule a free and 100% confidential consultation.


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