Sexual Harassment Lawyers in San Diego Representing Workers Affected by Workplace Sexual Harassment in California
Between the years of 2018 and 2021, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) received over 27,000 complaints of workplace sexual harassment incidents. In California, sexual harassment is illegal, and employers can be held liable for their behavior or the behavior of their employees. Learn the facts about sexual harassment laws in California and what you can do to fight back if you are a victim.
What Is Considered Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that includes negative behavior such as unwelcome physical advances and verbal interactions of a sexual nature, including offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Sexual harassment complaints in California are usually classified as quid pro quo sexual harassment or a hostile work environment case.
In quid pro quo (this-for-that) cases, a supervisor or employee may attempt to coerce a subordinate into providing sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment such as a raise or promotion. The worker may also be pressured to give in to sexual advances to avoid a negative performance review or termination.
In a sexual harassment case involving a hostile work environment, the victim is affected by the behavior of co-workers, supervisors, or other team members. Besides being physically touched, brushed, or bumped against in a suggestive and unwelcome manner, the victim is also affected by other factors such as constant crude or offensive comments, behaviors such as flirting, staring or threatening, abusive behavior, and repeated teasing. In some cases, the victim is forced to quit due to no longer being able to withstand the intolerable work environment. Both types of workplace sexual harassment are illegal in California. If you were affected, you should speak to a San Diego sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible.
Are There Laws Against Workplace Sexual Harassment in California?
California workers are protected from workplace sexual harassment by state and federal laws. The FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act) and its implementing regulations make it prohibited for anyone to harass, discriminate or retaliate against an individual who reports harassment or assists someone else with reporting harassment. In addition, sexual harassment or discrimination is illegal according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination at the state and federal levels.
The DFEH, or Department of Fair Employment and Housing, is the state agency that investigates and prosecutes sexual harassment and other types of discrimination cases in California. The DFEH procedural regulations also require employers to provide workers with a work environment free from harassment and other prohibited practices, giving employees an affirmative duty to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory or harassing behaviors.
Who is Liable for a Sexual Harassment Claim in the Workplace?
In many workplace sexual harassment cases, the employer bears some or all of the liability for the damages sustained by the victim. However, there are a few aspects that should be noted in that regard. First, suppose the sexual harassment case involves a supervisor who creates a hostile work environment for a subordinate and negatively affects that person by taking a tangible employment action. A supervisor is acting with authority received from the employer and unjustly demoting, firing, reassigning, or affecting different aspects of an employee’s job in a discriminatory or retaliatory manner; therefore, the employer is almost always liable for the supervisor’s actions.
In a sexual harassment case where the employee is still subjected to a hostile work environment, but no tangible employment action has been taken, the employer may or may not be liable for damages. Victims in this type of sexual harassment case should demonstrate that they have observed all company protocols concerning filing a sexual harassment complaint and that the employer failed to correct the problem or prevent it from happening in the future. Note that the perpetrator of the sexual harassment is personally liable for damages, regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known about the harassment; however, if the perpetrator is a supervisor or the employer itself, California laws may consider the employer to be strictly liable.
Can You Sue Your Employer for Sexual Harassment?
Victims of workplace sexual harassment may sue their employers for damages; however, a civil lawsuit may not be their first course of action, as additional steps should be followed. If you suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, you should inform your employer immediately by filing an internal complaint according to company protocols. This step is crucial because by filing an internal complaint, your employer cannot allege that they did not know about the problem or that you did not inform them of the harassment.
If the problem continues, you may file a formal complaint with the government through the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the EEOC. EEOC complaints are applicable if your employer has 15 or more employees, while a DFEH complaint applies to most employers, even those with a single employee. At this point, you may also want to consult with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. The EEOC or the DFEH will analyze your complaint and may issue a right-to-sue letter. Only after receiving a right-to-sue letter will you be able to initiate a civil lawsuit against your employer.
How Can a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Help?
Sexual harassment cases can be extremely overwhelming and emotionally draining for those affected by it, and many victims remain silent for fear of losing their jobs or being negatively affected. Workplace sexual harassment violates your civil rights, and you should not have to grin and bear it. At Khosroabadi & Hill, you can get the legal guidance and compassionate advice you need to stop the harassment and hold the perpetrators liable for any damages you may have sustained, including financial and emotional damages.
Our employment attorneys have helped countless workers in San Diego and surrounding areas fight against workplace sexual harassment, and we are ready to help you, too. Contact our office at 858-240-2093 to discuss your case and learn your options.