California Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Protecting the Rights of Victims
In some cases, simply informing your co-workers that their conduct is offensive is enough to resolve the issue. In other cases, an official complaint may need to be filed. California Employees should be encouraged to put their concerns in writing and they should be informed of where they can file their complaint. When a company does not have a procedure in place, the victim may tell his or her immediate supervisor or the company's management.
When an issue cannot be resolved within a company, there are legal remedies available. The government offers protections for victims of discrimination. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for example, can review a case to determine if the complaint is valid. Victims who receive a "right to sue" letter from the government may file a civil lawsuit for the injuries suffered. A successful California sexual harassment lawsuit can result in the reinstatement of a job, back pay for lost wages, damages for emotional distress and a number of other related damages.
The experienced California employee lawyers at BISNAR CHASE work diligently to help uphold the rights of CA workers who have faced harassment or discrimination in the workplace. We believe that a workplace should be a haven for those who work there. Every employee should be treated with dignity and respect. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual harassment at the workplace, please contact us at (949) 203-3814 for a free and confidential consultation.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue in California workplaces that often goes unreported. Many employees suffer in quiet desperation afraid to speak up due to fear of retaliation or because they are afraid of losing their jobs. If you have been sexually harassed, either verbally or physically at your workplace, you have the right to stand up and fight for your rights. There are California laws in place to protect you and legal remedies available to hold the at-fault individuals and entities accountable.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination based on an individual's sex. Under the law, sexual harassment is defined as "unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment." It is important that we clearly understand what this means and what constitutes sexual harassment.
Conduct that qualifies as sexual harassment can include anything from something that is said such as sexual jokes, comments about a person's body, asking for dates or propositioning, to physical acts such as touching, hugging, kissing or groping someone. Distributing sexual content also constitutes sexual harassment as does sending suggestive or harassing emails or electronic messages.
The law also states that to constitute sexual harassment, the behavior must be "severe of pervasive." This means that it cannot be a single incident. It has to occur repeatedly for a significant period of time. If it involved one incident, the act will be considered for its severity. For example, if the act involved rape, sexual assault or sexual battery, it constitutes sexual harassment. Such conduct, in order to be deemed sexual harassment should affect working conditions or create a hostile working environment.
For example, if a person loses a job or a promotion as the result of declining his or her supervisor's advances, that qualifies as sexual harassment. Even a threat of job loss will suffice as evidence. Also, if the actions of another make an employee so uncomfortable that he or she avoids certain duties or lets go of opportunities to avoid the harasser, that may also constitute sexual harassment.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
Common examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature
- Offensive remarks about a person's sex
- Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos with co-workers
- Sending suggestive emails or texts
- Telling lewd jokes
- Whistling or staring in a suggestive manner
- Remarking on clothing or body parts in a sexual manner
- Inappropriate touching including rubbing, pinching, patting or purposefully brushing up against an employee
- Asking questions about sexual history
Sexual Harassment Statistics
It is difficult to know exactly how many workers are harassed annually in U.S. workplaces because many of these cases go unreported. What we do know is how many sexual harassment charges are filed each year. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 11,364 new cases of workplace sexual harassment were filed in the year 2011 and 12,571 cases were resolved. Males filed only 16.3 percent of the new cases that year. Of the cases resolved, 1,367 resulted in settlements, 1,150 resulted in a withdrawal with benefits and 288 resulted in a successful conciliation. Monetary benefits awarded to victims of sexual harassment in the year 2011 amounted to approximately $52.3 million.
Sexual Harassment Prevention
It is the responsibility of California employers to provide a safe workplace that is free of hostility and harassment. Companies that fail to protect their workers may be held accountable for their negligence. Therefore, it is in the best interest of all companies to put in place strategies and plans to prevent sexual harassment and to protect workers who feel mistreated.
When companies fail to discuss sexual harassment issues, the problem can get worse. An anti-harassment policy should be put in place to explain what harassment is and what types of acts will not be tolerated at the workplace. Employees must be informed that:
- There is an anti-harassment policy in place for all employees, managers and representatives.
- Each employee will have to undergo training regarding the harassment policy of the company.
- The policies of the company apply to everyone including supervisors.
- All complaints of harassment will be dealt with quickly.
- Employees who violate harassment policies will be disciplined.
The Impact of Harassment at the Workplace
The effects of sexual harassment can be serious for the harassed individual as well as for other employees who experience it second hand. In many instances, victims of harassment are at risk of losing their jobs or their chance at a promotion for refusing sexual demands. In other instances, the workplace environment may become hostile once the victim refuses the advances of the harasser. Some victims are so traumatized by their treatment that they become incapable to performing their job effectively.
According to a data collected by Equal Rights Advocates, 90 to 95 percent of sexually harassed women in the workplace suffer from debilitating stress. Their symptoms often include anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, headaches and lowered self-esteem.
Employer Obligations under California Law
California offers coverage for sexual harassment under the FEHA. Employers including supervisors and managers can be held personally liable if they know the harassment is going on and do nothing to stop it. In fact, the harassment may not have to be motivated by sexual desire.
Harassing a person with a medical condition may qualify for coverage under FEHA. Basically, motivation is a moot point if the harassment took place. Offensive behavior should not be tolerated. Your employer MUST take reasonable steps to protect you.
The statute of limitations for sexual harassment in California is one year from the date the incident occured if filed with the DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing). A 'right to sue' may allow you an additional year if requested within the first year time frame mentioned above. Filing a charge with the EEOC may provide a shorter time period than filing with the DFEH. It's best to consult with a California employment lawyer for specifics pertaining to your case. Different circumstances may apply.