Sexual harassment is a serious issue in workplaces within the state of California that often goes unreported. Many employees, regardless of gender, suffer in quiet desperation afraid to speak up due to fear of retaliation or fear of losing their job.
If you have been sexually harassed, either verbally or physically at your workplace, you have the right to stand up for yourself and fight for justice. Thanks to California law, there are legislations in place to protect you and legal remedies available to hold the at-fault individuals and entities accountable.
We believe that the workplace should be a safe haven for those who contribute their labor to the company. Every employee should be treated with dignity and respect.
The experienced California employment law attorneys at Bisnar Chase work diligently to help uphold the rights of Californian workers who have faced harassment or discrimination in the workplace. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, please contact us at (800) 561-4887 for a free and confidential consultation
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination or mistreatment 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 the working conditions of the victim or creates a hostile work environment.” It is important that Californians and Americans alike clearly understand what this means and what constitutes sexual harassment.
Conduct that qualifies as sexual harassment can include anything from something that is verbally spoken such as sexual jokes, comments about a person’s body, asking for dates, or 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 or pervasive.” This means that it cannot be a single incident. It must occur repeatedly for a significant period. 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. For an action to be deemed sexual harassment, the action in question should affect working conditions or create a hostile working environment.
If a person, for example, loses their job or a promotion as the result of declining his or her supervisor’s advances, that legally qualifies as sexual harassment.
The threat of job loss will also suffice as evidence in a sexual harassment case or investigation. In addition, if the actions of another individual may be classified as sexual harassment if the actions in question make the victim so uncomfortable that he or she avoids certain duties in the workplace or the victim is consistently evasive to the abuser in question.
Our sexual harassment lawyers can fill you in more during your free consultation about what else constitutes sexual harassment and if your case qualifies.
How Can Victims of Sexual Harassment Combat Abuse in the Workplace?
In some cases, simply informing your co-workers that their conduct is offensive or abusive is enough to resolve the issue. In other cases, an official complaint may need to be filed with the Human Resources division of your workplace.
Employees in California should be encouraged to put their concerns in writing and submit this written complaint to the appropriate division of the workplace. Additionally, employees should save the written version of their complaint as well as documentation that confirms you successfully submitted the written complaint to your workplace. If the harassment persists, these documents may be able to help you and your lawyer combat the harassment as well as to obtain compensation for your emotional and mental anguish.
When a company does not have a procedure in place to combat sexual harassment, the victim may tell his or her immediate supervisor or the company’s management. When an issue cannot be resolved within a company or when a company does little to help the victim combat harassment, there are legal remedies available to the victim.
The government offers protection to 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 help to stop the abuse in the workplace and can result in the reinstatement of a job, back pay for lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and several other related damages.
If you have been harassed in the workplace, our sexual harassment lawyers can help you take legal action.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
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 past year 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 past year amounted to approximately $52.3 million.
Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
It is the responsibility of employers in California, and America as a whole, 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 of sexual harassment 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 must 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.
If you are being harassed in the workplace and your employer does not have an anti-harassment program in place, our sexual harassment lawyer may be able you help you obtain compensation in light of your employer’s negligence.
The Impact of Harassment Within 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 abuser that they become incapable of performing their job effectively.
According to 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.
Wrongful Termination of Victims of Sexual Harassment
California is an at-will state, which means an employer can terminate an employee’s employment with the company at any time for a legitimate reason. However, your employer cannot blackmail you via sexual harassment to keep your job and if a co-worker is harassing you, they cannot let you go to resolve this issue.
When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, the only way your employment can be terminated is if you voluntarily quit. If you do plan to leave your place of employment due to persistent harassment you experienced on the job, be sure to document this in your two-week notice to your employer and keep a copy of this letter as well.
If you voluntarily quit your position, chances are very slim that your sexual harassment attorney can get your job back for you, however, your lawyer may still be able to help you seek compensation for the damages and suffering you experienced.
Employer Obligations under California Law
California offers coverage for sexual harassment victims 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. The harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual desire for management to be held liable.
Harassing a person with a medical condition may qualify for coverage under FEHA. Basically, motivation is the debatable question if the harassment took place within the workplace. Offensive behavior should not be tolerated your employer must take reasonable steps to protect you per California law.
Attorneys Who Protect and Serve Sexual Harassment Victims
The statute of limitations for sexual harassment in California is one year from the date the incident occurred 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 mentioned above.
Filing a charge with the EEOC may provide a shorter period than filing with the DFEH. It’s best to consult with our California sexual harassment lawyers for specifics pertaining to your case as different circumstances may apply.
Regardless of the situation, there is not a case too big or too small we cannot take on. Our attorneys know workplace and employment law from front to back so we can deliver justice, protection, and compensation to victims of sexual harassment.
If you have been persistently harassed by a co-worker or employer, we urge you to call us toll-free now at (800) 561-4887 so that we can set up your free, no-obligation consultation to inform you of your rights and to see if your case qualifies you for compensation.
If we do not win, you don’t pay. Why wait any longer? Call us now.