Sexual harassment affects many workers, job applicants and even unpaid interns in California. However, as the #MeToo Movement demonstrated two years ago, you do not need to suffer in silence.
Individuals experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace may have legal options. Below, our Los Angeles employment attorneys included helpful information on California sexual harassment laws.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment may involve any number of different scenarios. Examples of sexual harassment may include unwanted groping, touching, kissing, sexually explicit comments, leering or gestures as well as offering job benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
There are two main types of sexual harassment.
- Quid pro quo: Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for this”. It is a type of sexual harassment where an employer or other party offers some type of benefit or consequence that involves sexual conduct. An employer may offer an employee a promotion in exchange for a sexual favor, or they may threaten the employee’s job for refusing a sexual favor or advance.
- Hostile workplace: Sexual harassment may be so severe and pervasive that it has negative effects on the job performance of the targeted employee or other workers. This type of sexual harassment creates a hostile workplace.
The types of sexual harassment listed above are not mutually exclusive. It is common for sexual harassment complaints to involve both types.
Whether your workplace situation meets the legal threshold for sexual harassment depends on the circumstances. Our Los Angeles employment attorneys can help you determine whether you or coworkers have legal options to pursue against an employer.
California Sexual Harassment Laws
It may be possible to file a complaint under federal and California sexual harassment laws.
- The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): This law has specific provisions that make it illegal to harass workers for their race, gender, marital status, national origin, medical condition, disability and/or military or veteran status. It is a very broad law that requires employers to take reasonable steps to address harassment. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is responsible for investigating instances of sexual harassment and discrimination in California. Under this law, employers must also provide workers with information on workplace sexual harassment. Additionally, employers must have policies in place to address workplace harassment. Mandatory sexual harassment training is also a requirement for most employers in California.
- Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that applies to U.S. workplaces. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigates sexual harassment claims that fall under this law.
FEHA and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbid sexual harassment based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. These laws prevent workplace harassment based on race, national origin, religion, age, disability, pregnancy status, marital status, military or veteran status, or genetics.
FEHA also offers protections for interns and job seekers. If you are an intern or job applicant who experienced sexual harassment and suffered damages as a result, then you should strongly consider speaking with an employment law attorney.
How to File a Sexual Harassment Complaint in California
If you believe you are being targeted with sexual harassment, then it may be necessary to notify your human resources department or appropriate supervisor. However, it is important to keep careful documentation of your attempts to notify these parties. Documentation of your attempts may be crucial during an investigation and resulting sexual harassment claim.
If your employer refuses to address the issue, then you can file a complaint with DFEH. This state agency is responsible for investigating harassment and discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
You may also file your complaint with the EEOC. This is a federal agency that investigates harassment and discrimination complaints under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Depending on the outcome of your complaint, either agency may decide to investigate your claims of sexual harassment. After the investigation concludes, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the employer.
You should consider contacting an employment law attorney in California to help with this process. It is very important to take steps to protect evidence that is crucial to your claim. Additionally, it is important to avoid making any mistakes that could jeopardize your claim. An attorney can help you avoid mistakes, take steps to protect evidence and start the process for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Should I File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?
You may be able to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer for damages you suffered. Compensation from a sexual harassment or wrongful termination lawsuit may cover back pay, front pay, pain and suffering damages and damage to your reputation.
It is not uncommon for employers to fire workers for reporting sexual harassment internally or to the authorities. If you were the victim of wrongful termination or demotion, then compensation from a lawsuit can be extremely helpful.
However, it is important to take steps to protect evidence that is crucial to your claim early on. You should not wait to contact an employment law attorney if you are considering legal action against your employer.
About Our Los Angeles Employment Attorneys
The Los Angeles employment attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can discuss your situation at no cost. During a free consultation, we can discuss whether you could have a valid claim. Our attorneys have experience with sexual harassment lawsuits and class actions.