What do I do if I was sexually harassed at work?

Your rights as an employee

The Fair Housing and Employment Act (“FHEA”) prohibits sexual harassment in the work place. Sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, verbal or physical sexual overtures or propositions, threats or bribes requiring sexual acts in exchange. Because sexual harassment includes so many physical and verbal acts, speaking with an attorney who is experienced in sexual harassment in the workplace is important to determine your legal rights specific to your case.

Reporting sexual harassment at work

If you believe that you have been sexually harassed, you should take steps to notify your employer. In doing so, it is important for you to follow your employer’s protocols. Sometimes that person may be your boss. Sometimes it may be your human resources representative. It is also possible that the company may have an ombudsperson assigned to taking reports of harassment. If your employer does not have specified protocols for reporting sexual harassment, or if you are being harassed by the person who is responsible for taking sexual harassment complaints, you should report the harassment to somebody within the company that you consider to be your manager.

Filing a Formal Complaint

In addition to reporting sexual harassment to your employer, you should also file a formal complaint of sexual harassment with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). This sexual harassment complaint must be filed within one year of the harassment. There are important rights that get implicated when you initiate a DFEH complaint. Therefore, it is advantageous to have a sexual harassment lawyer guide you through the process and assist with the filing of the complaint. To file a civil lawsuit for sexual harassment, you must first obtain a “right to sue” letter from the DFEH.

Sexual harassment can often be vaguely defined and is not as clear to identify as it was in the past. Both employers and employees should know their rights and obligations regarding sexual harassment in the workplace under the FEHA. If you are concerned about a sexual harassment case in which you are involved, speaking with an employment law attorney is recommended to address those concerns.

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