The Me Too movement has brought sexual harassment in the workplace to center stage. Victims are taking a stand and fighting back, and employers are being held accountable for not taking steps to address these acts and protect their employees.
Under state and federal law, unwelcome advances (whether verbal or physical), requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature that affects a worker’s employment or interferes with their work performance is a violation of their civil rights and is explicitly prohibited. Whether you are being sent inappropriate texts or emails, touched inappropriately, or coerced into an intimate, unwelcome relationship with a supervisor or co-worker, the law is on your side.
If you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, call a law firm with a proven track record of successfully fighting for the rights of workplace sexual harassment victims. We can help you seek the justice you deserve. Call Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani today at (310) 499-0140 to arrange a free and confidential case evaluation with a knowledgeable Los Angeles workplace sexual harassment lawyer.
What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
There are two primary types of sexual harassment in the workplace for which the law offers remedies:
- Hostile Work Environment – This type of sexual harassment exists when an employee is subject to unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive enough to interfere with their ability to perform their job. Hostile work environment complaints often stem from offensive remarks, unwanted touching, offensive jokes, or explicit photos in the workplace.These behaviors must continue over a period of time to be considered severe or pervasive. However, one serious incident, such as an assault, might be enough to persuade a court to consider whether a reasonable person in the employee’s situation would find the conduct intolerable.An experienced harassment lawyer can explain whether the facts of your case might form the basis of a hostile work environment claim.
- Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: Quid pro quo means “this for that,” and refers to the second type of workplace sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is expressed or implied demands for sexual favors in exchange for a benefit or favorable treatment, such as a promotion, pay increase, additional or reduced job responsibilities, or to avoid unfavorable treatment, like termination or demotion. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is typically perpetrated by someone in a position of power or authority over the victim, such as a manager or supervisor.
If you are facing a hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace, a skilled sexual harassment lawyer from our law firm can explain your legal options.
Harassing an employee in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace is also illegal. This issue can arise after a worker files a complaint of sexual harassment, testifies in court, or cooperates in an investigation involving their employer.
Retaliation is as serious as harassment under the law. State and federal anti-retaliation laws protect complainants and witnesses from acts of retaliation, which can include:
- Job re-evaluation
- Adverse treatment
- Denial of benefits; and
- Anything that would dissuade a reasonable employee from bringing or pursuing a workplace sexual harassment claim.
Steps to Take When Facing Sexual Harassment in The Workplace
If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, here are five steps you can take to protect your rights and preserve evidence for a workplace sexual harassment claim:
1. File a Formal Report
File a formal written complaint and send that report to your human resources department and supervisor. It is essential that this report is in writing. Make sure there are details of the specific sexual harassment that you are facing.
2. Review Your Employee Handbook
Review any employment handbook your employer might have prepared and distributed to you. That handbook may contain information regarding who you should send the report to. If the person harassing you is your supervisor, sending the report to them may not be a good idea. Instead, sending the report directly to human resources or any superiors above that supervisor may be better.
3. Gather and Preserve Evidence
Gather and preserve any evidence of the sexual harassment you have experienced and attach it to your formal written report. For example, if you have text messages proving that a co-worker is sexually harassing you, make sure that you attach these text messages to your formal written report. Also, for your own records, make sure that you preserve a copy of your formal written complaint and any evidence.
4. Follow up in Writing
If your employer decides to investigate the complaint you made, make sure you follow up in writing. Ask questions about the status of the investigation, any steps taken, and any conclusions reached, and make sure you get your employer’s response in writing as well.
5. Be Aware of Any Retaliation Against You
If, after you have made the formal written complaint, you are experiencing any of the following, you might be facing retaliation, and you might have a claim against your employer for retaliation.
- Your pay has decreased
- Your job duties have changed
- You were moved to a different department
- You are being forced to work under a new supervisor; or
- The harassment has increased
In this case, you should gather and preserve any evidence of the retaliation you are experiencing, and contact an experienced workplace sexual harassment lawyer to learn what steps you need to take next.
How Long Do I Have to Report Sexual Harassment?
In California, the time limit for reporting workplace sexual harassment depends on the context and the specific legal action being pursued. Here are the general timeframes:
If you wish to file a complaint with the DFEH, which handles administrative claims, you generally have one year from the date of the alleged harassment to file your complaint.
If you intend to file a complaint with the EEOC, the time limit is typically 180 days (six months). However, since California has its own anti-discrimination law, the deadline is extended to 300 days from the last incident. When investigating your claim, though, the EEOC will look at all incidents that occurred more than 300 days ago.
It is generally recommended to report workplace sexual harassment as soon as possible to ensure the preservation of evidence and increase the likelihood of a successful resolution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Workplace Sexual Harassment Law in California
Q: Does Sexual Harassment Have to Be Sexual in Nature?
A: Sexual harassment does not have to be explicitly sexual in nature. In California, the definition of sexual harassment encompasses a broad range of behaviors and actions that create a hostile or offensive work environment based on an individual’s sex or gender. For example:
- Verbal or written comments, jokes, or sexual innuendos.
- Displaying sexually suggestive images or objects.
- Offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s sex or gender.
- Creating a hostile work environment by subjecting someone to pervasive sexist or demeaning comments or behavior.
- Retaliation against an individual for reporting or resisting sexual harassment.
Q: Do the Victim and Perpetrator Have to Be Opposite Sexes?
A: No, the victim and perpetrator of workplace sexual harassment do not have to be of opposite sexes. Sexual harassment can occur between individuals of the same sex or individuals of different sexes. The definition of sexual harassment is based on the behavior and conduct itself rather than the genders or sexes of the individuals involved. The focus is on whether the conduct is unwelcome, based on sex or gender, and creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.
Q: Can My Employer Fire Me If I Complain About Sexual Harassment?
A: No, your employer cannot legally fire you in retaliation for making a complaint about sexual harassment. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for reporting any practices that are unlawful under the FEHA, including sexual harassment. This protection extends to employees who make complaints internally to their employer or externally to a government agency like the DFEH.
If an employer does retaliate against you, you may have legal recourse. In addition to terminating employment, retaliation includes demotion, intentionally creating a hostile work environment, unjustifiably providing negative performance evaluations, mistreatment, unwarranted disciplinary actions, etc. It is important to document any incidents of retaliation and consult with an attorney or a relevant authority, such as the DFEH or EEOC, to understand your rights and the appropriate steps to take.
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Contact The Los Angeles Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani, LLP
If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, contact our Los Angeles harassment lawyers. We can help determine if you have a viable sexual harassment case. If so, we can then devise an effective strategy to obtain justice on your behalf. At Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani, we offer a free and confidential consultation, and we will answer any questions you have regarding your rights when facing workplace sexual harassment or retaliation for filing a complaint. Call us today at (310) 499-0140 or fill out our online contact form.