No-one should be harassed at their workplace. Under California and Federal law, sexual harassment constitutes unwanted sexual conduct which occurs when employment is conditioned on the submission to unwelcome sexual advances, or un-welcomed sexual conduct that was severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive environment for the employee.
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the work place you can enforce your rights against your employer. Your employer has an affirmative duty to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment from occurring. If such harassment does occur, your employer must take effective action to stop further harassment and to correct any effects of the harassment.
This includes developing and implementing a sexual harassment prevention policy with a procedure for employees to make complaints and for the employer to investigate complaints.
Both male and female employees are protected by California sexual harassment laws and are protected from sexual harassment by a member of the same or opposite sex even if the perpetrator and/or the victim are not homosexuals.
Sexual harassment has been found to include a large range of inappropriate behavior including requests for sexual favors, unwanted sexual advances, touching or propositions, verbal conduct, slurs or derogatory comments and comments about a person's body, appearance or sexual activity.
Under California law, if sexual harassment permeates an employee's work environment, they may have a claim even if the harassing conduct is not directed at the employee personally, but occurs in the employee's presence.
Employer Retaliation Is Illegal!
California law protections against your employer’s potential retaliation against you for reporting sexual harassment. In fact, cases involving retaliation are even stronger than the laws that prevent the harassment from occurring. The law strictly prohibits an employer from retaliating against anyone who has opposed practices of sexual harassment and/or discrimination or has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding involving sexual harassment. If the employer retaliates, the employee has yet another cause of action to sue the employer and there has been a recent trend in California cases for employees to receive larger verdicts for the retaliatory conduct of the employer than for the original sexual harassment.
I Have Been Sexually Harassed, What Do I Do?
Generally it is wise to seek the advice of an attorney immediately. If you want to try to work it out within your company first, you should consult your employee handbook and procedure manual to learn of the appropriate way to report sexual harassment within your company. If there is no manual, and the company has a human resource department, it is generally wise to report the harassment to human resources.
Any report of the sexual harassment to the company should be in writing, detailing all of the acts.
An employee can bring a sexual harassment claim against a company while they are still working for the company. Before bringing a lawsuit, the employee must first file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employee then has a choice of allowing the administrative agency to investigate or immediately obtain a right to sue letter.
Because the statute of limitations in sexual harassment cases is not very clearly defined, an employee should move quickly to find an attorney once they feel there has been sexual harassment. It is important that the administrative claims are filled out properly and an attorney can help in this regard.
Will my case have to go to trial?
Probably not. Over 90% of sexual harassment cases are settled prior to trial and a significant number are settled without litigation.