Workplace sexual harassment typically involves unwanted or inappropriate sexual behaviors that can hinder a worker’s ability to perform their job effectively. It is also incredibly destructive. Not only does it demean the victim, but it creates a toxic, unsafe work environment that can lead to both mental and physical damage.
Both California and federal laws protect employees from workplace sexual harassment. If you or someone you know is a victim, a California sexual harassment lawyer at Tomorrow Law™ can help you seek justice. We have decades of combined experience fighting bad actors. From the moment you contact us, our team is fully prepared to assist in submitting state and federal complaints, ensuring your harasser is held responsible for their actions.
If you’re looking for a sexual harassment lawyer in California, our experienced sexual harassment attorneys offer unrivaled employment law experience and will fight tooth and nail for the fair resolution and compensation you’re entitled to. We have your back; when you choose our Tomorrow Law team, you can sleep easy knowing you have knowledgeable, compassionate advocates. Call us today at (310) 438-5555.
What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Workplace sexual harassment refers to any unwanted sexual behavior defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that impacts someone’s job. This type of harassment includes being subjected to or turning down inappropriate sexual suggestions, advances, or other types of sexual behavior, whether through words or actions. It is also sexual harassment if this behavior makes someone’s workplace intimidating, hostile, or affects their job performance. The behavior must also be seriously offensive to the person experiencing it and generally recognized as extreme or widespread to be considered harassment.
The term “sexual” isn’t limited to explicit sexual acts or comments and can also cover derogatory remarks about someone’s gender. However, the critical factor is that the behavior must be unwanted; it’s not harassment if the person on the receiving end is okay with it.
Additionally, under California law, the offensive conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire but may be based upon an employee’s actual or perceived sex or gender identity, real or perceived sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. Moreover, anyone, regardless of their gender identity—whether they are male, female, transgender, queer, non-binary, or any other identity—can experience sexual harassment. Similarly, sexual harassment can happen between people of the same or different genders and can involve multiple individuals without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
What Are Examples of Workplace Sexual Harassment?
There are two types of workplace sexual harassment, “quid pro quo” harassment and a hostile work environment. While both affect employees differently, both are illegal and actionable.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that means “something for something.” This type of sexual harassment is when a boss or superior demands sexual favors in exchange for a benefit or to avoid workplace mistreatment—for example, a supervisor offering to promote a subordinate employee in exchange for a sexual relationship. Other examples include:
- An employer coercing a worker into accepting sexual advances by promising to make their work life extremely difficult if they don’t comply;
- Offering work benefits like better shifts, pay increases, or job promotions in return for sexual relations;
- Demanding sex in exchange for a job offer; and
- Threatening to fire an employee if they do not agree to have sexual relations with a supervisor.
Essentially, quid pro quo harassment always involves a person in a position of power looking to get something from a person beneath them professionally in exchange for something else.
Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
A hostile work environment is when an employee repeatedly experiences unwanted and offensive behavior that is so severe and persistent it creates an intimidating or demeaning work environment. Moreover, the speech doesn’t have to be directed at the victim; multiple incidents and actors can create a hostile work environment. Another distinction from quid pro quo harassment is that hostile work environment harassment does not have to involve a superior. The offensive action or speech can come from anyone within the employment scope. Examples include:
- Open conversations concerning a colleague’s sexual activities or inclinations;
- Inappropriate remarks regarding someone’s physique;
- Unwanted acts such as kissing, embracing, stroking, patting, or making contact;
- Sharing or circulating rumors about an individual’s sexual activities or reputation; and
- General sexual remarks, humor, motions, and visuals.
Keep in mind that while these two forms of sexual harassment differ, they can also overlap. Both harm victims and are illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
How Do I Know When to File a Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaint?
People often wonder how severe harassment must be before they can file a complaint or sue. Sometimes, the harassment is straightforward, as is often the case when dealing with quid pro quo harassment. Other times, defining when a bad actor’s behavior becomes illegal can be difficult. But if the harassment has created an unbearable work setting, it’s a good bet it’s time to consider taking action.
Ask yourself if the offensive comments about your appearance or the inappropriate texts and videos from your boss have crossed the line. If they have, you have the right to report it to Human Resources, regardless of how widespread or intense the conduct is. Also, remember that even a single incident can be enough to make a complaint. And even if you’re unsure if the behavior is extreme enough to constitute harassment, your employer can’t punish you for letting them know you’re experiencing uncomfortable conduct. They must also take your complaint seriously and work to address the problem.
If you’re unsure whether to file a complaint, a skilled California sexual harassment attorney at Bibiyan Law Group can meet with you and review your potential claim. We offer free consultations, during which an experienced Tomorrow Law team member can explain your rights and walk you through your options. Reach out to us today, and let us guide you through the process.
How Do I Report Workplace Sexual Harassment in the California?
If you believe you’re facing sexual harassment at work, here’s what to do:
- Speak up if possible. If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, tell the person harassing you directly that their behavior is unwanted and must stop. Being upfront about the offensive conduct sets a clear boundary.
- Make a report to management. Report the harassment to your supervisor or someone from Human Resources. They can take steps to stop it, and your report will support any future legal action you might take.
- Determine the right agency. Go to the EEOC’s Public Portal and submit your details. They’ll ask you several questions to help determine if the EEOC or the State of California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) is the right agency to handle your complaint.
- File an administrative complaint. Depending on the best agency to file with, file your sexual harassment complaint with either the EEOC or the Civil Rights Department.
- Agency investigation. After you’ve filed, the appropriate agencies will investigate your case, talk to witnesses, and gather documents before helping you determine your next steps.
It’s important to know that it’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable approaching your company’s HR or filing a complaint independently. At Bibiyan Law Group, our Tomorrow Law team recognizes how harrowing workplace sexual harassment is, much less confronting your harasser. Understandably, it’s not always easy to do it alone. That’s why we’re here to help—from investigating and filing a complaint to confronting your employer—we’re here to assist you at every step.
What Is the Workplace Sexual Harassment Statute of Limitations in California?
If you are filing an EEOC claim, you must file within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination occurred. The 180-calendar day deadline extends to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. Since California’s CRD does enforce sexual harassment laws, this means you also have 300 days to file with the EEOC.
If you only file with the CRD, you have three years from when the harassment happened to file your claim. Once you file with the CRD, you can either ask for a full CRD investigation or get a “right to sue” letter, which lets you file a lawsuit on your own. If you get a “right to sue” letter, you have one more year to start a private lawsuit against your employer.
Also helpful to know is that California recently extended the deadline to file sexual harassment claims. Before the change, you had one year; now you have three. But this doesn’t apply to incidents before January 2020. For this reason, if your harassment occurred before 2020, unless you’ve spoken to an attorney, it’s best to proceed as if you still have only one year.
Because knowing what agency to file with and its deadlines can be confusing, it’s essential to consult with a sexual harassment attorney in California as soon as you believe you have a claim. Securing legal representation early on is vital to give your attorney enough time to investigate, frame a persuasive legal strategy, and file the necessary paperwork. Working with an advocate will also ensure you file with the right agency and meet all deadlines.
What Should I Do If I Feel Uncomfortable Reporting Harassment?
Sometimes, a company’s lack of organization or care means reporting harassment feels pointless. If you’re uneasy or doubt your complaint will get the attention it deserves, it’s wise to consult a seasoned California sexual harassment attorney. The competent attorneys at Bibiyan Law Group can assist you in reporting the harassment, confronting your employer, filing complaints, and serving as your advocate throughout your ordeal.
After I Report Sexual Harassment at Work, What Are My Employer’s Next Steps?
Employers must promptly and thoroughly investigate all harassment claims as required by the EEOC and California state laws. If the investigation uncovers sexual misconduct, your employer must take all necessary measures to stop the harassment and appropriately penalize the offender.
Is Employer Retaliation Illegal?
Yes. Your employer can’t legally punish you for reporting sexual harassment. If you suspect your employer has retaliated against you for speaking out about sexual harassment, a California employment lawyer at Bibiyan Law Group is ready to explain what you can do next.
What Are Examples of Retaliation?
Getting moved to a less convenient shift, being put on unpaid leave while an investigation is underway, or being outright fired are all examples of retaliation and are all against the law.
Am I Protected from Workplace Sexual Harassment If My Harasser Isn’t My Boss?
Yes. Laws enforced by the EEOC safeguard you from harassment by anyone at your job. This protection applies whether the person harassing you is your boss, a manager from a different department, a colleague, or even someone like a client or customer.
Does Workplace Sexual Harassment Have to Occur at Work for It to Be Illegal?
No. Federal law protects you against employer sexual harassment, whether at your regular workplace or elsewhere, like at a work-related event. So, if your boss makes unwelcome advances during a weekend business conference abroad, this could still be grounds for a sexual harassment claim.
Can I Collect Workplace Sexual Harassment Compensation?
It depends. Sexual harassment claims differ, and numerous factors affect workplace sexual harassment settlement calculations. For example, the duration and nature of the harassment, along with factors like your age, job role, education, experience, and the emotional distress you endured, will influence the amount you receive in a settlement. However, typically, victims are entitled to damages covering any expenses they’ve incurred, like job search or medical costs, as well as compensation for emotional distress, including mental suffering, and reimbursements for legal fees and other related expenses. Additionally, courts may sometimes award victims punitive damages.
What Is the Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault?
Sexual harassment involves a variety of unwelcome behaviors related to sex, gender, and sexuality, both verbal and physical. In contrast, sexual assault involves explicitly physical sexual acts or contact that happens without the victim’s consent. Sexual harassment typically violates civil rights laws, which guarantee your right to work in a harassment-free environment—it is not usually considered a criminal offense. On the other hand, sexual assault is often a criminal act.
Tomorrow Law™ Will Stand by You
Our Tomorrow Law team understands the difficulties you’re facing. We’ve spent over 50 collective years fighting sexual harassment and are committed to holding your employer accountable. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect when you trust us to guide you through this complex legal journey:
- We will evaluate your circumstances, break down relevant laws for you, and suggest the next best steps, whether it be filing a complaint, a lawsuit, or both;
- If you decide to file a complaint, we will make sure we file it with the right agency and on time, with all the needed details to back up your case;
- We will help collect vital evidence, like documents and witness accounts, and secure expert insights that will help bolster your claim;
- We will defend your rights against any backlash you might get from your employer or colleagues for filing a claim;
- We will ensure you don’t suffer further harm or bias because you pursued a claim;
- We will act on your behalf in discussions to reach a settlement, which could include lost wages, future earnings, and other benefits;
- We will build a solid case, manage evidence, and bring it before a judge, advocating for you in court if needed.
Our Tomorrow Law team has won over $45 million in employment settlements and verdicts. But beyond that, we offer empathetic support and compassionate advocacy during a challenging emotional period. Let us fight to ensure your employer pays for not maintaining a safe and respectful workplace. Contact us for a free consultation; speaking with a skilled advocate will ensure you have the best chance at a positive resolution and just settlement.
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