Hostile Work Environment in California – How Do I Prove It

Creating a hostile work environment is a form of harassment. And when you are working in California in a hostile work environment, you might have legal options to make the harassment stop and obtain financial compensation. But how do you know when you are dealing with a hostile work environment in California? And how do you prove it? We answer both of these questions in the article below. 

You’ll likely have to gather employment documents, witness testimony, and correspondence to prove your case. And putting this evidence together in the right order is crucial to your success in a trial, hearing, or settlement negotiation. Our large network of experienced and fierce employment attorneys at Bibiyan Law Group, P.C., can give you the best chance at winning a hostile work environment case against your employer. Call us when you need a good advocate to assert your rights. 

Is My Work Environment Hostile?

A work environment is hostile if unwelcome conduct occurring in the workplace is so extreme or prevalent that a reasonable person would call the environment abusive, hostile, or intimidating. But, in general, a hostile work environment is unlawful only if the unwelcome conduct is based on one of the following factors: 

  • Religion,
  • Color,
  • Age (if 40 or older),
  • Sex or sexual orientation, 
  • Race,
  • Gender,
  • National origin, 
  • Disability,
  • Military or veteran status, or 
  • Someone asserting their rights as an employee.

Unwelcome conduct could come in the form of offensive jokes, slurs, offensive comments, physical intimidation, staring, non-consensual touching, or displays of graphic or offensive images. 

Taking Legal Action Against a Hostile Work Environment

You can sue your employer or file an administrative claim against your employer for creating or enabling a hostile work environment. If you want to take legal action under state law, your employer must have at least five employees (or only one employee if the hostility is a form of sexual harassment), and you must begin with a complaint to the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). And if you want to start a legal action under federal law, your employer must have at least 15 employees, and you must file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

Once you start a complaint with the EEOC or CRD, you can let the government resolve your claim, or you can wait to receive a government notice that you have a right to sue so that you can sue your employer in civil court. In your lawsuit or complaint, you can recover the following remedies:

  • Compensation for lost wages or benefits,
  • Policy or position changes at your workplace,
  • Compensation for emotional distress, 
  • Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, 
  • Punitive damages, and 
  • Attorney fees. 

If the stress of a lawsuit or administrative hearing is too daunting for you to consider, you might be able to bypass litigation and negotiate a settlement with your employer. A seasoned hostile work environment attorney can identify which legal option is best for you and help you clinch a victory against an employer that has mistreated you. Speak with an attorney today!

Proving a Hostile Work Environment in California

Now that you know what a hostile work environment looks like and how to seek relief, let’s talk about how to prove your case. There are many stages to establishing your claim against workplace harassment, and making your claim starts with collecting evidence. 

After your first encounter with hostile work environment harassment, you should begin gathering any of the following that apply: 

  • Detailed notes about each instance of harassment, including what was done, when it was done, and who witnessed it; 
  • Correspondence containing or regarding the harassment; 
  • Pictures;
  • Employment records; 
  • Wage records;
  • Receipts and invoices;
  • Witness information;
  • Complaint records; and
  • Healthcare records.

You need this information not only for a hearing, trial, or negotiation but also for internal complaints you submit to your employer. 

Your employer is automatically liable for harassment perpetrated by a supervisor that ends in an adverse employment action against you. But if you want to hold your employer accountable for harassment committed by non-supervisor employees, clients, customers, or contractors, you need to prove that you did not unreasonably fail to address the harassment by using your employer’s complaint procedures and that your employer failed to appropriately address the harassment. So, you will likely have to file an internal harassment complaint with your employer before you can obtain justice.

Keep in mind that many hostile work environment claims do not get far unless the claimant can prove there were multiple instances of harassment in their workplace. Typically, isolated occurrences are not actionable unless you can prove that the behavior in a single instance was extreme, such as assault or the use of a particularly egregious slur. And if you have trouble determining whether you have enough information to file your case, speak to an experienced harassment attorney about your circumstances. 

Let Bibiyan Law Group Fight for You

At Bibiyan Law Group, we focus on the plights of employees around California. We are eager to protect the rights of workers, and we are fierce, well-known advocates for the working person. With a top-three law school graduate leading us, our experienced attorneys are ready to help you hold any employer accountable for its misconduct. Please give us a call at 310-438-5555, or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Hablamos Español.

Author Photo

David Bibiyan is a distinguished attorney at Tomorrow Law, renowned for his expertise in employment law. With a strong focus on representing employees in various workplace disputes, he has become a trusted advocate for those facing discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and wage and hour issues. Bibiyan’s approach is characterized by a deep understanding of both state and federal employment laws, ensuring that his clients receive knowledgeable and effective representation. His commitment to justice is evident in his dedication to each case, where he meticulously works to secure the best possible outcomes for his clients. Bibiyan’s reputation is built on a foundation of successful case resolutions, marked by his skillful negotiation and, when necessary, aggressive litigation strategies. His work at Tomorrow Law reflects a genuine passion for defending workers’ rights and promoting fair employment practices.

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