How to Prove Workplace Sexual Harassment in California
| Read Time: 4 minutes | Sexual Harassment

Neither your sex nor your gender should dictate how you are treated at work or what job benefits you receive. If your employer treats you poorly because of your sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation, your employer could be liable for sexual harassment, and you might be entitled to legal relief. But before you can enforce your rights against sexual harassment, you have to be able to prove that it occurred. 

If you do not know how to prove workplace sexual harassment in California, please read the article below and give one of our attorneys a call. Our experienced California sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP can provide the strongest arguments to help you win your claim against your employer and recover the maximum amount of damages you are owed. 

What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment? 

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) forbid employers from engaging in sexual harassment or allowing it to happen. These laws define sexual harassment in essentially the same way. 

So what qualifies as sexual harassment? Under the law, illegal sexual harassment is unwelcome, sex-based conduct that takes on one of the following forms:

  • Quid pro quo harassment—this type of harassment occurs when enduring unwanted sexual advances is a condition of continued employment or increased work benefits; or 
  • Hostile work environment harassment—this type of harassment occurs when unwelcome, sex-based conduct at work is so prevalent or severe that a reasonable person would label an employee’s workplace as hostile. 

Direct targets of harassing behavior and witnesses who are affected by the misconduct have the right to take legal action against an employer or harasser. Harassment in the workplace can hurt everyone in its orbit; therefore, everyone around harassing behavior should have the opportunity to seek relief. 

What Are the Criteria for Proving Workplace Harassment?

Quid pro quo harassment needs to happen only once for you to establish your right to damages under the law. However, recovering compensation and legal relief for hostile work environment harassment can be more challenging. Unless a single incident of harassment that creates a hostile environment is particularly extreme (e.g., non-consensual touching or the use of a highly offensive slur), you will likely have to prove that there was a pattern of harassment in your workplace. 

To hold your employer accountable for harassment, you must prove the following:

  • A supervisor took adverse employment action against you because of your refusal to accept unwanted sexual advances or other unwelcome, sex-based conduct; or 
  • Your employer knew or should have known about harassment taking place in the work environment, you took reasonable action to address the harassment, and your employer unreasonably failed to prevent or correct the harassment. 

Depending on the circumstances, an employer can be liable for harassment by a supervisor, contractor, client, non-supervisor employee, or customer.  

However harassment occurs, it is crucial that you use your employer’s procedures to immediately report the harassment to management. And if your employer has no sexual harassment policy in place, you should speak to a trusted supervisor or human resources about the misconduct. To help make sure your report effectively establishes your claim, speak to a knowledgeable attorney first. 

Evidence to Prove Your Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim

Sexual harassment can come in many forms, such as: 

  • Jokes,
  • Insults,
  • Stereotyping comments,
  • Non-consensual touching,
  • Invasions of privacy, 
  • Name-calling, 
  • Exclusion of people because of sex or gender, 
  • Comments about body parts or appearance, 
  • Requests for romantic or sexual encounters, 
  • Exposure of body parts,
  • Displays of sex-based content, and
  • Graphic gestures. 

Proving harassment can be a difficult undertaking, so it is vital that you collect as much evidence as possible to establish your case. 

From the first instance of harassment, you should be collecting evidence of the unlawful behavior. Evidence to prove your harassment case can include the following: 

  • Notes with details of every harassing incident, including when and how each incident occurred;
  • Contact information for witnesses to the harassment;
  • Wage records; 
  • Correspondence from your employer or harasser; 
  • Personnel records;
  • Copies of complaints and resolutions of complaints; 
  • Pictures; 
  • Copies of employer policies;
  • Healthcare records; 
  • Receipts and invoices;
  • Copies of employment contracts; and 
  • Statistical evidence regarding your employer’s past misconduct. 

Some of the above-listed evidence should be readily available to you, but other evidence can be challenging to gather on your own. Using certain legal methods, an experienced attorney can recover the evidence that you are unable to collect. Our skilled attorneys can help ensure that you have all the evidence you need to successfully adjudicate your claim against a harasser or unscrupulous employer. 

King & Siegel Can Protect You

The law requires your employer to protect you from harassment in the workplace. And your employer should compensate you if it fails to correct or prevent sex-based misconduct that affects you at work. However, holding an employer accountable for its legal failures is challenging. That is why you should have a skilled and experienced attorney to assert your rights.

King & Siegel’s attorneys know how to protect your well-being in the workplace when your employer fails or refuses to do so. We are award-winning advocates who can guide you through the complaint process and maximize your relief. We were educated at top-five law schools and received our training at the best litigation firms in the country. Reach out to us if you need top-level representation. Please call us or contact us online for a free case review.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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