According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more people filed charges of workplace sexual harassment between 2018 and 2021 than in the previous four-year block. This increase came on the heels of the MeToo movement. Sexual harassment charges are also growing as a percentage of all charges filed to the EEOC. Between 2018 and 2021, women filed 78.2% of charges against companies. The most common charge was improper firing.
In this timeframe, the EEOC recovered almost $300 million for victims of workplace sexual harassment. The amount recovered is a vast increase over the period between 2014 and 2017. In 2021 28.6% of sexual harassment charges were resolved in favor of the worker.
Everyone deserves to be able to work in a space that is free of all forms of sexual harassment. Though progress has been made due to the MeToo movement and countless victims sharing their stories, much more work needs to be done. Employers must be held accountable for enabling office environments where sexual harassment is commonplace.
If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, Fremont sexual harassment attorneys can help you hold your employer accountable. Seeking accountability can help ensure a safe work environment for yourself and everyone else.
Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment
The definition of workplace sexual harassment differs based on which laws are implicated. Federally, the definition is based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under California Law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act provides the basis for the definition of illegal sexual harassment.
EEOC guidelines point to two types of workplace sexual harassment—quid pro quo and hostile work environment. These types of sexual harassment often go together.
Quid pro quo
A quid pro quo happens when unwelcome sex-based conduct is explicitly or implicitly tied to employment conditions. A far too common example is when a boss makes a sexual advance, implying that the subordinate will lose their job if the advance is not accepted.
Hostile work environment
A company is responsible for creating a hostile work environment when a worker or workers feel unsafe due to harassment or discrimination. A workplace where inappropriate jokes are tolerated or encouraged is an example of a hostile workplace.
The State of California Department of Justice defines sexual harassment as “both unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.”
This definition is broader than the federal definition used by the EEOC. Further, California law requires employers to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment.
Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can take many forms in the workplace. Common examples of illegal sexual harassment include:
- Stereotyping based on sex or sexual characteristics,
- Sexual propositions,
- Use of sexually derogatory terms,
- Spreading sexually illicit rumors,
- Inappropriate touching of one’s self or others,
- Using obscene gestures,
- Displaying offensive images,
- Inappropriate jokes or comments, and
- Unwelcome advances.
These behaviors can create a hostile work environment for one or more employees. In California, employers must prevent workers from engaging in these acts in any employment setting.
Steps to Take If You Are a Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment
If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, it is critical to follow the correct steps. Doing this will help you prove your claim and hold your employer accountable.
1. Tell the Offender to Stop
The first thing you should do is tell the offender to stop engaging in the harassment. If you are uncomfortable doing so yourself, you can ask a third party to step in and tell the harasser to stop for you. Sometimes this step alone will solve the problem.
2. Keep Records of Everything
Keeping records of everything will help you prove your claim. Write down what is happening. Be sure to include names, dates, times, and a detailed description of the wrongful behaviors. Also, save every report and correspondence connected to the harassment. It can help to tell a trusted friend or advisor about the conduct. Store any evidence you have in a safe place away from the office.
3. Provide Your Boss or HR with a Written Complaint
File a sexual harassment complaint with your boss or HR department. You should provide a written complaint and save a copy in your records.
4. Go Through Your Company’s Resolution Process
In California, companies must have a written sexual harassment policy with a set reporting process. Follow the company’s process so long as it is reasonable. Allowing your company a chance to resolve the situation will show you are working with the company in good faith. It will also make clear that the company knows of the harassment. If the company does not take adequate steps to stop the harassment, your claim will be much stronger.
5. File a Report with a Government Agency
If your company’s internal policies do not solve the problem, report the harassment to the EEOC or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Make sure you meet any filing deadlines. A sexual harassment lawyer can help you file your report.
6. Contact a Lawyer to Learn More About Your Rights
Fremont sexual harassment lawyers will help you understand more about your rights in the workplace. They can also help you determine what to do if resolution processes are not working.
7. File a Lawsuit Against Your Employer
You may need to file a lawsuit against your employer if all else fails. To file a lawsuit, you must wait for a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC or DFEH. You will have 90 days to sue after a notice from the EEOC or one year after a notice from the DFEH.
Call King & Siegel
If you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, our Fremont sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel can help. Our experienced employment attorneys provide aggressive and personalized advocacy for our clients. We know how emotionally charged and complicated harassment lawsuits can be. Our attorneys graduated from some of the nation’s top law schools and use the same aggressive, passionate, and effective approach that big business legal teams use. Contact King & Siegel today so we can help you hold your employer accountable.