Workplace sexual harassment is abhorrent and damaging to all of us. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is still prevalent in offices and worksites across the nation. In 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 21,398 charges of sex-based discrimination from employees. As staggering as the statistics are, many instances of employment discrimination go unreported each year. If you have suffered sexual harassment at work, our skilled Lancaster sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP can help ensure that you receive all the legal relief you deserve.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Put simply, sexual harassment is sex-based or gender-based discrimination. This form of discrimination can have complex and painful effects on its victims, and state and federal law define this unlawful behavior in the following ways:
- Quid pro quo harassment – meaning an employee is required to accept unwelcome sexual requests or demands in exchange for employment benefits or
- Hostile work environment harassment – meaning an employee has had to endure unwelcome, sex-based, or gender-based conduct that is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would label the employee’s workplace as hostile.
A perpetrator of sexual harassment can be a supervisor, a non-supervisor employee, a contractor, a client, a patron, or a customer.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
What does sexual harassment look like? Harassment can occur in many ways in the workplace, including:
- Jokes based on sex or gender;
- Exclusion from work events or opportunities because of sex or gender;
- Displays of offensive, sex-based, or gender-based images;
- Invasions of personal space;
- Insults based on sex or gender;
- Touching without consent;
- Generalizing comments based on sex or gender;
- Exposure of intimate body parts;
- Unwanted requests for romantic encounters;
- Comments about appearance or body parts; and
- Sexually explicit conversations or questioning.
Whatever behavior you have to endure at work, if it is unwelcome and based on sex or gender, you likely have a right to sue or complain.
When Is an Employer Liable for Sexual Harassment?
Employers are automatically responsible for sexual harassment in the workplace that comes from a supervisor and results in an adverse employment decision against the victim. And employers are responsible for hostile work environment harassment from employees and non-employees alike if:
- The employer knew or should have known about the harassment;
- The employer had control over the harasser;
- The employer failed to take reasonable measures to prevent or correct the harassment; and
- The employee took reasonable actions to prevent or correct the harassment using the employer’s procedures.
To give your sexual harassment complaint the best chance of success, it is often important to promptly report unlawful behavior to a trusted supervisor or human resources. If your boss doesn’t have reasonable complaint procedures in place, speak to one of our experienced attorneys about the best course of action to take to safeguard and enforce your rights.
What Remedies Can I Recover in a Sexual Harassment Complaint or Lawsuit?
Victims of sexual harassment have the right to file complaints with the government or lawsuits in civil court. In a successful complaint or lawsuit, a victim can receive the following:
- Back pay,
- Payment for related financial losses,
- Compensation for emotional anguish,
- Reinstatement of work benefits,
- Orders for policy changes at work,
- Punitive damages to punish employers that engage in exceptionally egregious behavior, and
- Legal costs.
Our skilled Lancaster sexual harassment lawyers can identify all the types of remedies you should receive and help make sure you receive the maximum amount available in each category.
How Do I File a Sexual Harassment Complaint or Lawsuit?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you can file a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You can file an EEOC sexual harassment complaint only if your employer has 15 or more employees. However, you can file a DFEH sexual harassment complaint even if your employer has only one employee.
The EEOC and DFEH investigate the complaints they receive and help the complainants resolve their disputes with their employers. If you prefer to handle your case in a civil court, you are still required to initiate an EEOC or DFEH complaint first. You cannot file a civil lawsuit until you receive a right-to-sue notice from the DFEH or a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC. And if you want to file your lawsuit immediately, a lawyer can help you expedite the process of receiving a DFEH or EEOC notice.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint?
If you are a private or state employee, you have 180 days to file an EEOC complaint and three years to file a DFEH complaint. A recipient of a DFEH right-to-sue notice must file their lawsuit within one year of the notice. And a recipient of an EEOC Notice of Right to Sue must file their lawsuit within 90 days of receipt.
Federal employees who are victims of workplace sexual harassment have a shorter timeline and different processes for officially complaining about workplace misconduct. If you are a federal employee, you must contact an EEO officer about sexual harassment within 45 days.
Our award-winning Lancaster sexual harassment attorneys can ensure that your case is filed timely and that you receive all you deserve from your employer and harasser.
Our Attorneys at King & Siegel Can Protect You
At King & Siegel, our experienced California employment attorneys are committed to protecting the best interests of mistreated workers. We are top-rated, we were educated at the country’s top law schools, and we trained at the biggest and best law firms in the nation. Our lawyers also take the time to learn all the important details of each client’s story so we can provide them with the best representation that is tailored to their unique needs.
If you need an advocate to protect you against the misdeeds of a harasser in your workplace, you can talk to us. We do not charge a fee unless we win your case. Please call us or contact us online for help.