Everyone should be able to go to work without any fear of being sexually harassed. Unfortunately, not every company lives up to this standard. Unwanted touching, inappropriate jokes, and unsolicited sexual advances happen far too often.
The MeToo movement and countless victims stepping up and telling their stories have raised social awareness about sexual harassment. Every day, more people are being held accountable for their improper actions. Workplaces usually understand that sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.
Though progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to be done to solve workplace sexual harassment. Many victims of sexual harassment are still being silenced through intimidation and fear tactics. While victims stay silent, perpetrators remain unaccountable.
If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, the Long Beach sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP can help. Our experienced lawyers know how to gather evidence and hold your workplace accountable. We will also strive to get you compensation for the harm your workplace has caused.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
The US Department of Interior Employment and Labor Law Unit defines illegal sexual harassment to include “any activity which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment for members of one sex, whether such activity is carried out by a supervisor or by a co-worker.”
Usually, harassment needs to be either severe or frequent enough to cause a hostile work environment to rise to the level of illegal sexual harassment. Isolated incidents rarely constitute unlawful sexual harassment unless they severely affect the victim’s work environment. However, California law is clear that a single serious incident can rise to the level of illegal harassment.
Notably, anyone can be a victim of workplace sexual harassment. Further, sexual harassment is not always explicitly sexual in nature. It includes conduct that discriminates based on sexual characteristics.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
Federal law and state law prohibit workplace sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace sexual harassment at the national level. Workplace sexual harassment is a violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act as well. There are also other laws at the federal, state, and local level that might be implicated. Victims of sexual harassment at work can choose to bring a case under one or all these laws.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Courts consider workplace sexual harassment to be discrimination based on sex.
Title VII of the Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to prevent anyone in their workplace from experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of anyone else. If someone does experience sexual harassment, employers must end it as soon as they find out. The steps the employer takes to end the behavior need to be appropriate and effective.
Further, employers can not retaliate against or punish anyone for reporting workplace sexual harassment under federal law.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act
California law goes above and beyond what is prohibited under federal law. In California, every employer is subject to the Fair Employment and Housing Act. This act also protects all workers, including contractors and volunteers.
There are specific requirements that employers must perform to stop workplace sexual harassment in California. First, all employers must have a written policy on sexual harassment that includes reporting processes. Second, sexual harassment training must be provided every two years in companies with more than five employees.
Unlike under federal law, employers are responsible under California law to take steps to prevent sexual harassment from happening in the first place rather than just responding to it after the fact.
Common Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can become an issue in any workplace in various ways. Examples of illegal sexual harassment include:
- Unwelcome advances,
- Inappropriate comments and jokes,
- Any unwanted touching,
- Displaying offensive or indecent images,
- Making obscene gestures,
- Any sexual touching of one’s self or others,
- Sexual propositioning,
- Spreading rumors of a sexual nature,
- Sex-based stereotyping, and
- Use of sexually derogatory or demeaning terms.
The common thread is that all these situations can lead to a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment can also take the form of “quid pro quo” harassment. This occurs when someone in a position of authority promises positive or negative employment consequences based on your willingness to submit to their sexual advances.
If you experience any common type of workplace sexual harassment, the Long Beach sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel can help.
Remedies for Workplace Sexual Harassment
Companies liable for allowing workplace sexual harassment in the office must remedy the situation. Possible remedies include:
- A change in the employer’s practices and procedures,
- Reinstatement of employees who were retaliated against,
- Compensation for lost pay,
- Compensation for pain and suffering, and
- Punitive damages for egregiously bad conduct.
The workplace harassment attorneys at King & Siegel can help you determine what remedies might be available.
Proving Workplace Sexual Harassment
Proving workplace sexual harassment can be challenging. Following a proper process and collecting evidence can be the difference between winning and losing your case. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, some steps you should follow include:
- Keeping detailed records—including dates, times, who was involved, and precisely what the harasser said or did;
- Filing a complaint with your company—keep a copy of the complaint report and document every response;
- Reporting the incident to HR—make sure you report the incident in writing or electronically;
- Contacting your union—if you are a member of a union, they should be able to help;
- Filing a complaint with the government—state and federal agencies have departments you can report misconduct to if your company fails to take action; and
- Calling an attorney—an attorney should know the best way to move forward and get your company to rectify the situation.
Following these steps and the advice of legal counsel will give you the best chance of proving your sexual harassment case in court.
King & Siegel Can Help
The Long Beach sexual harassment lawyers at King & Siegel believe everyone should be free to work without experiencing sexual harassment. We use the same aggressive, skilled, and passionate approach that lawyers working for the biggest corporations use. Our lawyers graduated from the top law schools in the country and have experience litigating sexual harassment claims. Contact King & Siegel now so we can help you hold your employer accountable. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients in employment disputes.