Your employer has specific responsibilities to keep you physically and emotionally safe at work. If your employer fails to prevent or correct workplace sexual harassment, they have neglected their obligation to keep you safe. And if you have had to endure sexual harassment on the job, you have the right to complain or sue. At King & Siegel LLP, our experienced Palmdale sexual harassment attorneys can help ensure that you remain safe at work and receive justice after enduring mistreatment. Contact us today.
Sexual Harassment Defined
Workplace sexual harassment is a form of sex-based discrimination. It is illegal under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. These laws are necessary to protect employees because 81% of women and 43% of men have reported experiencing sexual harassment or assault in their lives.
Under the law, there are two forms of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment—an employer commits this type of sexual harassment if they require you to accept unwanted sexual advances to receive job benefits or avoid punishment at work; and
- Hostile work environment harassment—an employer can be liable for offensive, sex-based conduct in the workplace if it is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile working environment for a reasonable person.
Whatever sexually offensive conduct you endure in the workplace, it must be unwelcome to be unlawful.
Identifying Sexual Harassment
Sometimes an unethical employer, supervisor, or co-worker will lead you to believe that certain offensive behavior is not sexual harassment. Please do not take their word for it. If you feel uncomfortable about actions directed at you or your co-workers, speak to an attorney. Knowing what common forms of sexual harassment look like can help you seek the justice you deserve.
If you answer “yes” to any one of the following questions, you might be a victim of sexual harassment:
- Has a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or patron told offensive sex-based jokes, hurled sex-based insults, or used sex-based slurs in your workplace?
- Did a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or patron touch you without your consent or block your movements at work?
- Has a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or patron displayed sexually offensive subject matter in your workplace?
- Did a supervisor threaten to fire you, demote you, transfer you, reduce your pay, or reduce your benefits if you did not accept their sexual advances?
- Has a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or patron continued to make sexual advances toward you after you turned them down?
- Has a supervisor stated that you would receive a promotion, increased pay, more benefits, a favorable transfer, or a job if you accepted their sexual advances?
- Have you been punished or denied benefits at work for not accepting a supervisor’s sexual advances?
- Has a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or patron made comments about your physical appearance or the others’s physical appearance of others at work?
- Has a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or patron made sexually obscene gestures at work?
This list does not include every kind of sexual harassment, but you can start to identify misconduct with these questions. If you are still unsure about whether the treatment you have endured is harassment, speak to an attorney.
Reporting Sexual Harassment
If you are ready to report sexual harassment, there are multiple steps you should follow to have the best chance of achieving justice. Winning a complaint or lawsuit could mean winning:
- Back pay,
- Compensation for financial losses,
- Compensation for emotional distress,
- Job reinstatement,
- Promotion or other work benefits,
- Legal fees, and
- Punitive damages.
Take a look below at common, important steps to take to help your sexual harassment case. If you cannot complete all the steps below, an attorney can help you preserve your rights.
Step One: Tell the Harasser Their Conduct Is Unwelcome
If you want to complain about sexual harassment, you have to prove that the offensive conduct was unwelcome. This is easier to prove when you tell a harasser to stop. If it is difficult to shut down a harasser because of your circumstances, do not give up on your complaint. Though not easy, there are other ways to prove that the offensive behavior you complain about was unwanted.
Step Two: Gather Evidence of the Harassment
You need evidence for the harassment complaints you make at work, to the government, or in court. This evidence can include:
- Correspondence from your employer and the harasser,
- Personnel records,
- Witness testimony (including your own),
- Records of internal complaints or grievances you filed,
- Documents containing your employer’s harassment policies and grievance procedures, and
- Detailed notes regarding every instance of harassment.
You should begin collecting evidence as soon as the harassment starts. You should also continue to collect evidence until you completely resolve your dispute.
Step Three: Promptly File a Complaint with Your Supervisor or Human Resources
Check your employer’s guidelines for internal sexual harassment complaints and follow them. If your employer does not have specific guidelines, complain to your supervisor or human resources (if possible).
The law allows your employer to defend themself against claims of a hostile work environment if they can prove:
- That you did not use the prevention and correction procedures provided by your employer; and
- That they reasonably tried to prevent and correct the harassment.
Also, your employer is liable for harassment by non-supervisors or non-employees only if they should have known about the harassment, had control over the harasser, and failed to take proper corrective action. Promptly filing a complaint with your employer can take away many of their legal defenses.
Step Four: File a Complaint with the Government
If you do not resolve your harassment complaint internally, it is time to file a complaint with the government. You can file with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Before you can sue in court, you must file a state or federal government complaint and receive a right-to-sue notice.
If you want to file an EEOC complaint, your employer must have at least 15 employees, and you normally have only 180 days to complain. If you want to file a DFEH complaint, you have three years to file. Palmdale sexual harassment lawyers can help you comply with these deadlines and get the most out of your complaint.
Our Attorneys Are Here to Help
Do you need a top attorney who can treat your harassment case with the sensitivity and legal skill it deserves? If so, speak to one of our experienced Palmdale sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP. Our attorneys have the best training and experience, and we have a history of stellar results, having won millions for mistreated employees. If you need our help, contact us today.