An employer has the duty to prevent sexual harassment in its workplace. If an employer cannot fulfill this obligation, it is time to hold them accountable. So, what is sexual harassment, and how can you protect yourself against it? Read on for more information and speak to one of our skilled Palo Alto sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP about your rights. We have an exceptional reputation among our peers and clients, and we can help safeguard you from the misdeeds of a negligent or unethical employer.
The Definition of Sexual Harassment
Workplace sexual harassment is illegal under state and federal law. The law defines sexual harassment as unwanted, sex-based conduct that comes in the following two forms:
- Quid pro quo harassment—this type of harassment takes place when an employer requires an employee to accept unwanted sexual advances or other sex-based behavior in exchange for work benefits.
- Hostile work environment harassment—this type of harassment takes place when sex-based behavior in the workplace is so severe or prevalent that a reasonable person would consider the harassment victim’s workplace an abusive or hostile environment.
Don’t let the term “sex-based” throw you off. Sexual desire does not have to be at the root of harassment for the behavior to be unlawful. Sexual harassment only has to be based on someone’s sex or gender to be actionable.
Also, you do not have to be the target of sex-based misconduct to make a harassment claim. Sex-based discrimination can affect everyone in the workplace, and witnesses of harassment have a right to complain about it.
What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like?
While the law has only two definitions for sexual harassment, those two forms of misconduct can pop up in many ways in a work setting. Examples of workplace sexual harassment include the following:
- Non-consensual touching,
- Excluding others based on sex or gender,
- Comments about body parts or appearance,
- Offensive jokes,
- Stereotyping based on gender or sex,
- Invasions of privacy,
- Repeated requests for sexual encounters (or a single request if the requestor is in management),
- Insults based on sex or gender,
- Exposure of intimate body parts, and
- Sexually explicit conversation.
The list above is not exhaustive, and you should speak to one of our experienced attorneys about whatever type of mistreatment you have experienced at work.
What Are My Rights If I Have Been Sexually Harassed?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, an employee who endures harassment has a right to several legal remedies. In a legal action or settlement, a harassment victim can recover the following relief:
- Back pay,
- Front pay,
- Job reinstatement or promotion to a new position,
- Compensation for emotional distress,
- Reimbursement for financial losses,
- Policy changes at work,
- Benefit reinstatement,
- A pay increase,
- Punitive damages, and
- Legal costs.
You deserve to be compensated and protected after suffering unlawful treatment at work. Consulting with an attorney can help ensure you receive the most relief for what you have endured.
Who Is Liable for Sexual Harassment?
First, your harasser is personally liable for the mistreatment you experience.
Second, the employer is automatically liable for harassment that comes from a supervisor.
Finally, employer is also liable for harassment from non-employees and non-supervisory employees over whom it has control if the following is true:
- The harassment victim did not unreasonably fail to use the employer’s procedures to address the harassment; and
- The employer failed to respond properly to the harassment.
Talk to an attorney as soon as you sense sex-based misconduct in your workplace. You will likely need to file an internal complaint to maintain your harassment claim, and your attorney can protect your interests and help make sure you file your complaint properly.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
You can initiate a sexual harassment claim against your employer or harasser in one of the three following ways:
- File a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH),
- File a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or
- File a lawsuit in civil court.
You can file an EEOC charge if your employer has at least 15 employees. But you can file a sexual harassment complaint with the DFEH no matter the size of your employer’s workforce. Also, you have 180 days to file an EEOC charge (or 300 days if your complaint is covered by state law) and three years to submit a DFEH complaint. Because California law is generally more favorable to employees complaining of harassment, most attorneys will recommend that you file with the DFEH if you work in California. You must first complain to the EEOC or DFEH before you can sue in court.
Being exposed to sexual harassment can be stressful, and litigating harassment claims can be traumatizing if handled improperly. Our skilled Palo Alto sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel can handle the stresses and complexities of your sexual harassment complaint while you take the space you need to recover from workplace mistreatment.
Speak to Our Legal Team Today
When you speak to one of our experienced Palo Alto sexual harassment lawyers at King & Siegel, you will speak to someone who has received the best training in the nation and top ratings from the legal community. Our attorneys were educated at top law schools and trained at the biggest and best firms. We are dedicated to using our skills and stellar reputation to protect the rights of workers across California.
At King & Siegel, we make sure we give our clients the personalized attention they deserve. We focus on each client’s unique needs so we can recover the type of relief necessary for their circumstances. If you are looking for an attorney who cares about your story and can fiercely and successfully champion your rights, talk to us. Whether you are experiencing sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wage & hour issues, a toxic work environment, founder disputes, or any other unfair work practices, contact us online or call us to schedule a free consultation. And if you hire us, you do not pay unless we win.