Workplace sexual harassment is a devastating injustice. Unfortunately, the harms of sexual harassment are still present in many workplaces and public spaces across the nation. But do not let this fact discourage you. There are state and federal laws dedicated to protecting you against workplace harassment. And our Pomona sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP are experienced and passionate about making employers answer for the poor treatment of their employees. Contact us if you need us to fight for you.
Sexual Harassment Defined
What is sexual harassment? It is unwanted behavior based on someone’s sex or gender, including sexual orientation, gender expression, and pregnancy. You could have the right to file a sexual harassment complaint against your employer if the following occurs in your workplace:
- Your supervisor demands that you accept unwelcome sexual advances or requests in exchange for job benefits; or
- You endure unwanted and offensive sex-based conduct so extreme or prevalent that your workplace becomes a hostile environment.
If you file a complaint because your workplace is hostile, you have to prove that a reasonable person would consider your workplace hostile.
Regardless of what you might have seen in films and television, sexual harassment does not have to be the product of sexual desire. And you do not have to be the target of harassing behavior to have a legal claim. If you were exposed to sexual harassment in your workplace, you have a right to complain.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gives you federal protection against sexual harassment. And the California Fair Employment and Housing Act gives you state protection against sexual harassment.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
The Centers for Disease Control reports that one out of three women and approximately one out of nine men experience sexual harassment in public places. Sexual harassment is common, and some forms are easier to identify than others. If you need a point of reference, examples of workplace sexual harassment include:
- Firing or punishing an employee for refusing to perform sexual favors;
- Making jokes that stereotype people of a particular sex or gender;
- Touching without consent;
- Asking others about their sexual activities;
- Making physical gestures of a sexual nature;
- Insulting others based on their sex or gender;
- Displaying offensive, sex-based images in the workplace;
- Making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation;
- Refusing to acknowledge someone’s preferred pronouns;
- Invading an employee’s personal space;
- Making unwanted sexual advances;
- Excluding employees from work activities because of their sex or gender;
- Using offensive, sex-based slurs;
- Requesting sexual favors in exchange for a job or work benefits;
- Making comments about an individual’s body or appearance;
- Having sexually explicit conversations; and
- Exposing private body parts.
If you have been exposed to offensive, sex-based conduct that is not on the list above, you might still have a sexual harassment complaint. Speak to one of our Pomona sexual harassment lawyers about the misconduct in your workplace to help ensure that you receive the relief you deserve.
When Is Your Employer Liable for Sexual Harassment?
Your employer is immediately responsible for sexual harassment if your supervisor is the harasser and the harassment includes an adverse employment action against you (e.g., firing, reduced wages). To hold your employer accountable for any other kind of harassment, you must prove the following:
- Your employer had control over your harasser;
- Your employer knew or should have known about the harassment;
- Your employer failed to properly prevent or correct the harassment; and
- You did not unreasonably fail to use any harassment prevention and correction procedures that your employer provided.
If your case fulfills the criteria above, your employer can be liable for harassment from supervisors, non-supervisor employees, and non-employees.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint or Lawsuit
Before you file a sexual harassment complaint, you usually need to tell your harasser to stop their behavior. This is important because offensive, sex-based misconduct at work must be unwelcome to be illegal. It is also important to file an internal grievance at work to put your employer on notice and prevent them from claiming you unreasonably failed to use its complaint procedures. If the circumstances of the harassment make it challenging to confront your harasser or file a formal complaint, speak to a supervisor you trust about the misconduct.
Once you have taken reasonable steps at work to correct harassment, you are ready to file a government complaint or lawsuit. In your complaint or lawsuit, you can win:
- Back pay,
- Punitive damages,
- Compensation for financial losses,
- Job reinstatement,
- Compensation for emotional distress,
- Policy changes, and
- Job benefits.
You file state complaints with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which you must file within three years. And you must file federal complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days (45 days for federal employees). The EEOC can handle your complaint only if your employer has 15 or more employees.
Some employees prefer to handle their sexual harassment cases in civil court. If you want to file a lawsuit against your harasser or employer, you first have to receive a notice from the DFEH or the EEOC that states that you have a right to sue. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you quickly receive one of these notices.
Sexual Harassment Can Be a Criminal Offense
Sexual harassment can quickly cross the line into criminal sexual abuse or assault, especially if nonconsensual touching is involved. If you are a survivor, you have the right to file a criminal complaint with law enforcement and file a civil lawsuit against the offender.
Healing from this type of injustice can be incredibly difficult, and sometimes seeking criminal justice and financial damages can make the healing process easier. Our experienced attorneys are ready to listen to your story and help you obtain justice when you are ready.
Speak to Our Attorneys Today
You do not have to face sexual harassment alone. In fact, our award-winning Pomona sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel can face your harasser for you and win the legal remedies you deserve. We work hard to make the litigation process less stressful for our clients, while maintaining professional excellence and tailoring our strategies to their unique needs. And our strategies are effective—we have recovered millions for harmed employees. Contact us today for a free consultation.