What is sexual harassment? Have you been harassed at work? Whether your employer has allowed work-from-home arrangements or has called you back to the office since Covid restrictions loosened, millions of employees endure workplace sexual harassment in all kinds of work environments each year. Sometimes, sexual or gender-based harassment is subtle. But in other cases, the conduct is so overt and egregious that there are no questions about what the person has endured.
Several federal and California state laws are designed to prevent sexual harassment. In this post, the Roseville sexual harassment lawyers at King & Siegel LLP will walk you through California sexual harassment law basics and help you understand whether you may have an actionable claim.
Have You Been Sexually Harassed at Work?
Behavior that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment because of an employee’s sex or gender is considered sexual harassment under both California and federal law. In some circumstances, one act alone can constitute sexual harassment.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
Legally speaking, there are two components to proving a sexual harassment case. First, sexual harassment has an objective component, meaning a reasonable person in the employee’s position would find the conduct offensive.
There is also a subjective component to sexual harassment, meaning that an employee feels they personally suffered due to the harassment. Some examples of this would be that an employee feels their health, emotional state, or job performance were impacted by the harassing conduct.
There are also two general types of sexual harassment claims: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Each claim is slightly different under the law. An experienced Roseville sexual harassment attorney can help you understand what kind of case you have and how to prove your claim.
Quid pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase, and it is commonly accepted to mean “exchange this for that.” This type of sexual harassment usually occurs when an employer conditions the terms or benefits of your employment on some kind of sexual conduct or favor. Some examples include refusing to promote a person until they send nude photos or demanding sexual favors to receive a job offer. A single instance of quid pro quo sexual harassment can be grounds for a sexual harassment claim.
Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
Hostile work environment harassment involves unwelcome and discriminatory conduct based on protected characteristics, such as sex or gender. Intimidating or offensive workplace conduct creates a severe and pervasive hostile environment for the victim. The conduct can be verbal, physical, or visual, often involving all three.
Examples of workplace sexual harassment due to a hostile work environment can include:
- Offensive jokes about an employee’s sex or gender;
- Unwanted sexual advances or comments;
- Displaying offensive materials, like “pin-up calendars” featuring photos of either gender;
- Sending offensive photos by text or email; and
- Excluding an employee from job opportunities because of their sex or gender.
Hostile work environment harassment is illegal under federal and state employment discrimination laws, as well as most employers’ internal policies. If you feel you have been a victim of such harassment, speak with a California employment lawyer as soon as possible.
Reporting Sexual Harassment Under Federal Law
Sexual harassment is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The federal government considers sexual harassment a form of employment discrimination, but these federal laws apply only to employers with 15 or more employees. If you do not work for a large company, Title VII can be of little help.
Reporting Sexual Harassment Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act
The California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) has similar protections against sexual harassment as Title VII and also protects interns, job applicants, volunteers, and freelancers from sexual harassment. It applies to all workplaces, even those with only a few employees. Sexual harassment can be between employees of any gender, including between employees of the same sex or gender identity.
Steps to Take After Experiencing Sexual Harassment
If you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to protect yourself as soon as possible. Some steps you can take to help strengthen your claim include:
- Report the incident according to your company’s policies and procedures;
- Keep a list of all witnesses, including dates and times of any conduct they may have witnessed;
- If your employer’s response is not satisfactory, file a report with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC);
- Do not post anything on social media about your claims;
- Do not erase any evidence on your phone or computer;
- Speak with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer; and
- Do not wait too long to file a claim.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate these steps, especially dealing with the government. Filing documents and evidence with the right agency in the right sequence can be complicated, and an attorney can help. An attorney can also help you deal with important aspects of litigation, like discovery requests and obtaining and preserving critical information from your electronic devices.
Speak with a Roseville Sexual Harassment Attorney Today
At King & Seigel, our Roseville sexual harassment lawyers come from some of the best legal backgrounds in the business. We are not only an award-winning team, but we also get results for our clients. More important than that, we take a personal interest in each of our clients’ stories and work to win because we want to make our clients whole. Our team is aggressive in the courtroom and at the negotiating table to ensure you get what you need to heal from this trauma. Please contact us to discuss your sexual harassment case. You pay us only if we win for you, so there is no harm in talking to us about your case. You can reach us online or call us to schedule a consultation.