If you have endured sexual harassment or any kind of discrimination in the workplace, remember that you have rights. And the best way to enforce your rights against employer misconduct is to hire a skilled attorney. Our Sacramento sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLC are skilled practitioners, aggressive when necessary, and compassionate toward your needs. You deserve to work in a safe environment, and we can help you receive what you deserve. Contact us today.
Have I Been Sexually Harassed?
Workplace sexual harassment is disappointingly common. In a recent study, 59% of women and 27% of men stated that they had been targets of unwanted sexual advances or harassment. This news is alarming but also a reminder that you are not alone and have support.
So how can you tell whether the uncomfortable conduct you face at work is sexual harassment? Each case is different, but there are a few factors you can look for if you plan to file a complaint.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome conduct based on sex. This type of harassment is illegal if it produces one of the following situations:
- Your receipt of work benefits depends on your endurance of unwelcome conduct; or
- The unwelcome conduct is so severe or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, abusive, or hostile work environment.
If you have to endure harassment to maintain or receive work benefits, that is quid pro quo harassment. If the harassment creates an abusive, hostile, or intimidating work environment, you must prove that a reasonable person would label your work environment as hostile.
As we said, each sexual harassment case is different, but sometimes you can better gauge your right to file a complaint if you have examples. Common and actionable harassment situations include:
- A supervisor threatening to terminate your job, dock your pay, or take away your benefits if you do not accept their sexual advances;
- A coworker regularly hurling sex-based jokes, teasing, or insults at you or others in your workplace;
- A coworker or customer touching you without your consent;
- A supervisor requiring that you accept their sexual advances before giving you a job, promotion, work benefits, or raise;
- A coworker or client displaying offensive images of a sexual nature or engaging in other non-verbal offensive conduct in the workplace; and
- A coworker or contractor making comments about the physical attributes of you or someone else in your workplace.
In many cases, a single instance of offensive conduct is not enough to prove you work in a hostile environment. However, a single occurrence can be enough for a complaint if the occurrence is severely offensive or if your employer conditions receipt of work benefits on enduring unwelcome conduct.
If you are unsure whether you have a good chance of winning a sexual harassment complaint, speak to an attorney. Experienced Sacramento sexual harassment lawyers can help you understand and maximize your rights against workplace sexual harassment.
When Is My Employer Liable for Harassment?
If you are punished for refusing to accept harassment from a supervisor, your employer is automatically liable. Your employer is also liable for harassment that creates a hostile environment if:
- You made reasonable attempts to prevent or correct the harassment by following your employer’s complaint procedures; and
- Your employer did not make reasonable efforts to correct the harassment.
Not only is your employer responsible for harassers who are supervisors, but they are also responsible for non-supervisor and non-employee harassers. Your employer is responsible for non-supervisor and non-employee harassers if your employer has control over them, should have known about the harassment, and did not take proper corrective action.
Reporting Sexual Harassment
A victim of sexual harassment has a right to file a complaint with the government and sue in court. If you win a sexual harassment complaint, you could win:
- Job reinstatement,
- Compensation for financial losses,
- Back pay,
- Benefit reinstatement,
- Compensation for pain and suffering,
- A promotion,
- Policy changes at work,
- Punitive damages, and
- Legal fees.
It is often a long road to winning these damages, and you must start your case in the right way. Please take a look at the following steps for properly initiating a sexual harassment complaint.
Step One: Tell Your Harasser to Stop
For offensive conduct to be unlawful harassment, it must be unwelcome. The first way you establish this is by telling your harasser to stop. If you are unable to dismiss a harasser because of the position they hold in your workplace or other factors, do not give up on your case. The EEOC looks at the whole record and the circumstances of your situation when deciding whether your employer is liable for sexual harassment.
Step Two: Gather Evidence of Harassment and Your Employer’s Response
If your harasser’s behavior is extremely offensive the first time, or if the behavior persists after you tell your harasser to stop, you need to gather evidence for your complaint. It is important to:
- Take notes about the details of every harassing event;
- Compile relevant correspondence;
- Keep records of your internal complaints and their outcomes;
- Gather relevant personnel records; and
- Keep a list of witnesses.
Your collection of this evidence should be ongoing until your harassment dispute is ultimately resolved.
Step Three: File an Internal Harassment Complaint with Your Employer
Employees in hostile working environments must prove they used workplace grievance procedures before suing or complaining to the government. There can be exceptions to this rule if a grievance procedure is inadequate in light of the particular circumstances.
Step Four: File a Complaint with the Government or a Lawsuit
If you have tried to handle your harassment dispute at work to no avail, you can file a harassment complaint with the government. You can file your complaint with the EEOC or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Even if you want to file a lawsuit, you must first receive a Right-to-Sue notice from the EEOC or DFEH.
You have 180 days to file an EEOC complaint and three years to file a DFEH complaint. Also, your employer must have at least 15 employees to be subject to an EEOC complaint. Speak to an attorney immediately to help make sure you fulfill all deadlines and filing requirements.
Speak to Our Attorneys
Our Sacramento sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel are top-level advocates for employee rights. We provide our clients with the personal attention they need, and we have won more than $45 million for our clients in less than four years. We are here to support and fight for you. Contact us today for exceptional help.
Our experienced attorneys handle other types of cases as well, including: