In 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 61,000 complaints of workplace discrimination, and almost one-third of those complaints were regarding sex-based discrimination.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex-based discrimination that hurts employees nationwide and is illegal under state and federal law. While the law is on your side against an employer that engages in or fails to address sexual harassment in the work environment, having a skilled advocate is vital to the success of your case. Our San Jose sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP are top-rated counselors known for leading mistreated employees to victory while compassionately guiding them through the legal process.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) outlaw sexual harassment in employment settings. We mentioned that sexual harassment is sex-based discrimination, but that is the most general definition of the unlawful behavior. So, let’s take a closer look at how illegal harassment occurs.
There are two different types of sexual harassment that are prohibited by the law. Sexual harassment is unwelcome, sex-based conduct that takes place in either of the following ways:
- Quid pro quo harassment, which involves a demand that an employee submit to an unwanted request for sexual favors in exchange for work benefits; and
- Hostile work environment harassment, which involves unwanted, sex-based behavior that is so prevalent or extreme that the employee’s workplace would appear hostile to a reasonable person.
In general, your employer is automatically liable for sexual harassment in the workplace if the harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor. If your employer knew or should have known about the issue, it is also liable for harassment coming from a non-supervisory employee, contractor, client, or customer under the employer’s control.
Examples of Harassment
Each case of sexual harassment can be quite different from the next. Unlawful harassment can include:
- Non-consensual touching,
- Use of slurs or insults based on sex or gender,
- Invasions of personal space,
- Jokes based on sex or gender,
- Repeated unwanted requests for dates or sexual encounters,
- Comments stereotyping others based on their sex or gender,
- Displays of graphic or offensive sex-based material,
- Exposure of intimate body parts,
- Exclusion of others because of their gender or sex,
- Explicit conversations or commentary about sexual activity, and
- Other offensive conduct based on gender or sex.
Sexual harassment can be based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, or a physical condition associated with a particular sex (e.g., pregnancy). Whether your harasser engages in offensive sex-based behavior because of sexual desire or another motivation, they can be liable to you for sexual harassment.
How to Enforce Your Rights Against Workplace Sexual Harassment
Title VII and FEHA give employees in California several options for taking legal action against sexual harassment initiated or enabled by an employer. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you can file a harassment complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), a harassment charge with the EEOC, or a civil lawsuit in state or federal court.
Only employees whose employers have at least 15 employees can file federal lawsuits or EEOC charges against sexual harassment. But employers of any size are subject to state lawsuits and DFEH complaints against sexual harassment. For this reason among others, state law is generally preferable for California employees.
Remedies a Sexual Harassment Victim Can Receive
If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you could have the right to receive the following legal relief:
- Economic damages to pay for any out-of-pocket expenses caused by the harassment, including lost wages and medical expenses;
- Non-economic damages to compensate you for emotional harm you have suffered;
- Punitive damages to punish an employer or harasser for intentional conduct;
- Injunctive relief, such as job reinstatement, benefits reinstatement, or policy changes at work; and
- Legal costs to cover your attorney fees and other litigation expenses.
You can seek these remedies through a settlement or an award from an administrative hearing or court proceeding.
To maintain a successful claim and recover the relief you deserve, it is crucial that you report harassment to a supervisor or human resources at your work as soon as harassment occurs. Hiring an experienced San Jose sexual harassment lawyer at the first sign of harassment is also vital to the success of your case. A knowledgeable lawyer can protect your rights and interests from the beginning and maximize your recovery.
Deadlines for Filing a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit or Complaint
If you are a state or private employee, you have 180 days to file a sexual harassment charge with the EEOC (300 days if your charge is also covered by state law). And if you are a federal employee, you have 45 days to initiate a legal complaint through an EEO Counselor. Private and state employees have three years to initiate legal actions through the DFEH.
The EEOC or DFEH can investigate and resolve a sexual harassment complaint against an employer. However, if you want to bypass an investigation by either government agency and file a lawsuit immediately, you must first file a DFEH or EEOC complaint and receive notice that you have a right to sue. Our lawyers can help you expedite this process.
King & Siegel Can Champion Your Rights
At King & Siegel, you can find an award-winning, experienced San Jose sexual harassment attorney who guides with compassion and aggressively defends clients’ rights. Our attorneys came from top-five law schools and were trained at the best law firms in the nation. We believe that mistreated employees deserve the same sophisticated representation that big companies and employers receive, and we are respected advocates who get results on behalf of our clients.
If you need a top-level sexual harassment attorney in San Jose, you can speak to us. And do not worry about affording our services, we work on contingency, so you only pay if we win. We are here to listen to you and protect you. Please give us a call or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.