Workplace sexual harassment is wrong, and you deserve legal relief if you have suffered sex-based misconduct in your work environment. The best way to recover what you deserve and hold your harasser accountable is to speak to one of our Santa Clara sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel LLP. Our attorneys have the extensive experience and top-level training to effectively champion the rights of sexual harassment victims in California.
Identifying Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
What is sexual harassment? In general, sexual harassment is unwelcome, sex-based conduct outlawed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. There are two different types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Whether you know its name or not, you are probably most familiar with quid pro quo harassment. An employer commits this type of harassment when a manager or supervisor requires an employee to endure unwanted, sex-based behavior to keep a job or advance professionally. A typical example of this is a supervisor stating or implying that an employee will receive a raise for performing a sexual favor for the supervisor. And this type of harassment negatively affects not only the target of the request but also coworkers who are denied professional opportunities because of their employer’s sex-based favoritism toward others.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
Hostile work environment harassment occurs when unwanted sex-based conduct at work is so extreme or prevalent that a reasonable person would label the harassment victim’s workplace a hostile, abusive, or intimidating place. Often, a harassment claimant must prove that there were multiple instances of misconduct before they can receive legal remedies. However, sometimes a single moment of extreme behavior from a harasser is sufficient for making a claim for damages.
Examples of Harassment
Either type of sexual harassment can come out in multiple ways. If you have been exposed to any of the following behaviors because of gender or sex, you might have a sexual harassment claim:
- Non-consensual touching,
- Displays of graphic material,
- Exclusion from work opportunities,
- Offensive jokes,
- Comments about appearance or anatomy,
- Exposure of private body parts,
- Sexually explicit conversations,
- Stereotyping comments,
- Invasions of personal space, and
- Unwanted requests for romantic encounters.
Sexual harassment does not have to be motivated by a sexual desire to be illegal. As long as the harassment is motivated by someone’s gender or sex, it is unlawful.
When Is an Employer Liable for Sexual Harassment?
Actionable workplace harassment can come from anyone, including supervisors, clients, non-supervisory employees, customers, and contractors. An employer is automatically liable for harassment that comes from a supervisor. And an employer is liable for harassment that comes from non-supervisory employees and non-employees if it had control over the harasser, it knew or should have known about the harassment, and the victim can prove the following:
- The victim did not unreasonably fail to use the employer’s procedures to address the harassment; and
- The employer did not take proper action to prevent or correct the harassment.
You have the option to sue your employer, your harasser, or both. If you are unsure who should be held responsible for the mistreatment you suffer at work, speak to one of our Santa Clara sexual harassment lawyers about the best course of action to take in your case.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint or Lawsuit
You have three options for taking legal action against an employer that initiates or allows harassment in its workplace:
- File a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),
- File a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), or
- File a lawsuit in civil court.
If you win your lawsuit, charge, or complaint, you can receive payment for your financial losses, compensation for any emotional harm you suffered, punitive damages, legal costs, and non-monetary remedies such as job reinstatement.
When filing a legal action, you want to make sure you choose the right government agency and follow the proper procedures. A harassment victim can complain to the DFEH about an employer of any size. But a victim can file a charge with the EEOC only if their employer has 15 or more employees. Also, an employee must first receive a notice from the EEOC or DFEH stating that they have a right to sue before they can file a harassment lawsuit in court.
There are also time limits on your right to complain about sexual harassment. You must file an EEOC charge within 180 days (or 300 days if you have similar rights under state law). And you must file a DFEH complaint within three years.
You should consult with an experienced sexual harassment attorney immediately after experiencing any type of harassment in your workplace. Your lawyer can timely file your legal claims and help ensure you receive the maximum relief for what you have endured.
We Are Committed to Protecting Employee Rights
At King & Siegel, we want employees across the State of California to be safe and respected in their workplaces, and we have the skills and tools to make that happen. Our experienced Santa Clara sexual harassment attorneys were educated at top law schools, trained at the biggest and best firms in the nation, and have won top honors from the legal community. But most importantly, our clients give us top reviews.
We give each client one-on-one attention to develop unique strategies to address their specific needs. Whether you need a fierce advocate to litigate your claims or an expert negotiator to win a settlement on your behalf, we are here for you. And you do not pay us unless we win. So speak to us today about your legal needs. We want to hear your story. You can contact us online or call us now for a free consultation.