Just because the behavior you are exposed to at work does not look like the harassment you see in films or read about in books does not mean you are not a victim of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any harassing behavior that is based on sex or gender and occurs in one of two ways:

  • Your boss or supervisor requires that you accept unwanted sexual advances or sexual requests to keep your job, keep your work benefits, or receive new work benefits; or 
  • An individual in your workplace engages in unwelcome, offensive, sex-based conduct that is so severe or pervasive that your work environment would appear hostile to a reasonable person. 

Individuals can bring harassment into your workplace through the words they say, the actions they take, or the images they display. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, you have a right to receive compensation and legal remedies for sexual harassment you encounter at work. 

Examples of Sexual Harassment

So what does sexual harassment look like in real life? Sexual harassment comes in many shapes, including the following unwelcome behavior: 

  • Touching others without consent;
  • Making multiple requests for dates or other romantic encounters;
  • Telling offensive jokes about sex or gender;
  • Displaying offensive, sex-based images in the workplace; 
  • Making offensive generalizations about sex or gender;
  • Invading the personal space of others;
  • Requiring a subordinate employee to accept sexual requests or advances in exchange for avoiding punishment or receiving rewards at work;
  • Excluding others from work functions or tasks because of their sex or gender;
  • Taunting or insulting others because of their sex or gender;
  • Making sexually graphic gestures;
  • Exposing genitals in the workplace; 
  • Using sex-based slurs;
  • Making comments about others’ appearance or body parts; and
  • Speaking explicitly about sexual activity.

If your experience is not similar to the scenarios listed above, that does not mean you don’t have a sexual harassment claim. Speak to one of our Santa Rosa sexual harassment lawyers about your experience to help ensure that inappropriate actions at work do not go unchecked. 

Who Are the Victims of Sexual Harassment?

Targets of offensive behavior based on sex are not the only sexual harassment victims with a right to complain. If you were not the target of harassment, but you were affected by witnessing harassment, you have a right to file a legal complaint to address it. Sexual harassment can make the workplace an unsafe environment for everyone.

When Is Your Employer Liable for Your Harasser’s Conduct?

Your employer is automatically liable for sexual harassment committed by your supervisor that motivates an adverse employment decision against you. And your employer can be liable for other harassing conduct of supervisors, co-workers, contractors, clients, and customers if your employer had control over the harasser and proper notice about the behavior. 

Sexual Harassment Complaints and Lawsuits

Employees who have suffered the effects of sexual harassment after attempting to stop it and report it to their employer can file legal complaints with the government or lawsuits. You can file a sexual harassment complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And before you can file a lawsuit in federal or state court, you need to receive a notice from the DFEH or EEOC that states you have a right to sue for harassment. 

Deadline for Filing a Complaint

You can file an EEOC complaint only if your employer has 15 or more employees, and you must file within 180 days. Your employer does not have to have a certain number of employees before you can file a DFEH complaint, but you have to file within three years. If you receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, you must sue within 90 days of the notice. And if you receive a Right-to-Sue notice from the DFEH, you must file your lawsuit within one year of the notice. 

Remedies in a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit or Complaint

In a sexual harassment lawsuit or complaint, you can win:

  • Back pay,
  • Compensation for your financial losses,
  • Job reinstatement,
  • Benefit reinstatement,
  • A promotion or benefits initially denied to you, 
  • Policy changes at work, 
  • Compensation for emotional distress, and 
  • Punitive damages. 

Money and policy changes may be inadequate remedies for your trauma, but making your harasser pay and change can help hold them accountable for their misconduct.  

When Sexual Harassment Is Also Sexual Assault or Sexual Abuse

Sexual harassment is illegal, and sometimes it is criminal. The inappropriate touching or invasion of your privacy in the workplace can be criminally punishable behavior in the State of California. 

Sexual harassment can be criminal sexual assault or abuse if your harasser:

  • Touches one of your intimate body parts without your consent and with the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse; 
  • Has sex with you without your consent; or
  • Lewdly exposes their private parts to you without your consent.

Not only do you have a right to sue or file a complaint against this behavior, but you also have a right to report the crime of the harasser to law enforcement.

King & Siegel Is Here to Protect You

At King & Siegel, our experienced Santa Rosa sexual harassment attorneys have helped several clients overcome complex legal issues. Not only are we skilled advocates, but we also guide our clients through the legal process so that they do not have to feel alone or confused by what they are facing. Do not be afraid to ask for help when your workplace mistreats you. We are here to win you justice. Contact us today for a consultation.