California values safe workplaces. It is illegal when harassment makes you so uncomfortable that you cannot focus on work. A workplace sexual harassment lawsuit enables you to recover for the harassment’s impact on your life and hold your employer accountable for its business practices.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a broad term encompassing many behaviors that interfere with your ability to work, including unwelcome verbal and physical sexual attention. Examples of behavior categorized as sexual harassment include:
- Teasing, name-calling, or jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation;
- Sexually suggestive personal remarks;
- Inappropriate or offensive photos, emails, or text messages;
- Disrespectful remarks about a person’s gender;
- Sexual comments or demeaning illustrations;
- Pressuring workers for dates or sex;
- Requests for sexual favors;
- Unwanted touching, physical contact, or sexual advances;
- Discussing sexual relations, stories, or fantasies; and
- Sexual assault.
Harassment can severely harm a person’s rights, but not all offensive comments count as sexual harassment. The law does not cover occasional or offhand teasing that is not very serious. However, it is illegal when harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. The law also allows recovery when it causes you to face an adverse employment decision, like being fired or demoted. Any person harmed by harassment can have a claim. No one ever has to accept sexual abuse at the workplace.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Your sexual harassment complaint may be sex discrimination based on a protected characteristic, quid pro quo, or a hostile work environment. Your claim may fall under one or all of these categories.
- Gender identity or expression;
- Marital status;
- Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and related medical conditions;
- Sex or gender; and
- Sexual orientation.
When sex discrimination results in an adverse employment action, like firing or demotion, we can help you with your sexual harassment complaint.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
When a superior or manager demands sexual favors in exchange for keeping an employee on the payroll, they engage in quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro quo means “this for that” and is the most recognizable type of sexual abuse in the workplace. A person with authority may force a worker to choose between giving in and being used or standing up and being punished. The law prohibits making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
It is illegal when sexual harassment becomes so pervasive that the work environment becomes intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Additionally, you may have a complaint when the harassment unreasonably interferes with your work performance. The harasser can have any gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. The harassment is actionable when it alters the conditions of the victim’s employment and creates an abusive working environment. The harassment may be a single instance if it is sufficiently severe so as to create a hostile work environment. In addition to the person to whom the harasser directs their comments, any person affected by a hostile work environment might have a claim.
Employer Responsibilities and Liability
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), harassment based on a protected category against an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a contractor is prohibited. Every employer must take reasonable steps to protect its workers and ensure a harassment-free workplace. The law requires employers to train workers on sexual harassment, have a sexual harassment policy to address complaints, and take responsibility for their supervisors, managers, and agents.
In some cases, if the employer fails to respond to or acknowledge a complaint immediately, the employer can be liable for harassment by any employee, supplier, client, or customer. Because employers have a duty to prevent workplace sexual harassment, failing to do so makes them liable for the resulting harm.
What Is the Legal Complaint Process?
When you contact the Torrance sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel, we will ask you to tell us what happened. Our experience with California employment law will allow us to evaluate your case and determine your options under the law. We will likely advise you to follow your employer’s internal complaint process, but we know that is not always possible. Perhaps your employer’s process is ineffective, requires you to speak to a direct supervisor, or does not promptly address your complaint. In those cases, the legal process may be your best option for recourse.
When you make a complaint against a discriminatory employer, the first step is to report the complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The agency will choose to investigate the complaint or grant you a “right-to-sue” notice. When you receive the notice, you and your attorney will file a civil complaint to begin the legal process.
The enforcing agency will notify the perpetrator and your employer of the complaint against them. Sometimes, an employer might offer you a settlement, which may include financial compensation and other stipulations. Your attorney will advise you whether to accept an offer or continue to court. During the legal process, your attorney will handle communication with your employer and keep you informed at every stage.
King & Siegel: Torrance Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Under California law, a harassment-free workplace is a civil right. Employers have a duty to ensure a safe workplace. If you’ve experienced sexual harassment and employment discrimination, the Torrance sexual harassment attorneys at King & Siegel can help. We know that reliving harassment can be difficult or feel like you’re harming your professional reputation. However, filing a sexual harassment lawsuit can have many positive outcomes, the least of which include a sense of justice and a feeling of closure. Our experienced, talented team is dedicated to protecting our clients’ best interests. You can expect dependable legal advice and complete legal services from the attorneys at King & Siegel. Contact us today.