Have You Faced Sexual Harassment In The Workplace? You Are NOT Alone. Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Be A Painful, Heartbreaking, And Challenging Situation To Face — But A Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer Will Fight For You.
The topic of sexual harassment has become a front and center issue over recent years thanks to high-profile criminal trials and societal initiatives like the #MeToo movement, which has led to international media coverage. As the true scale of sexual harassment issues continues to unfold, it’s no surprise to see more and more employees speaking out about their experiences in the workplace.
This type of behavior can present itself in a wide range of circumstances. The harassment can come from a supervisor, a co-worker, or even an individual from outside the organization, like a customer or a vendor. From inappropriate jokes to unwanted touching or promises of a promotion in exchange for sexual favors — it’s against the law.
Do you feel uncomfortable in the workplace because of sexual harassment? No matter how much you love your job, you should NOT have to deal with that. You have the right to a safe workplace.
If you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, don’t suffer in silence. We understand the impacts that a toxic environment can have on its workers. Your physical health and mental well-being are our #1 priority — trust our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer to fight for your right to a SAFE workplace. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation.
Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment
There can sometimes be a fine line between what’s seen as either appropriate or inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Sometimes a joke or comment can come across as harmless to one employee, while another employee finds it offensive or degrading.
Sexual harassment is typically the result of repeated unwelcome behaviors, but isolated incidents could be categorized as sexual harassment depending on the severity of the unwelcome conduct.
Sexual harassment does NOT always involve overtly sexual acts or propositions. Physical or verbal conduct used to tease, intimidate, or bully employees (including conduct directed at gender identity or sexual orientation) can also be considered sexual harassment even if the sexual nature of the conduct is not explicit.
Many state and federal anti-discrimination laws frequently overlap with sexual harassment claims. Race, religion, age, disability — it can be challenging to determine the best way to defend your rights. It’s important to seek appropriate legal counsel from a firm experienced in handling all aspects of employee rights, including workplace discrimination.
What if I Didn’t File A Complaint About the Sexual Harassment?
Employers have a legal duty to prevent sexual harassment. There is NO requirement that employees file a complaint with their employers about it. Employers in California have a duty to “take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring” (Cal Government Code Sec. 12940 (k)), regardless of whether an employee complains. It’s the employer’s responsibility to have appropriate measures in place to deter sexual harassment. Any employer who fails to take these steps violates California law.
The Two Most Common Forms Of Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
There are two main forms of sexual harassment that are most commonly seen in the workplace: Quid pro quo (“something for something”) harassment and hostile work environments.
The state of California no longer distinguishes between the two when handling cases. However, it’s important to understand and recognize the different types of workplace harassment. It’s also important to note that gender is irrelevant to sexual harassment — whether the sexual harasser is male, female, or nonbinary, or the victim is male, female, or nonbinary is irrelevant. The behavior determines what constitutes sexual harassment. Moreover, sexual desire or attraction is not required for behavior to constitute sexual harassment. The behavior determines sexual harassment, not the intention of the harasser.
Quid Pro Quo
The Latin term directly translates to “something for something.” When a proposition is made for an employee to fulfill or consent to sexual requests or advances in exchange for some sort of employment benefit or opportunity, this is called quid pro quo. For example, a supervisor tells an employee that the employee will get a promotion if they were to go on a date with the supervisor, or if they threaten the stability of an employee’s job if they do not go out with them.
Hostile Work Environment
When a work environment becomes so toxic — as a result of sexual-related harassment — that it begins to have detrimental impacts on its employee’s job performance, it’s referred to as hostile work environment sexual harassment.
In court, some factors will be used to determine if there is legitimate hostility in the workplace:
- The frequency of the type of behavior in question
- Whether the accused harasser is a coworker or an authority figure
- If there is more than one individual reporting harassment
- If more than one employee is partaking in the harassment
What Acts Are Considered Sexual Harassment?
Generally, sexual comments are considered one of the verbal forms of sexual harassment. This involves behaviors like joking or making crude comments about an employee’s physical attributes, spreading rumors about their sex life, or sharing private information. These unwanted comments can often be considered sexual harassment.
Unwanted advances involve propositions in the workplace. Advances could be verbal, written, or over a text message. Although it’s not uncommon for a coworker to ask another out on a date, it must be done respectfully. Unwanted advances or negative consequences for declining an advance may give rise to a valid sexual harassment claim.
Inappropriate physical touching is one of the most indicative signs of sexual harassment. Employees that experience inappropriate touching may consider filing a police report, and may also have a civil claim for sexual assault. The Malk Law Firm frequently brings claims for assault along with sexual harassment.
Sexist comments are derogatory remarks directed towards a specific individual or group of individuals. The most common example, being derogatory comments made against women in the workplace. This includes insults, jokes, slurs, or any other type of verbal harassment. Sexual harassment claims are taken very seriously in California, comments alone are often enough to give rise to a claim.
Examples Of Sexual Harassment
Under California state law, sexual harassment includes but is not limited to the deliberate, repeated sharing of private information, verbal or physical conduct, or making inappropriate gestures, comments, and requests.
There may be sexual harassment present is you’ve witnessed or experienced:
- Inappropriate touching, grabbing, and groping.
- Explicit remarks being made about another person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
- Messages or emails with sexual jokes or innuendos.
- Multiple advances being made towards an employee (after declining the offer).
- Verbal abuse, unnecessary sexual content in dialogue.
- Frequently rubbing up against or standing too close to an employee.
- Sharing or distributing sexually suggestive information.
Both victims of sexual harassment and the harassers can be male or female. They can be supervisors, coworkers, vendors, clients, or anyone who interacts within the work environment.
What Should I Do If I’m Being Sexually Harassed At Work?
1. Review Workplace Policies And Begin Documenting EVERYTHING
You can never have too much documentation. As the incidents happen, take down as many notes about the situation as you’re able to. This will be a great help to any lawyer that works on your case. Record specific dates and times, what behaviors you witnessed, what other people were around, and how you reacted. Keep this information in a safe place outside of your office so that you can access it if you need it. Begin reviewing your workplace policies and procedures to ensure proper protocol is followed when making a claim.
2. If You Feel Safe, Report Harassment To Supervisors Or HR
People frequently fear retaliation from their employers. Why? Because it happens often. If you feel comfortable doing so, report your claim in writing – keep a copy of it (email works) – to your superiors or an HR department. Stating your claim places the onus on the management team to conduct an investigation and produce a solution that keeps the employee and other employees safe from future sexual harassment.
3. Contact A Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer
You don’t have to handle your claim alone. No matter what stage of the process you are in, an experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer will help ensure your employee rights are protected, and your harasser is held responsible. Start building your claim with a free consultation.
4. Confide In Family, Friends, Or A Licensed Professional
Just like sexual assault cases, sexual harassment can be very traumatizing for victims. It’s important to have friends or family outside of the workplace that you can confide in. Establishing a group of trusted people, a support system, can really help you cope with your experiences… whether you choose to pursue legal action or not.
What if the harasser isn’t an employee?
California employers are responsible for preventing sexual harassment, even where the harasser is not an employee. California Government Code §12940(j) prohibits an employer from sexually harassing an employee on the basis of gender, and the legislature amended this section to make employers responsible for acts of non-employees. That section states, in relevant part:
“An employer may also be responsible for the acts of non-employees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees, applicants, unpaid interns or volunteers, or persons providing services pursuant to a contract in the workplace, if the employer, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
Once an employer is notified of sexual harassment, it must take adequate remedial measures. The measures need to include immediate corrective action that is reasonably calculated to (1) end the current harassment and (2) deter future harassment.
If your employer did not take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, we may be able to help. Please contact us for a free consultation.
Filing A Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim
If you believe you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, there are a number of different ways you can file a claim, depending on the seriousness of harassment:
- Law Enforcement – If the sexual harassment is severe, caused injury, or it’s a criminal act, call law enforcement as soon as possible. File a police report to get them involved for your protection and to have the incident documented.
- Your Employer – Your company should have clear policies and procedures outlining how to handle claims of sexual harassment. Communicate with your supervisor or the HR department if you can, be sure to ask for documentation stating that you’ve made a claim. Your employer is required to make the harassment stop, and you can request a follow-up meeting to discuss their solution.
- Union – A union’s job is to protect and advocate for employees. If you are part of a union, you can file a complaint with a union representative. If the harasser is part of the same union, this may not be the most effective resolution.
- EEOC Charge -The EEOC or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will investigate your sexual harassment claim to determine whether the claim is supported by evidence. They may work toward a solution with your employer or provide you with a right-to-sue prompting you to contact a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer.
- DFEH Charge – The DFEH, or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, is the California counterpart to the EEOC. Just the EEOC, the DFEH will investigate your sexual harassment claim, and can also issue a right-to-sue letter which you can show a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer.
- Lawsuit – With your right-to-sue letter, you can pursue a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit. You have 300 days from the receipt of the letter to file your case in court.
No matter what stage of the process you are in, a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer can guide you through the process of filing a complaint.
What Will A Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer Discuss With Me?
Employers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe. They can be held directly responsible for the behaviors and actions of the managers and supervisors they employ, as well as other employees in some circumstances. Merely being aware of inappropriate conduct and failing to take adequate measures to resolve the issue can prompt a valid complaint.
If you’re a past or present employee and are thinking about filing a sexual harassment claim, speak with a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer to understand all of your options. Your lawyer will focus on a range of details to determine how to best handle the case.
The Nature Of The Conduct
Your attorney will try to determine EXACTLY what happened during the alleged harassment. How you responded— If you made it clear that the behavior was unacceptable or if you participated in the behavior at some point. Your attorney will also gauge just how offensive the conduct was and if any reasonable person would have been equally offended given the same circumstances.
The Impact On You
Employees who encounter sexual harassment in the workplace often suffer with it for long periods over fears of their employer retaliating against them (firing, demoting, cutting hours). Anytime there is harassment (especially of a sexual nature), the victim incurs some sort of emotional loss — grief, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment (life or workplace), isolation, and emotional distress. It can be tough to handle sexual harassment alone in an environment that feels like it’s against you.
Who Committed The Offense
Each altercation is going to be handled uniquely depending on WHO committed the offense. If the harassment was by a co-worker or a customer, the employer is typically only responsible if they knew or should have known about the behavior and failed to take preventative and corrective actions. A lawyer can determine whether the harasser can be considered a supervisor for purposes of a sexual harassment claim, or whether the employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment by a non-supervisor.
Whether The Conduct Was Reported And/Or Documented
It’s necessary to determine precisely how the conduct was reported. Most organizations have policies and procedures documented that outline how employees should handle these types of harassment. Your lawyer will ask for any sort of documentation you may have to support your claim (e-mails, text messages, notes, witnesses). Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t report the conduct.
What Damages (If Any) You Are Seeking
A few types of damages a victim can seek to recover in a sexual harassment claim are emotional damages, economic damages, and punitive damages. Emotional damages are common due to the nature of the harassment. As a result of excessive emotional stress, the victim’s mental well-being can be strongly impacted. Economic damages are often a result of missed work and lost income. Employees may begin to call in sick more frequently to avoid stress in the workplace or even just quit. Punitive damages are pursued solely to “punish” the employer for their negligence and hopefully push them to handle sexual harassment in the workplace more seriously.
Finding The Best Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer For You
If you’re an employee or ex-employee and you believe you’ve been facing some kind of harassment, it’s important to find a lawyer with specific expertise in handling employee rights legal matters. They can help distinguish between an employer’s “bad” but lawful behavior, and an employer’s unlawful behavior to determine if your case is worth fighting.
Sometimes you may just need an honest professional to tell you, “I believe it’s unfair, but not technically unlawful,” sparing you and your employer from unnecessary litigation. A skilled Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer should ask questions like:
- Are there other employees or supervisors joining in on the harassment?
- Did you ask for the harassment to stop? What happened?
- In what form did the harassment take place?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. A good lawyer will take the time to carefully review each aspect of your case to help develop the best strategy for moving forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of lawyer do I need for workplace harassment?
If you’re handling a workplace harassment issue, you’ll need a lawyer that specializes in protecting the rights of employees in the workplace. A skilled employee rights lawyer will help determine if you have a valid claim against your employer and establish the best strategy for moving forward with your claim.
Can I bring a sexual harassment claim if I still work for the company?
Absolutely. Employers have a responsibility to ensure safe working environments for their employees. If you feel that you have a sexual harassment claim: (1) review your companies policies and procedures to establish how to best report the claim. (2) Report the harassment to a supervisor or HR if you feel comfortable doing so. (3) Now that you’ve brought the harassment to their attention, it is their responsibility to do everything, within reason, to diffuse the situation and prevent future harassment.
Is it hard to prove harassment?
Harassment in the workplace can be challenging to prove. You’ve likely heard of the term “he said, she said” to describe conflicting claims being made without proper witnesses. If you believe that harassment is taking place, begin to document as much as possible. If the conduct is over email or text messages, keep those in a safe place. If these interactions are in-person, keep a journal of everything that happens between you and the harasser.
Can I sue a former employer for sexual harassment?
After receiving a right-to-sue notice, you can pursue a lawsuit against your former employee. As per the California legislature (2020), you have up to 3 years from the time of the sexual harassment to file a lawsuit.
Top-Rated Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer
After experiencing any type of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s difficult to know where to turn, to know who you can trust. At the Malk Law Firm, we have successfully represented employees against large and small companies (all over California and Washington) in various labor and employment-related lawsuits.
- Sexual Harassment
- Workplace Discrimination
- Unpaid Wages & Overtime
- Expense Reimbursements
- Meal Breaks & Rest Breaks
Trust our team to fight for your rights in the workplace. Our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer is available for a free consultation to discuss your options. Please reach out today to tell us about your case.