Every California worker has the right to a safe work environment and the right to report any violations of employment law they experience. According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers are required to promptly address any incidents of sexual harassment with corrective action and to actively prevent sexual harassment with proper policies and training. Despite these regulations, many employers allow sexual harassment to thrive in the workplace, and hundreds of complaints are filed every year throughout the state.
If your employer fails to correct sexual harassment in the workplace or engages in this misconduct directly, they can be held liable for any damages you experience as a result. Read more about sexual harassment below, then contact the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams to discuss your case with our Costa Mesa sexual harassment lawyers.
Sexual harassment is defined as conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcome, severe or pervasive, and discriminates against workers based on protected characteristics. The law classifies sexual harassment as either quid pro quo or a hostile work environment, but these behaviors often overlap.
- Quid Pro Quo
Latin for “this for that,” quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or other high-ranking individual in a workplace makes sexual advances toward their workers and either explicitly states or implies that submitting to these advances is a condition of employment. This type of harassment can take place during the hiring process, such as telling a job candidate that they must accept harassing behavior to obtain the position or during the course of an employee’s normal work duties.
A supervisor may provide certain benefits to workers who comply with the harassment (such as raises or promotions), threaten to deny these benefits if a worker does not cooperate, or wrongfully terminate someone for speaking up against the misconduct.
- Hostile Work Environment
Just like a supervisor can use their authority to directly engage in sexual harassment, they can also negatively influence the overall working environment by permitting this harassment to happen unchecked. Supervisors are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for their team.
They demonstrate what standards exist in the workplace, what behaviors are considered acceptable, and how workers can respond when their rights are violated. If they fail to promptly address and correct harassment in the workplace, this creates a hostile, intimidating environment for everyone. It also makes them liable for misconduct that occurs.
What Should I Do If I’m Being Sexually Harassed at Work?
If your supervisor engages in sexual harassment or permits it to occur, you can file an official complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), or both. However, you must first report the harassment to your employer according to company policies to give them time to address the claim.
If they fail to investigate the incident or take corrective action, then you can file an official complaint with either agency. If the agency believes you have valid grounds for a sexual harassment claim, they issue a right to sue letter that allows you to file a claim against the offender and/or your employer in civil court.
Q: What Are the 4 Types of Harassment?
A: Workplace harassment occurs in four primary forms – verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual. Verbal harassment is a conscious and repeated attempt to belittle, degrade, or insult someone with words, including making hurtful comments or using threatening language. Psychological harassment is engaging in ongoing hostile conduct that harms a person’s dignity or psychological integrity, such as isolating, discrediting, or intimidating them. Physical harassment is inappropriately touching someone against their will, including groping them, sexually assaulting them, or blocking their movements.
Q: What Is Not Considered Harassment?
A: To be considered sexual harassment, the conduct you experience must be unwelcome, severe or pervasive, and based on a legally protected characteristic, including sex, gender, or sexual orientation. The following incidents would not be considered harassment:
- Making one sexually inappropriate comment or joke
- Asking a coworker for a date one time and not asking again after being refused
- Playing favorites for a reason not based on a protected characteristic
- Correcting a worker on a work process or yelling at them for making a mistake
- Relationships of mutual consent
Q: What Is Harassment Evidence?
A: Providing clear, compelling evidence is crucial for succeeding in a sexual harassment claim. Every case is different, but the most common forms of evidence include:
- Text messages, instant chat messages, emails, or comments on social media
- Intra-office communications
- Physical evidence used to harass you, such as photos or objects
- Testimonies from witnesses who saw the harassment
- Testimonies from coworkers who have received similar treatment
- A record of all incidents, including date, time, location, witnesses, and events leading up to the incident
- Copies of complaints you have made to your employer and their responses
- Medical records or doctor’s reports about the impact of the harassment on your health
Q: What Damages Can I Recover in a Sexual Harassment Claim?
A: If your sexual harassment claim in civil court is successful, you can recover compensation for lost income (back pay or front pay) and emotional distress. Back pay refers to all wages, salary, bonuses, commissions, and benefits you lost due to the discrimination. This includes:
- Overtime pay
- Shift differentials
- Pension benefits
- Vacation time
- Sick days
- Health or life insurance benefits
- Unreimbursed medical expenses that would have been covered by their health plan
If reinstatement to your prior position is not appropriate, you may recover front pay, which is the compensation and benefits you need to make up for the loss of future earnings. You may also be entitled to recover court costs, attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, and punitive damages.
We Can Help You Achieve Justice After Workplace Sexual Harassment
If you are suffering from sexual harassment at work, the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams is here to help you fight back. Our Costa Mesa sexual harassment lawyer can identify all liable parties, determine the best approach for your unique situation, gather evidence of the harassment to support your claim, and advocate on your behalf every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
If you believe you have a legitimate claim of workplace retaliation, Corbett H. Williams is fully prepared to fight for any compensation you rightfully deserve. Cases dealing with unfair workplace actions may seem daunting, but Corbett has had experience with both sides of these issues and knows how to handle these types of cases. Don’t hesitate to call the office at 877-304-7066 to schedule a free case analysis.