If you believe you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, contact the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams at 949-679-9909. You can also contact us using the contact form on this website and we will respond promptly.
It may be difficult to believe, but sexual harassment remains a significant problem in the 21st century workplace. A recent study of over 2,000 full-time and part-time women employees found that one-third of women had experienced sexual harassment at some point in their working lives. Sexual harassment isn’t limited to women, however, all genders can be victims.
What Are the Three Types of Harassment?
There are three main categories of sexual harassment, and actions generally fall into one of the three. In some severe cases, a harasser can perpetrate harassment against their victim in more forms than one. The three main types of harassment are:
These categories are very broad, but they generally sum up how harassment can occur. Any form of sexual harassment can create a hostile work environment.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in Orange County, California
There are many examples of how sexual harassment can appear in the workplace within those three categories. Sexual harassment comes in many forms and isn’t always about sex. It can be about a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity. Some common examples include:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual slurs
- Displaying inappropriate pictures or other materials
- Persistent leering or suggestive gestures
- Sending unwanted sexual emails or text messages.
This is not an exhaustive list, as each situation is different. However, it is essential to remember that sexual harassment is never okay and should not be tolerated. Regardless of the actual conduct, sexual harassment is always a corrosive factor in the workplace and can take a severe mental and emotional toll on victims.
Thankfully, California law gives employees powerful tools to fight against sexual harassment. However, if you are experienceing sexual harassment at work, you should take some important steps , including reporting the harassment and documenting it in writing.
Determine the Type of Sexual Harassment
You must determine which kind of sexual harassment is happening to you. There are two distinct categories of sexual harassment, and it is important to understand what is happening to you to properly build your case. We have outlined the types of sexual harassment below.
The law generally recognizes two different types or categories of sexual harassment. The first is called “quid pro quo,” which is Latin and translates as “this for that.” In quid pro quo sexual harassment, an employment benefit, such as a promotion, a raise, or the job itself, is conditioned on the employee’s acceptance of a supervisor’s harassing conduct—sexual advances, for example.
The other commonly recognized form of sexual harassment is called “hostile work environment” sexual harassment. In a hostile work environment case, a supervisor’s or coworker’s harassing conduct is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment for the victim. You don’t have to be the direct target of harassing conduct to file a hostile work environment claim. All the law requires is that the employee prove that he or she is the victim of a hostile work environment. Thus, a woman who witnesses her coworker being propositioned and groped would, for example, have a claim for hostile work environment sexual harassment.
The term “hostile” has the connotation of something that is physically menacing. However, hostile work environments are not always this way. A hostile work environment is one that makes it uncomfortable or difficult to do your job.
For example, if your coworker makes sexually explicit comments to you every time she walks past your desk, it may be challenging to focus on your daily tasks. Knowing that she may come by at any moment and say something degrading makes it hard to concentrate. This is a hostile work environment.
Another example of a hostile work environment can occur in a quid-pro-quo scenario. Let’s say that you are up for a new promotion, but your boss demands sexual favors from you weekly to earn the job. This would make it difficult to do your work well, knowing that your employment and new job hinge on unwanted sexual advances. This creates a hostile work environment where it is difficult and uncomfortable to do your work.
It can be intimidating to approach a sexual harassment situation if you don’t know what the outcome could be. Many people want to understand who could be held accountable if they win their case. There is no single answer to this, as it depends on several factors. However, there are some basic questions you can ask to get a good idea of who might be responsible:
Who Is Doing the Sexual Harassing? (Supervisor Versus Coworker)
In Orange County, if the harassment is by a supervisor, the employer will be held strictly liable. In other words, if the employee can prove 1) that unlawful harassment occurred and 2) that it was by a supervisor, the employer will have no defense to liability.
On the other hand, if the harasser is a coworker, the employer will be liable only if a supervisor knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take corrective action. Thus, for example, if you tell your boss that your coworker is sexually harassing you, but your boss neither speaks with your coworker nor punishes them, your employer is liable for the harassment.
An employer can also be liable for harassment by a customer or another person the employee comes into contact with as part of the job if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment. This includes individuals such as:
- Maintenance staff
It is essential to your safety to remember that not all perpetrators of sexual harassment need to be employed at your place of work for you to seek justice. Your company is responsible for keeping you safe while you are working.
Because the legal standard in Orange County for hostile work environment sexual harassment is severe OR pervasive, even a single instance of harassment can be enough if it is SEVERE enough. In contrast, less severe conduct is actionable if it is PERVASIVE enough.
Evidence of the Behavior
You also have to provide evidence of the behavior and show that it was based on a protected characteristic. For example, in the case of sexual harassment, it is vital to show the harassment or discrimination was due to your gender, sexuality, sexual identity, etc., or that the harassment was sexual or suggestive.
Evidence That the Harassment Was Unwanted
Additionally, you have to show that the action was unwanted. This is easy to do if you have emails or text messages between yourself and the perpetrator or yourself and your boss showing that the behavior made you uncomfortable. If the action is not virtual, note down any times you asked the perpetrator to stop or went to a supervisor for help. Write down the date, what happened, and what you said.
Talk to an Attorney if You’ve Been Sexually Harassed in Orange County, CA
If you are part of a sexual harassment case, you should seek legal help from an Orange County sexual harassment lawyer. Your attorney will be able to tell you how to proceed with your case and assemble the proper evidence. These cases can seem complicated and intimidating, but the right family law attorney can help ease any stress and anxiety you might have.
Successful plaintiffs can recover lost wages, compensation of other economic losses, emotional distress damages, interest, and attorney fees. Punitive damages, which are designed to punish and deter other employers from engaging in similar conduct, can be awarded in cases where the employer’s officers, directors, or managing agents knew of the harassment.
It is difficult to give a single estimate of the potential costs in a sexual abuse or harassment case. Costs will depend on individual attorney fees, how long the case lasts, who wins, the settlement amount, and any unintended results of a trial or publicity.
It is always best to discuss costs with potential attorneys before you decide to work with them. They will be able to give you a better idea of their rates, the likelihood of winning the case based on the evidence, and potential costs you may encounter.
Your attorney will also be able to determine what size settlement you may be able to earn. In all cases, speak with your attorney at length about costs and finances before beginning.
For many years, the statute of limitations for sexual harassment cases was one year. However, the California government now recognizes that it is not always simple nor straightforward to report sexual harassment in the workplace. Many people fear for their employment, are intimidated or threatened by the behavior, or believe that their workplace will treat them differently if they come forward. For this reason, the statute of limitations is now three years, meaning you have that much time to file your claim.
However, your case has a better chance if you come forward sooner rather than later. When evidence is fresh and readily available, your attorney can create a more convincing argument. Witnesses or bystanders are likely to forget details when more time goes by, and perpetrators have extra time to create a defense. Though it is difficult, if you can report the behavior when it happens, you are more likely to win your case. You may also prevent the perpetrator from harming others as well.
You cannot be punished for reporting sexual harassment. It is against California and U.S. federal laws for your employer or coworkers to punish you for seeking justice. This means that you cannot be fired for reporting your story, nor can you be excluded from essential meetings, memos, information, or promotion opportunities because of what happened.
Though these laws cannot force your coworkers to invite you to happy hour or other social events, it does ensure that you are protected against work-related discrimination following your suit. Many people find this to be a comfort, giving them the security and confidence they need to come forward with their stories.
In all legal scenarios, it is essential that you find an attorney that you trust. This is especially true during a sexual harassment case. Your attorney will need to know about the details of your case and may ask you intimate questions about the harassment you have experienced. Similarly, they will need to be privy to any evidence you have, such as photos, emails, texts, conversations, etc.
Though you have nothing to be ashamed of, many people feel embarrassed about what has happened to them. It can sometimes be easier to seek an attorney of the same gender. Some people feel more comfortable talking about sexual harassment with people who have similar life experiences. No matter who you choose, be sure that you feel as though you can talk freely with them.
It is also essential to look for an attorney with extensive experience in sexual harassment cases. These cases are complicated and can get messy. Find an attorney who has experience with these cases and has a good track record fighting them. If you are going to go through the process of seeking justice, it is worth it to find someone who can accurately fight for you.
If you need representation in a sexual harassment case, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams are here for you. We believe that all employees have the right to a safe, respectful work environment at all times. Therefore, we devote ourselves to protecting the employees of California and ensuring that perpetrators of sexual harassment see proper justice.
For more information or to set up a consultation, contact us online today.