Workplace sexual harassment can come in various forms and could encompass many different scenarios. An employee may be sexually harassed by a colleague, a supervisor, a customer, or even a client. Sexually harassing behaviors may include anything from inappropriate comments or jokes and inappropriate or unwanted touching to someone promising you a job perk or promotion in exchange for sexual favors. There is heightened awareness in our society today about workplace sexual harassment thanks to the rise of social movements such as #MeToo and high-profile civil and criminal trials that are receiving widespread media coverage.
If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, it is important that you contact our experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys who can help you better understand your workplace legal rights and options. Call our firm at (818) 990-8300 today.
What Is Considered Sexual Harassment in California?
Sexual harassment does not necessarily have to involve sex or sexual acts. It can include behaviors such as teasing, intimidation, or offensive comments based on stereotypes such as how certain people should act. It could also include bullying someone or a group of employees based on their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
There are two types of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo: This type of sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an employment decision depends on whether the employee submits to conduct of a sexual nature. Quid pro quo sexual harassment also occurs when it is stated or implied that an employee must submit to conduct of a sexual nature in order to continue employment. So, for example, if an employee is made to believe that a promotion or training opportunity is likely if he or she goes on a date with the supervisor or agrees to perform a sexual act, the employee is very likely being subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment. "Quid pro quo" is a phrase that means "this for that."
- Hostile work environment: Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive working environment that is severe, persistent, and pervasive so much so that it affects the employee's ability to fulfill job duties effectively. It's not necessary that a harasser is a person of authority. Sometimes, the harasser could be a peer.
What Acts Are Considered Sexual Harassment?
Here are some of the most common scenarios in which workplace sexual harassment occurs. If you have experienced any of the following it may be in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles.
- Sexual comments: These include dirty jokes or comments about one's physical attributes, spreading rumors about someone's sexual activity, talking about one's sexual activity in front of others, and displaying or distributing pornography. These types of unwanted comments may be made in person or via email, instant messaging, blogs, Web pages, social media, etc.
- Unwanted advances: When someone is sending you letters, or making harassing phone calls, office visits, and pressuring you for dates or sexual favors. These are scenarios where a sexual or romantic intent appears evident but remains unwanted.
- Inappropriate touching: This includes any type of unwanted touching such as hugging, kissing, fondling, or touching oneself sexually for others to view. This also includes criminal acts such as rape, sexual assault, or other forced sexual acts. It is important to remember that if something of a criminal nature has occurred, you should report the incident to law enforcement right away.
- Sexist comments: It is a common misconception that harassment must be of a sexual nature to be considered illegal. However, under Title VII, offensive conduct that is based on an employee's sex that is severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment is also illegal. For example, a workplace might be hostile if supervisors are constantly stereotyping women, telling them to wear specific types of clothing, or are leaving them out of important meetings because of their gender.
- Harassment by others: When a manager or colleague is the harasser, it is illegal. But, under federal law, an employer also has the responsibility to protect employees from harassment by outsiders, who might be customers, clients, vendors, or even business partners. If the employer knows or should have known that harassment is occurring, prompt action must be taken to stop the harassment.
Finally, it is important to note that the harassed and harasser could be of any gender. Traditionally, sexual harassment creates images of a woman being harassed by a man. While this scenario is still more common, there have been a number of cases where women harass men in the workplace. Same-sex harassment, whether it's male against a male or female against a female, is also illegal.
What Can I Do to Legally Protect Myself Against Sexual Harassment?
Here are a few steps you can take right away to help protect yourself and your legal rights:
- Document everything. It is a good idea to keep a log or record of incidents that are happening. If you decide to report or take action, it will greatly help if you are able to point to specific dates and particulars about certain behaviors. So, for example, if your supervisor sent you a harassing email or instant message, save it. If someone made a harassing comment during a meeting, document it right away with the date and time. Make sure you store all this information at home or in a place other than your office, so it is accessible to you when you need it.
- Make your feelings very clear. Make it clear to the harasser that his or her conduct is unwelcome. You should certainly vocalize your discomfort if you feel safe doing so. You could try saying that the type of comment or conversation is inappropriate in the workplace or let the other person know that his or her behavior is making you uncomfortable.
- Contact an employment lawyer. It would be in your best interest to get an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer on your side – someone who has successfully handled workplace sexual harassment cases. Look for plaintiff's lawyers who represent workers rather than employers.
How Can I Report Sexual Harassment?
There are a number of different options you may have to report sexual harassment in the workplace. The option you pick will typically depend on the nature of the harassment and in many cases, the seriousness of it.
Ways to report sexual harassment include through:
- Law enforcement: If the sexual harassment is severe or if the act is criminal, it is important that you report the incident to law enforcement immediately. Whether a sexual assault or rape occurred at the workplace, on a business trip, or off-site, you might want to go directly to law enforcement. File a police report and obtain a copy of the report for your own records. Your employment lawyer can also help you get a copy of the police report.
- Your employer: Most companies have clear policies and procedures when it comes to sexual harassment. Check your employee handbook or other policy documents you may have received when you came on board. Such information may also be available in your employee portal. Your company's policy might direct you to file a complaint with your supervisor. However, if your supervisor is the harasser (which is often the case), you may want to go to his or her supervisor or the Human Relations department.
- Union: If you are a union member, you can also speak to a union representative about sexual harassment in the workplace. Your union rep may be able to serve as a liaison between you and your employer. If your harasser is also a union member, remember that it is the union's job is to protect and advocate for them as well. In such cases, you may want to discuss your case only with your employment lawyer.
- EEOC Claim: You may also choose to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with a state or local agency. You will have to take this step before filing a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal law. Your attorney will be able to fill you in on deadlines each agency has to file such claims and complaints. Once you file a charge, the agency will investigate and determine whether harassment took place. If the agency finds no cause, that will give the employee the Notice of Right to Sue and you can pursue a lawsuit for sexual harassment on your own. If the agency finds there is a cause, they might try to resolve the issue directly with the employer or give you the right to sue so you can proceed with your lawsuit.
- Lawsuit: Once you receive a right-to-sue letter, you have 90 days to file a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit. It is best to discuss this with your employment lawyer. While a majority of lawsuits for sexual harassment tend to settle out of court, you need a Los Angeles attorney on your side who also has trial experience so he or she is prepared to take it to a jury trial, if that becomes necessary.
How Much Compensation Will I Receive in A Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?
If you've been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The amount of financial compensation you receive will depend on the type of harm you've suffered as a result of the sexual harassment.
Some of the common types of damages that can be sought in a workplace sexual harassment cases are:
- Back pay: If you were fired, denied a raise or promotion because of sexual harassment, you may be entitled to back pay that includes wages, benefits, (healthcare, dental, vision, retirement, etc.) and other compensation you would have earned from the time of the negative employment decision up to the date of the jury award or settlement. In addition to wages and benefits, back pay includes bonuses, commissions, tips, vacation, or sick pay as well as stock options.
- Front pay: If you were terminated or were forced to quit because of a hostile work environment created by sexual harassment, you have the right to be reinstated to your former position. If you don't wish to return or if your position is not available anymore, you may be able to receive compensation for any wage loss you are likely to suffer from the date of a jury award or settlement into the future.
- Compensatory damages: You may be entitled to receive compensatory damages for pain and suffering - any physical or emotional injuries you may have suffered because of the sexual harassment. In addition, you may also be able to get compensated for harm to your reputation or out-of-pocket costs for expenses such as psychological counseling, medical expenses, or costs incurred as part of a job search.
- Punitive damages: In some cases, a court may award punitive damages to punish the employer for particularly egregious or outrageous behavior. Punitive damages may be awarded, for example, if your employer was aware of the harassment, but did not take any steps to correct the situation or did something to make it worse.
- Attorneys' fees: If you are successful with your sexual harassment lawsuit, you may also be able to receive attorneys' fees and court costs such as filing fees.
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Our Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyers Can Help if Your Employer Retaliates
If you report sexual harassment in the workplace, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for it. Such retaliation could take several forms including wrongful termination, getting demoted or passed up for a promotion, getting your pay or benefits cut, being transferred to a different position, or being asked to take time off without pay.
Another form of workplace retaliation could be harassment or mistreatment in the form of being ignored by co-workers, not being invited to meetings or being left off emails or excluded from Slack groups, which you were a part of before you reported the sexual harassment. In such cases, you may be able to bring a retaliation claim under specific California statutes or file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Online Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
In workplaces today, most work takes place online. Therefore, sexual harassment could occur and does occur online as well. Many harassers feel more comfortable harassing their colleagues as they hide behind their computers. Online sexual harassment may take the form of lewd comments, sexually suggestive photos, pornography and "sexting."
Online sexual harassment could also include using social media or other online means to bully, stalk, take unauthorized videos of others, engage in revenge porn, etc. Such sexual harassment in the workplace may also be indirect. This means others may receive images, videos or text messages about you. Revenge porn is an example of indirect online harassment.
State and federal laws prohibit online sexual harassment just as they prohibit in-person harassment. If you are experiencing such harassment online, it is imperative that you inform your supervisor or the human resources team right away. Put your complaint in writing so it is documented and on the record. If your employer fails to take corrective action, you may be able to file a sexual harassment claim against your employer.
Our experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers can help you gather evidence and file a complaint in court against your employer. We are here to fight for you, to make sure justice is served and the wrongdoers are held accountable.
Employers in Los Angeles Have a Duty to Prevent Sexual Harassment
Not only are employers required to stop harassing behavior in the workplace, but also to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Employers are required to procedures in place to prevent sexual harassment and to address such behavior when it does occur. In California, the law requires employers with 50 or more employees (including
independent contractors) to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors once every two years. An individual who takes on a supervisorial role is required to undergo a two-hour training session within six months. Such training should cover among other things the type of conduct constitutes sexual harassment, ways to prevent it and supervisors' obligation to report such harassment.
Under California law, employers are required to put in writing an anti-harassment policy that meets certain mandates. The policy should cover the employer's complaint process, instructions to supervisors requiring them to report harassment and confirmation that the employer will fairly and promptly investigate the complaint. Employers must also get a written acknowledgement from employees that they have received the written policy.
When to Contact an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been sexually harassed at work, please do not suffer in silence. Sexual harassment victims are well advised to learn their rights under California law. Our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers at Kingsley and Kingsley Employment Lawyers have helped uphold employee rights for nearly 40 years. Using an employment attorney can help your case several ways. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to fight for any victim of sexual harassment and win. Let us guide you though the legal process. Call or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Our experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney fight for you. We also offer a no-win-no-fee guarantee, which means we don't charge fees unless we win for you.
Our Sexual harassment attorney serves the Los Angeles area including Woodland Hills, Encino, Downtown LA, Calabasas, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Hollywood, San Fernando, and Culver City to name a few.
Kingsley And Kingsley Employment Lawyers
16133 Ventura Blvd #1200
Encino, CA 91436