If you have been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace, check out these 3 sexual harassment tips for guidance. Then, call our California attorneys.
1. Where to File a Sexual Harassment Claim
As an employment lawyer, we often talk to employees that have already filed a claim with either the EEOC or the state’s version of the EEOC called the DFEH. Sometimes those employees have just filed the claim and they’re within the process of an investigation by one of those two agencies. Sometimes the state agency or the federal agency has issued what’s called a right to sue, telling the employee that the case is closed and that they have a right to sue.
Depending on whether or not the charge has been filed with the EEOC or the DFEH, it’s important to understand that there are time limits that are now commencing, and that you have to bring a lawsuit within a certain number of days. It’s important that, if you’ve gone to the EEOC, you have an attorney ready, willing, and able to take your case to make sure that you don’t miss any timelines. Once you have a right to sue for claims under the Fair Employment Housing Act – discrimination and retaliation based off of a protected class –then and only then can you file a claim in state court.
It’s been our experience that in order for you to get the best results, it is important that you find an attorney that’s willing to file a claim on your behalf in state court. That includes having the expertise to properly exhaust with either the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, EEOC, or the applicable governmental agency, and also have the resources and expertise to make sure that that claim is properly filed in state court. It’s also important that you find a firm that doesn’t simply just send demand letters for a quick hit and a quick response, in which a lot of times you’re settling claims for pennies on the dollar. Find a firm that is willing to fight for you and has the expertise to fight for you, that has the resources to fight for you. Find a firm that has trial attorneys that are able to ultimately take the case to trial, if need be.
Most cases settle, but, if your case doesn’t settle, you have to have confidence that your attorney can take it all the way. It’s important for you to find an attorney that can take the case from the very early stages, with the initial filing of the claim with the DFEH or the EEOC in order for you to get a proper right to sue, all the way up through trial. If you have any questions as to that process, or if you have any questions regarding your underlying plan, feel free to give me a call, and we can discuss any questions that you may have.
2. Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint
Some of the most difficult cases that we’ve taken are cases of sexual harassment. We’ve had the opportunity to represent really good, talented people, both men and women that, unfortunately, have been subjected to sexual harassment. Without getting into the weeds too much, it’s important to note that in California both men and women can be subject to sexual harassment under two theories of law.
There’s one called the hostile work environment. This might be situations in which a man or a woman is repeatedly asked about their marital status, or about what kind of sex they like. They might be shown pictures that are graphic and sexual in nature. They might be groped. They might be grabbed. They might be sexually assaulted in the workplace by a supervisor or subjected to a hostile work environment even outside of work by either a supervisor or by a co-worker. That hostile work environment is unlawful if it’s sexual in nature or if it’s based on some other kind of classification. This could include harassment based off race, in which derogatory and racist language is used towards an employee. It could be based off of disability, in which comments are directly related to the employees disability or need for medical care. Those claims are based in hostile work environment— that an employee at the company is making another employee’s environment simply hostile based on a protected issue.
The other area of the law is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro quo isn’t necessarily graphic or groping or emails or text messages. It’s saying if you want this promotion, you have to sleep with me; that in order for you to get a benefit, you must give the supervisor a benefit that’s sexual in nature. California law also protects other employees that don’t get the benefit. If another person gives into a manager’s relationship, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and, as a result, other employees don’t get the same benefits, that’s also protected under California law’s protection of employees not having to engage in sexual behavior for benefits at work.
I know it’s a lot. There’s a lot there when it comes to hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. It’s important for you to find an attorney that can answer your questions and identify whether or not you are subjected to harassment. If I can answer any of those questions, please feel free to give me a call at the office. I’m happy to take time to educate you as to what rights you have and how to protect those rights.
3. Reporting Workplace Harassment to the HR Department
Last week I settled a case in which one of the issues was the fact that my client had complained about sexual harassment to their supervisor. Apparently, the supervisor didn’t do anything with that information. In this case, Human Resources was back in Iowa and my employee and her supervisor worked out here in southern California. Throughout the litigation, the defendant accused my client of not contacting Human Resources. Why didn’t she contact Human Resources? The reality was the client was never informed how to contact Human Resources. They never posted a phone number, never posted anybody at Human Resources as to who they can contact, and they didn’t provide any process as to how to properly report something to Human Resources.
After a lot of argument, I think the employer realized that, under California law, it’s the employer’s obligation to take affirmative steps to prevent harassment. It’s the employer’s obligation to make sure that they have policies and procedures in place to make sure that, if there’s a complaint of harassment, something is done. When she complained to her supervisor about the harassment, it was our position that the supervisor had an affirmative obligation to contact Human Resources to get the ball rolling regarding her complaints.
To the question of, does my supervisor have an obligation to report my sexual harassment? I think the answer is yes. They actually do have an obligation to prevent the harassment from continuing. If you have a question about whether or not you should tell your supervisor that you’re being sexually harassed and what impact that might have on your employment, or what reaction happened when you went to HR to complain about the sexual harassment, feel free to give us a call here at the firm. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California and have questions about our 3 sexual harassment tips? Contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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