California Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Do you feel uncomfortable at work because of sexual harassment? No one should have to put up with that at work, even if you love your job and don’t want to cause a stink. You deserve to feel safe. Our California sexual harassment lawyers are here to help.
We Want to Help
You likely have a lot of questions about how this is all going to go down, if you bring a claim. We have answers to your questions like:
- Am I allowed to bring a claim for the behavior I’ve had to deal with?
- Is it actually sexual harassment?
- Do I need to talk to my boss first?
- What if my boss sexual harasses me?
- Who do I go to then?
Reach out to our California sexual harassment lawyers right away to get answers to your questions.
Was This Sexual Harassment?
If it involves unwanted sexual advances, it is sexual harassment. That might be a coworker asking for sexual favors. That might be your boss making lewd jokes to you. You should always talk to a lawyer if you feel uncomfortable at work. It might not be sexual harassment according to law, but you want to know if it is right away, so you can do something about it.
Get Your Evidence Together
A case is made strong because of two major factors. One, how good your lawyer is. Two, how strong your evidence is. It is essential that you do your job at logging the encounters that you want to make a claim about. Having a log of what your coworkers said to you or how your boss handled it will make your lawyer’s job of defending you that much easier.
For example, if you have a written log of the date, time, place, and person who sexually harassed you, that is vital evidence. Take that log or multiple logs to HR or your supervisor. You can collect copies of the emails you received or the emails you sent out regarding your sexual harassment complaints. From there you will have a paper trail of all the activity you took to combat this sexual harassment.
A California sexual harassment lawyer will use all the evidence you collected to build you a strong case. Your lawyer can do their own investigating based on the evidence that you collected. They will use everything you collected to prove that you are a victim of sexual harassment. Also that your employer did not rectify the situation.
You want to make sure you have a California sexual harassment lawyer on your side who knows how to use this evidence to make your case as strong as possible.
When to See a California Sexual Harassment Lawyer
What you need to do before you can bring a claim depends on what policies there are at work. For example, a girl was at work as a cashier where a male cashier was making suggestive jokes and tickling her which made her uncomfortable. She talked to her supervisor about what could be done. She was informed, however, that she needed to have formally made a complaint before discipline could happen.
You need to find out if there are steps you need to take for action to be taken. A lawyer can help you put together your facts to make you feel more confident bringing your complaint to HR.
If action is not taken, you can go right back to your lawyer to discuss how to start a claim.
Protecting Your Rights
You have a right to NOT be sexually harassed at work. Get all your ducks in a row, if you are going to bring a claim. You may need to get documentation of your complaints. That might include written documentation of what has happened to you.
We will guide you through the steps you need to take. We can also guide you on how to make any further reports about your sexual harassment. It’s probably not something you have had to do before. We know how to navigate these cases and protect your rights.
What If My Boss Retaliates?
Fear of retaliation is a big reason why people don’t ever speak up. They are not allowed to retaliate against you, if you file for sexual harassment. We can help you navigate your case the right way so that there is a paper trail for everything. We want to protect you from this. Let us ease your fear.
Frequently Asked Sexual Harassment Questions
Can I file a harassment claim if I am receiving unwanted sexual advances?
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a client about conduct that was happening at work from a supervisor. The supervisor had made comments about the fact that she looked good in what she was wearing and that his wife wouldn’t look as good as what this client looked like in her outfit. The comments made her feel uncomfortable and were unwanted. This client said that she was just there to work, and that’s all that she ever wanted to do, and that she felt that it was inappropriate. Sometimes, as an attorney, I have to have tough conversations with employees as to whether or not conduct like that is unlawful.
Under California law, much like federal law, the court is going to say that before somebody can bring a lawsuit for a hostile work environment, they have to show that it was severe and/or pervasive. Sometimes courts will say that limited comments don’t rise to the level of severe and pervasive, so sometimes it’s difficult as to whether or not one or two comments is enough to protect an employee. It’s important to note that while you might not meet the definition of a hostile work environment, that if you do complain about that conduct to Human Resources or to another manager. You must also complain to the manager that made the comments themselves, so that you’re protected.
While you might not ever meet that definition of a hostile work environment, because the comments were inappropriate and arguably sexual in nature, you should be able to make those complaints without fear of retaliation. If you are retaliated against after complaining about conduct that was sexual in nature, racist in nature, or comments regarding your disability, the employer can’t retaliate against you. If they do, they will be liable for any damage that would cause.
A lot of times people call us about just general advice, or they’ll contact a law firm about general advice as to if this is sexual harassment, and, even if not, what’s my next step? How can I get it to stop? I don’t want to have a claim. I just want to work. If you have questions as to whether or not you’ve been subjected to harassment at work, or what the next step should be, or if you’ve already taken the next step. As a result, you’ve been retaliated against, I would encourage you to talk to a law firm. You’re more than welcome to give us a call here at the firm, and I’m happy to walk you through any questions that you may have on this issue or any other issue. Thank you.
When should I file a workplace harassment complaint?
A question we sometimes get is how bad the harassment needs to be before a lawsuit can be filed. That’s a tough question. It’s a tough question to answer the question of how much is enough. How much harassment are you expected to go through before you can go to court and say enough is enough and that what you were subjected to was unlawful? I think what’s important for you to understand is whether or not you can actually meet the burden of a hostile work environment. Have you been subjected to enough inappropriate comments about your body, or about what sexual positions your supervisor might like, or how many inappropriate text messages or videos your supervisor might have shown you? Whether or not you’ve been subjected to enough for a hostile work environment, you have to understand that you’re protected to complain about one instance of inappropriate conduct.
If you’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment, is it necessary the question as to whether or not you should go to Human Resources. If you’ve been subjected to conduct that you believe is inappropriate in the workplace based off gender or sex discrimination, a racist comment, comments about your disability, comments that were sexual in nature, you always have the right to go to somebody in Human Resources and raise those issues that specifically identify that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment based off of what we call a protected class – sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability harassment. Whether or not you are ultimately able to show that it was what we call severe or pervasive enough, understand that you can’t be retaliated against for making a complaint even with that one comment. The employer has to take your complaint seriously and take steps to prevent harassment in the future. What the employer surely can’t do and clearly can’t do is retaliate against you.
If you make a complaint or if you’ve made a complaint and you feel that you’ve been subjected to retaliation for making that complaint, understand that you have rights. If you have any questions as to how much is enough, or what claims there are as a result of a hostile work environment, or what has happened since you made a claim or what will happen if you make a claim, feel free to give us a call. I’m more than happy to answer your question and walk you through those issues. Thanks.
Where do I 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.
What should I do if I am being sexually harassed at work?
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. Thanks.
Does a supervisor have to report harassment to human resources?
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.
How do I choose the right attorney for my workplace harassment claim?
I think we get phone calls every day from potential clients feeling that they’ve been harassed at work and looking for advice regarding workplace harassment. We get two big questions that fall in regards to harassment when they call us. The first question is if harassment at work is unlawful and they feel they’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment. The second question is what type of attorney is needed if you do feel like you’ve been harassed.
It’s important to note that, a lot of times, I have to talk to the clients about the fact that it’s unlawful for an employee to be subject to harassment based off a certain class or characteristic. Obviously harassment based off of sex, gender, race, disability, or comments that are harassing in nature because of one’s gender, race, disability, under California law. It is unlawful and that an employer can’t subject an employee to a hostile work environment based on that type of harassment.
When an employee feels that they’ve been harassed, it’s important for them to go to a firm that has specific expertise regarding identifying whether or not the conduct that they’re being subjected to is in fact unlawful. Unfortunately, it’s not unlawful to work for a bad employer. In that case it would be meaning an employer that does harass employees, that yells and screams at employees, and that makes employees cry. Shockingly, that’s not necessarily unlawful.
What you have to do is find an attorney that can articulate for you why the harassment that you’re being subjected to is unlawful harassment. You might ask questions like does the supervisor target a specific class of people? Does he only yell and scream at Hispanics? Does he only ask women in the office to go to lunch with him or ask about their marital status and whether or not they’re happy in their marriage? Did the supervisor only start to make comments that were harassing once you informed the supervisor that you needed surgery? Did you have a work restriction that prevents you from doing a certain amount of work and he makes harassing comments about that?
While it’s not necessarily unlawful in California to be subjected to harassment, it is unlawful for that harassment to be based off a protected class. Again, it’s important to hire an attorney or to find an attorney to be able to slow down the process and articulate if this type of harassment is unlawful. Additionally, for that attorney to have an honest conversation with you in saying, “I don’t think it’s necessarily unlawful. It’s unfortunate and it’s unfair, but it might not be unlawful.” Before you get to that question, it is important for you to find a qualified attorney to walk you through those steps. If I can answer any of your questions regarding what’s going on at work, please just reach out to us. I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Can I file a harassment claim if I am not directly employed by the company?
Over the past 20 years since I became an attorney, I’ve noticed that, in America’s workplace, who is considered an employee and who is not considered an employee has changed. Over the last 20 years, there’s been a substantial switch toward using temporary or contract employees. Sometimes those assignments last only for a couple weeks, but other times employees are actually employees of Company A but report to Company B’s work location, and their managers on a day-to-day basis are actually managers that work for a different company.
In these scenarios, who’s liable and who’s the employer? Sometimes we get an employee that works for a temp agency or a contract employee who gets sexually harassed by a manager who works for a different company, or the temp agency employee turns in a work note and the next day the company where he’s been reporting to work tells the temp agency that the assignment’s over and that they don’t need that employee anymore.
It’s important to understand that under California law, most of the time, we can consider both of the temp agency and the other employer to be joint employers. They both share management duties of the employee, are both making decisions as to how much the employee is getting paid and when the assignment will end, and both define what the terms and conditions of their working conditions are. If you’ve been working at a location and have subject to what you believe is unlawful conduct, but it is at the hands of somebody that actually doesn’t work for your employer, you should understand that you still have rights. Liability doesn’t run just to who’s on your paycheck, but also to whomever might direct your work on a day-to-day basis. In California, that actually covers customers as well. In California, if you’re being subjected to harassment by a customer, who is not your employer, then the employer still has an obligation to take steps to make sure that you’re not being subjected to unlawful harassment or discrimination.
If you’re working in a workplace and you’re subject to sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment based on race, or another reason that you believe is unlawful, the fact that it’s less than clear who is doing the harassment and who their employer is should not be an impediment. It’s important for you to talk to a law firm that has expertise in identifying who may or may not be liable. If I can answer any questions for you, please feel free to give us a call.
Is an employer liable for sexual harassment in the workplace?
Last year, we had a case in which an employee was subject to sexual harassment of a co-worker here in California. The question was whether the employer was liable for the sexual harassment of the co-worker. When I say co-worker, what I mean is that the employee that was my client and the employee that was harassing her were on the same level; this other employee wasn’t a manager. During the litigation that became a relatively big issue because in California an employer is what we call strictly liable. They’re liable for the sexual harassment that’s the result of sexual harassment of a supervisor.
Under California law, if your supervisor sexually harasses you, the employer is automatically liable. The employer doesn’t have to know that the harassment was going on, the employer doesn’t have to know that the employee was unfit, and the employer doesn’t have to know that that employee had ever harassed anybody else before. Again, for sexual harassment of a supervisor, whether it’s your supervisor or any supervisor within the company, the employer is going to be liable for the sexual harassment of a supervisor.
For co-workers it’s a little bit different. For co-workers, in order for the employer to be liable, the person bringing the lawsuit, our clients have to show that the employer knew or should have known that the employee was unfit and was likely to sexually harass somebody. A lot of times, the employer knows that this person is unfit. A lot of times, you’re not the first person to complain about the employee. Surprisingly, a lot of times the manager will see the conduct going and say, “Well, that’s just Joe being Joe,” or people will know that that’s Creepy Joe because Joe has been sexually harassing people for years. They didn’t really hold him accountable, so his conduct continued.
It’s important that, if you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment, you find an attorney that knows that there’s a difference between supervisor harassment and co-worker harassment. Find an attorney that can put the resources and uncovering the fact that the employer is liable for the harassment that the employee is being subjected to. If you have any questions regarding sexual harassment at work, please feel free to give me a call. I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding any issue happening at work.
What damages are available in a sexual harassment claim?
As a trial attorney, I think some of the most difficult cases that we have are harassment cases in which we have employees that are being harassed in the workplace because of their gender, or it’s sexual in nature, race-based, or discrimination. A lot of times in a harassment case, the biggest damage that these individuals suffer is the emotional damage of being targeted because of a classification of who they are. They are who they are, they are what they are, and to be targeted because of who you are is tough and it’s real.
When we bring a lawsuit for harassment, one of the damages that we’re looking at is emotional stress of being targeted for who you are in the workplace. Sometimes that’s the sole damage that there is. They haven’t missed a day of work, but for eight hours a day, either daily, weekly, or monthly, they’ve been subject to harassment. That takes a toll. The employee will talk about waking up in the middle of the night, losing weight, gaining weight, the impact the harassment has had on their relationship with their spouse or children, the shame of telling their parents that they’ve been subjected to harassment or telling a sister or brother that they’ve been subjected to harassment. When you look at harassment claims, a lot of times the main damage that we’re looking at is emotional stress because that’s how it affects a person.
Sometimes, as a result of the emotional stress, people start missing work or, as a result of the harassment, they quit. They say, “I can’t take this anymore. I can’t go into work knowing everyday I’m going to be subject to harassment,” so they quit. In those types of cases, we seek damages because of constructive termination. We’re looking at damages based on the difference between what you would have made at the old company and what you’re now making at the new company. We’re looking at damages for that period of time in which you didn’t have a job. We’re looking at the difference between the benefits that you used to make, the healthcare benefits or the paid time off or the medical and retirement benefits, and then those benefits that you don’t currently have. Those are economic damages.
We might also seek punitive damages to literally punish the employer so that they take these types of claims seriously in the future. But for you another person might be subject to the same sexual harassment or race harassment or disability and discrimination harassment, some hostile work environment that’s based on a protected class or protected conduct. In addition, we will be seeking damages of attorneys’ fees and costs. If you go to trial, we’ll ask that the defendant pay for your attorneys’ fees and costs so it doesn’t come out of your pocket.
While most of these cases settle, it’s important for you to find a firm that can articulate to the defendant or articulate to the jury the emotional stress that their conduct caused you. It’s important for you to find a firm that’s willing to fight for you to the end, all the way through a jury trial if need be. What we found is when you find a firm that has the knowledge and the resources to fight until the end, most employers don’t want to go to the end and they want to put this behind them.
If you have questions about conduct at the workplace and what damages might be available, or the process, feel free to give us a call. I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Call Our California Sexual Harassment Lawyers Today
You deserve to have your rights protected. We can help. We want to get justice for you. No one should have to deal with sexual harassment at work. Call us today for a free consultation to go over what to do next.
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