Do you feel sexually harassed at work? Learn the steps to filing a sexual harassment claim here. When you are ready to get started, give us a call today.
1) Choosing a Workplace Harassment Attorney
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.
2) Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
Have you felt sexually harassed in your workplace in California and have questions about these steps to filing a sexual harassment claim? Don’t hesitate. We can help. Contact the experienced California sexual harassment attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
We can help get your life back on track.
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