Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorneys Representing Victims In California
Both California and federal laws protect workers from unwelcomed sexual advances in the workplace, or even off-site if the abhorrent behavior is connected to their employment. Unwelcomed sexual advances can include unconsented touching or threat of touching, requests for sexual favors, verbal assault or sexual innuendo, or even offensive sexual comments in some contexts. Sexual harassment can come from a peer or a supervisor, or even a client or vendor. All employees should be free from harassment at work, capable of reaching their full potential, and entitled to a work environment that is safe and thriving.
If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment in California, call today to arrange for a free consultation with the Law Office of Scott R. Herndon. We will evaluate your claim and advise you as to your options in a compassionate, courteous, and timely manner.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorneys Representing Victims In California
Workplace sexual harassment can take many forms and can be directed at you personally or be founded in a hostile work environment.
- Unconsented physical touching or threat of touching: Everyone has the right to be free from unwanted touching, especially at the workplace. What might initially seem like an inoffensive hug, pat, or squeeze, if unwanted, is an assault on your person, and when it comes from a supervisor, it can feel oppressive. Unconsented touching is one of the most actionable claims of sexual harassment.
- Requests for sexual favors: Whether implied or explicit, no one should be subjected to demands for sexual favors at the workplace, especially not from a supervisor who has any authority over you, your work assignments, promotion or retention, scheduling, or salary. Supervisors cannot pressure an employee to perform sexual acts with vendors or clients either.
- Sexual comments: Generally directed at women, gender fluid, or gay and lesbian workers, hurtful sexual comments might include jokes, insults, slurs, or even masquerade as compliments. If they are sexual in nature, even if sounding favorable, these kinds of comments do not belong in the workplace. You are employed to do your work, and do it well—not to labor under objectification and abhorrent behavior.
- Repeated propositions: A single request to go out on a date from a co-worker is not sexual harassment. This kind of behavior can develop into harassment if it is repeated, or if the request comes from someone who has authority over you at the workplace. No supervisor is entitled to take adverse action against you or your career for refusing a sexual proposition.
- Favoritism and unequal treatment: A supervisor may not reward or punish an employee on the basis of accepting or rejecting a sexual advance. This is a cornerstone of equity in our employment laws.
- Unwanted sexual advances: Unwanted sexual advances—such as verbal or written in texts or emails—are prohibited and constitute sexual harassment.
- Quid pro quo: When engaging in sexual conduct becomes a condition of employment, retention, or advancement, it becomes quid pro quo harassment and it is illegal.
- Hostile work environment: Both isolated and regular incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace might rise to the level of a hostile work environment. Since 2019, a single incident that interferes with work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment is actionable as sexual harassment. While periodic or regular offensive conduct is an amplified version of this behavior, it is important to understand fundamental protections also extend to a single event.
Requirements to File a Workplace Harassment Claim
Many sexual harassment claims go unchallenged because it takes courage and determination to bring a charge. An employee needs a good support system, including a sympathetic and effective lawyer.
Although an employer may not retaliate against an employee for filing a claim, oftentimes workplace relationships change in the wake of making such a charge. The psychology of objectification can turn into self-blame, rationalization, and denial. Consequently, California recently amended its statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims from one year to three years, effective January 1, 2020. Although it is currently unclear whether the elongation of the statute of limitations to three years can be applied retroactively, any claim for harassment occurring after January 1, 2020, must be initiated within a three-year time span, and it is best to contact an attorney immediately if you have questions about how to protect your rights.
While many sexual harassment issues can be handled effectively by a seasoned lawyer through informal means, a formal claim begins with a complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency can pursue the claim on your behalf or issue a right to sue letter, a requirement in order to file a lawsuit to litigate the claim in either California or federal court. Once the right to sue letter is issued, an employee has one year to file a lawsuit.
Some of our most effective results come from negotiations with an employer before a complaint is filed administratively. Swift action to cure workplace harassment and reinstate workplace harmony is in the best interests of the employer and employee. However, when an agreement cannot be reached, once a right to sue letter is issued, you may file a lawsuit to pursue all the remedies allowed under the law.
- Damages for emotional distress
- Hiring or reinstatement
- Back pay or promotion
- Changes in policies or practices at the workplace, including removal of offending supervisors or employees
- Attorneys fees and costs of litigation
Sexual Harassment FAQs
How do I file a claim against my employer for sexual harassment?
The first thing you should do is consult with a skilled and experienced sexual harassment attorney to have your claim assessed and to explain how to proceed. Many employers have employee handbooks that lay out the internal procedures to notify the employer about harassment at the workplace. Your ability to file a claim with a government agency and to file a lawsuit is somewhat dependent on using the internal structure first, with limited exceptions. You must allow your employer to correct the situation. Upon lodging a complaint, your employer may not retaliate against you.
If internal procedures do not remedy the situation, then you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These complaints are automatically cross-filed so that you do not close off any options early in the process. The agency will investigate your claim to determine whether it will pursue it on your behalf. If it declines, the agency will issue a right to sue letter, which allows you to file a lawsuit in either California or federal court. That decision as to which court is best explained by your attorney.
How do we prove sexual harassment in the workplace?
The conduct need not be sexual in nature, but it needs to be directed at you because of your sex or sexual orientation. The conduct must be unwelcomed and unconsented as well as severe or pervasive. Although a severe isolated incident might be actionable, most sexual harassment is cumulative. The conduct must be objectively, and subjectively, offensive. That doesn’t mean that the actor had to intend to be offensive, but that a reasonable person, under those circumstances, would find the conduct offensive. And lastly, the conduct must have caused damage: economic loss, for missing work; emotional or physical distress.
Law Office of Scott R. Herndon is Dedicated to Ensuring the Rights of Workers Facing Sexual Harassment
When facing sexual harassment in the workplace, we understand how important supportive and compassionate legal services are to your well-being in the pursuit of justice. This isn’t an easy claim to bring. Here is where experience and a dedication to your dignity and humanity make a difference in legal representation.
The only way to fully protect your rights is to consult with a knowledgeable and skilled Bay Area harassment attorney. Scott R. Herndon is a plaintiff’s lawyer. He has years of experience as a practicing attorney and as a law professor with expertise in negotiations, administrative law, as well as litigation.
Contact a skilled sexual harassment attorney in California
At the Law Office of Scott R. Herndon, you will find compassionate advocates who understand how it feels to be wronged. We will review your circumstances in a free consultation and realistically evaluate your claim. Whether we help negotiate a safe work environment with your employer, file a claim with the EEOC or California agencies, or bring a suit for damages, you will be fully apprised of all your options so that you can decide how you want to proceed. Contact us today at (415) 360-5477.