Workplace sexual harassment in California is illegal. You have the right to a work environment free from sexual assault, hostility, and harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is any conduct that creates a hostile, offensive or intimidating environment. California law clearly states that sexual harassment conduct does not have to have anything to do with sexual desire, but rather is based on an employee’s sex (or gender identity), or sexual orientation. At California Employment Counsel, APC we know you have rights in the workplace and can work with you regarding your sexual harassment grievance.
What conduct constitutes sexual harassment?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC) has established guidelines regarding the definition and context of sexual harassment, including the following:
- Derogatory comments with a sexual overtone
- Unwanted touching (i.e. back rubs, “accidental” brushes against your body, etc.)
- Unwanted sexual propositions
- A “quid pro quo” offer of benefits for sexual favors
- Threats to reduce your hours, benefits, or pay if you don’t comply with a sexual request
- Rude, intimidating, leering, or other gestures or behaviors
- Discussion of sexual acts or activities
- Loss of employment or other benefits after filing a harassment complaint
- Sexually suggestive objects, pictures, etc.
- Graphic comments or obscene messages
- Someone prohibiting, impeding or blocking your movements
Federal and State Laws Against Sexual Harassment
California is governed by three sets of laws that prohibit workplace sexual harassment:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – This federal law establishes the foundation for the prohibition of all discrimination, which includes sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The Fair Employment and Housing Act (called “FEHA”) – This California state law mirrors the federal law, and establishes the law governing sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The California Constitution – The Constitution of California itself prohibits any discrimination or harassment based on sex. While most sexual harassment claims are not brought under the California Constitution, it is important to note that it also directly prohibits discrimination and harassment.
Your Sexual Harassment Action Plan
If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace in California, these steps will help you if you are planning to file a complaint.
- Documentation. Try to document all parts of the sexual harassment conduct if possible. If that is not possible, then keep a notebook to write the offending behavior down, including date, time, etc. If you have witnesses who are willing to support your claim, request that they do so in writing.
- Report the Sexual Harassment to your Employer. Take all of your documentation and make an official report with human resources or the supervisor in charge. Oftentimes, your employer will have policies and procedures in place for these claims. Remember to keep all documents that your employer gives you with respect to your claim.
- Complete Your Employer’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures. If your employer does have a procedure in place to handle sexual harassment claims, attempt to go through that process as much as possible. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, contact an attorney right away.
- Contact an Attorney. At any point in the process, you have the right to visit with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer and make a decision to file a lawsuit regarding your sexual harassment claim. Statute of limitations deadlines are strict and speaking with an attorney will help you understand your rights and protect your claim.
Guidance and Advocacy from Experienced Employment Lawyers
At California Employment Counsel, APC, we know that you may feel nervous to come forward and file a sexual harassment claim. If your employer refuses to take action regarding your sexual harassment report, or worse, retaliates against you somehow due to your sexual harassment claim, contact one of our experienced attorneys today. Our experienced attorneys offer a free consultation to discuss your case of sexual harassment in the workplace. Contact us online or call (714) 462-8376 to discuss your legal rights today.