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Sexual Harassment Lawyers Orange County
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unacceptable situation that requires immediate action. If you or a coworker has suffered unjust harassment of a sexual nature, keep in mind that this behavior is not only illegal but is a violation of your rights. At California Employment Counsel, APC, our team handles a variety of sexual harassment cases in southern California. If you need an Orange County sexual harassment attorney, we can help you determine your legal options.
Enduring sexual come-ons or being stalked was not in the job description. Turning down sexual advances or reporting sexual harassment should never affect your continued employment. Anyone working in California should understand the various protections in place for employees at the federal and state levels. If you encountered any type of situation at work that you believe constitutes sexual harassment, you need to meet with an experienced California employment attorney as soon as possible.
At California Employment Counsel, APC, we know that employment laws and company policies do not always prevent sexual harassment. We know that employers do not always take it seriously or do the right thing. Our attorneys can help you take a stand. We have litigated sexual harassment cases throughout Orange County and Southern California.
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Identifying Sexual Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual discrimination and sexual harassment are related terms that are often conflated. Discrimination refers to actions taken against an employee’s employment arrangements. An example of sexual discrimination would be promoting one employee over another similarly qualified employee purely on the basis of the employee’s sex. Sexual discrimination could also pertain to an employer firing a female employee after she becomes pregnant. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is any action that interferes with an employee’s ability to do their job safely or that threatens the employee’s bodily autonomy.
If you have experienced any type of discrimination, including wrongful termination, demotion, pay cut, loss of working hours, or undesired transfer that you believe only occurred due to your sex or sexual orientation, talk with our team. You likely have grounds for a sexual discrimination claim through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Sexual harassment often accompanies sexual discrimination, but this is not always the case.
Any unwelcome, violent, or otherwise undesirable behaviors directed toward you on the basis of your sex or sexual orientation would constitute sexual harassment. “Harassment” is a somewhat broad term that can apply to many different behaviors.
Unwelcome Sexual Advances
It’s not uncommon for romantic relationships to develop within workplaces. However, some employers prohibit personal relationships between employees in their employee codes of conduct and workplace rules. Other employers do not mind if employees develop personal attachments as long as those relationships do not interfere with the employees’ abilities to perform their job duties. Unfortunately, some employees will attempt to make sexual advances and exhibit sexually aggressive behaviors toward other employees, even after those employees have told them that such behavior is unwanted or who have already declined previous sexual advances. Unwanted sexual attention by a supervisor, co-worker or client may also be grounds for a complaint of sexual harassment:
- Sexual assault or groping
- Kissing, touching or rubbing against you
- Pressure for dates or stalking behavior
- Leering or comments about your body
- Sexually explicit language
- Creating a sexualized or hostile work environment
Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. Teenage employees are especially vulnerable to sexual advances by managers or co-workers. Men can be sexually harassed by women, and same-sex harassment is just as illegal and hurtful as other forms.
Sexual harassment that involves any kind of physical contact could potentially qualify as sexual battery under California state laws. This type of sexual harassment can lead to substantial civil liabilities as well as criminal penalties, including several years in prison, depending on the severity and type of physical contact. Physical sexual harassment in the workplace is widely considered the worst and most damaging form of sexual harassment at work.
Sexual harassment can also occur without any physical contact at all. Coworkers, supervisors, and managers who engage in any verbal antagonization of an employee on the basis of the employee’s sex are guilty of sexual harassment. An employee who experiences this type of sexual harassment at work should immediately make it clear that such behavior is threatening and undesired. In some cases, this may be enough to put a stop to the harassing behavior immediately. In other cases, employees who experience sexual harassment can put a stop to the behavior quickly by reporting it to a supervisor and referring to the employer’s internal conflict resolution policies.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment does not stop at the first “no” for many employees throughout Orange County. Sexual harassment attorneys specialize in gathering evidence that proves unwanted sexual harassment continued despite the victim’s explicit and repeated protests against the behavior. A successful sexual harassment lawsuit can not only help put a stop to abusive behaviors in the workplace but also secure compensation if the victim suffered damages as a result of the harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
The term quid pro quo means “something in exchange.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a manager, executive or owner propositions an employee for sex. The employee may receive gifts, trips or job perks in exchange for sexual favors – or the “incentive” may be keeping one’s job.
It is against the law for a person in a position of power to make such demands or requests because of the threat – actual or implied – to the employee’s job if he or she says no. You may have grounds to sue even if you accepted gifts or engaged in some contact; under the law, a subordinate employee cannot consent to sex with a superior.
It’s possible that a lawsuit for quid pro quo sexual harassment could yield compensatory damages for the victim. If they were denied pay increases, promotion opportunities, additional benefits, or other economic advantages due to an incident of quid pro quo sexual harassment, an Orange County employment attorney could help a victim determine the full scope of their losses due to experiencing sexual harassment.
Did The California Employer Do The Right Thing?
The employer’s role is critical. Under the law, an employer should promptly investigate, provide support services to the victim and sanction or fire the perpetrator. Unfortunately, some employers downplay harassment or retaliate against the victim. We help clients document the details of unwanted advances and how the employer responds.
United States law and the laws of the state of California require employers to write up clear employee codes of conduct and anti-sexual harassment policies for all of their employees. They must develop not only policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment at work but also policies for investigation and handling of an employee’s claim of sexual harassment. Typically, the first line of defense for any employee who experiences sexual harassment is the employer, but some employers will seek to punish an employee unfairly who brings up an issue of sexual harassment, typically to try and preserve the employer’s reputation.
What Is Employer Retaliation?
Federal and state laws grant all employees certain rights, including the right to a safe workplace free of harassment. Employees also have the right to engage in certain protected actions without fearing punishment from their employers. Such protected actions include testifying as a witness in an open court case involving the employer, filing a claim for workers’ compensation, or filing a claim of sexual harassment for internal review. If an employer does not acknowledge the employee’s right to engage in such an action and takes adverse action against the employee instead, this is retaliation.
Retaliation takes many forms, including, but not limited to:
- Firing an employee.
- Demoting an employee or cutting their pay.
- Limiting an employee’s hours or transferring the employee without justification.
- Changing the employee’s workstation without good reason in an attempt to frustrate the employee, such as moving the employee to a much smaller office or more confined workstation.
- Negative performance reviews of the employee following the protected action despite consistently positive performance and previous positive reviews.
This list is not an exhaustive one, and retaliation takes many forms. If you believe an employer engaged in retaliatory behaviors against you in response to your sexual harassment claim, an Orange County sexual harassment lawyer can help you determine your options for legal recourse and assess your potential damages.
It’s vital to seek legal representation as soon as possible if you believe you have grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit. Your Orange County employment attorney can help you build your case, gather evidence, and coordinate your court proceedings on your behalf. Contact California Employment Counsel, APC today to schedule a complimentary consultation from an experienced Orange County sexual harassment lawyer.