Every employee in the US has the right to a workplace that is completely free of sexual harassment and discrimination. When a coworker or supervisor engages in sexual harassment and creates a hostile work environment for an employee, employees must know their legal options.
The attorneys at California Employment Counsel, APC specialize in employment law in California. We understand how challenging it can be to face sexual harassment in the workplace. When it seems like your organization is unwilling to address the issue internally or if your harasser is a supervisor preventing you from obtaining an internal review of your situation, it’s time to call for help from an established employment attorney. It’s vital to understand the definitions of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, so you know when you can take legal action for the harassment you’ve endured.
Sexual Harassment And The Hostile Work Environment
For most people, the traditional idea of sexual harassment is a boss making unwanted advances towards an employee. However, there is another kind of sexual harassment that is just as illegal known as the hostile work environment. What exactly is the hostile work environment?
In order for the actions of the employer or employee to be considered hostile under California law, it must meet two requirements:
- Was it pervasive or severe in nature?
- Was it directed towards a protected class?
The first part is asking whether it is intolerable, intimidating or oppressive in nature. Does inappropriate or offensive behavior create hostility in your work environment? This behavior cannot be a one-off but something on a repeated basis. However, if it is very severe (such as groping or someone exposing their private parts), than a single instance may be enough.
The second part includes a very wide range of protected classes, particularly in California. This can include race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy and much more. For example, a restaurant supervisor is harassing a female server because of her gender. Almost on a daily basis, he flashes pornography on his phone to her. This could be considered a hostile work environment.
What Should I Do If I Am Working In A Hostile Work Environment?
The first thing to understand is that you should not be afraid to speak up and assert your rights. Once you hire a sexual harassment attorney, your rights will be protected. Our law firm focuses almost entirely on sexual harassment cases. We will be there for you from the beginning to the end, fiercely advocating for your employment law rights.
Secondly, you should understand that you have nothing to lose by working with our law firm. This is because we take these types of cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay anything unless we obtain recovery on your behalf. You literally do not have anything to lose by picking up your phone and reaching out to us about your potential sexual harassment case.
Potential Recovery from Your Sexual Harassment Case
Once you have hired an Orange County employment attorney to handle your case, one of the first things the attorney should do is determine the damages you could potentially recover from a successful lawsuit. If you were fired, felt compelled to quit, or faced undue ridicule while working in a hostile work environment, your attorney can help you determine whether you can claim lost income and benefits in your claim. In the event the hostile work environment caused psychological distress for which you sought professional care, your attorney can help you claim compensation for your medical bills and the pain and suffering you endured.
Some hostile work environment cases evolve out of an isolated severe incident, such as sexual battery, groping, or a particularly obscene action from the perpetrator. In these situations, it is vital to work closely with your attorney to determine the best approach to the case. The offender could face not only civil liability for your damages but also professional discipline from their employer and even criminal prosecution from the state. When a hostile work environment case involves physical harm of any kind inflicted on an employee, criminal proceedings against the offender are very likely to arise.
The damages available from a hostile work environment lawsuit typically reflect those in most other personal injury cases; the plaintiff has the right to claim compensation for any and all losses suffered as direct results of the defendant’s improper action. However, when it comes to workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States plays an important role in the legal proceedings regarding these matters.
What to Expect When Filing EEOC Claims
If you suffered losses due to a hostile work environment, your Orange County employment lawyer will help you navigate the EEOC claim process. You must submit a detailed synopsis of your claim with as much supporting documentation and physical evidence as you can provide. This may include invoices for medical treatment after a specific incident or counseling you attended while dealing with a hostile work environment for a long time. You may also need to submit copies of emails and other correspondence records to establish the discriminatory nature of the hostile work environment you’ve alleged.
The EEOC takes the review process of hostile work environment claims very seriously. Depending on the severity and complexity of your claim, the review process may take quite a while. Once the EEOC concludes their investigation, they will determine whether a hostile work environment existed and whether you have the right to sue for damages.
If the EEOC deems your claim is valid and believes you have grounds for legal action, the EEOC will issue a Notice of Right to Sue to you. This document allows you to proceed with your civil lawsuit for the hostile work environment you endured.
How Can an Attorney Help Me?
You may have dealt with your hostile work environment for several weeks, months, or even years. Eventually, this type of situation becomes untenable, and the employee must act one way or another. If you believe you are dealing with a discriminatory and hostile work environment every day due to other employees’ or a supervisor’s actions against you, an attorney can help you hold these parties accountable and recover compensation for your losses.
Navigating the EEOC claims process is often difficult. Managing a civil claim against your employer or another employee at your workplace can be even more challenging without legal representation. Hiring an attorney means additional security and strength behind your claim, a greater chance of securing compensation, and an easier time recovering from your experiences knowing your legal issues are in capable hands.
Your Orange County employment attorney can help you navigate all phases of the EEOC claims process, develop a compelling initial claim, and help you prepare for settlement negotiation or litigation as your case requires. In the event your hostile work environment case requires input from professional experts, your attorney can arrange for both consulting and testifying in your case. Your attorney can also help you approach any criminal proceedings that may unfold against the party responsible for creating your hostile work environment.
Find Legal Representation Today
There is no reason for any employee working in California to tolerate a hostile work environment. Once harassing and discriminatory behavior has been called out, it should stop immediately. When it does not, victims of hostile work environments can suffer psychological trauma, constant anxiety every minute in their workplaces, and even physical harm in some cases. It’s not uncommon for an employee who has faced a hostile work environment for discriminatory reasons to simply quit and look for work elsewhere without realizing they may have grounds for legal action.
The sooner you speak with an experienced Orange County employment lawyer, the sooner you can determine your best available options for legal recourse after suffering in a hostile work environment. The team at California Employment Counsel, APC, is here to help. We understand how stressful and damaging a hostile work environment can be and will help you determine the best course of action in your situation.
Call us at (714) 462-8376 or reach us online to schedule your free initial consultation. We serve the Orange County, California, area.