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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, which has led to wrongful termination
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:
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.
Employee – Employee Harassment
You love your job, but your workplace environment is full of unwanted advances, inappropriate comments, or overt sexual harassment. Instead of coming from management, these harassing actions and comments are coming from your other co-workers. Harassment in your work environment should never be tolerated as part of your employment.
At California Employment Counsel, APC, we know that you have a right to a safe work environment, free from sexual harassment. Sometimes sexual harassment occurs even though such actions violate federal and state laws, as well as company policies. An employer must take such complaints seriously and take action to remedy the situation and prevent any future harassment in its organization.
What actions constitute sexual harassment?
It is important to note that sexual harassment includes any of the following:
- Any major or minor unwanted or unwelcome physical touching or contact
- Any form of sexual advances, including verbal offers or requests
- The display or sending of any sexually suggestive explicit pictures via electronic means or posted in offices or public areas
- Any lewd, explicit or sexually suggestive text messages, email, or postings on any social media platform, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- Any sexually suggestive comments directed at you or around you
While it is paramount that the employer sets the tone for the company, many times employers do not educate their employees regarding sexual harassment in the workplace or investigate sexual harassment claims. Oftentimes, sexual harassment is simply overlooked or discounted. In some cases, the allegations are not taken seriously, and the perpetrator is not fired. In even worse situations, the victim is retaliated against by the employer or other employees for speaking out. The fears of filing a sexual harassment grievance are justified, but you should fight for your right to a safe workplace, free from emotional and possible physical harm.
What parties are liable for employee-to-employee harassment?
Ultimately, the responsibility for the tone of the workplace, and your safety rest with your employer. Your employer will be responsible and liable for any harassment by other employees in a non-supervisory status, over whom they have control if the circumstances create a hostile work environment, and your employer fails to take proper action to remedy the situation and prevent future harassment. This includes harassment from other employees and even independent contractors on the premises. If an employer has knowledge that any type of sexual harassment is going on in the workplace, even among employees, they must take immediate action.
At California Employment Counsel, APC, we are here to advocate for you when you find yourself in a work situation that involves sexual harassment. Your employer may not be taking your grievance seriously, protecting your safety, or your rights.
Standing up for your rights in the workplace can be terrifying. If your grievance has fallen on deaf ears with your employer, or worse, if your employer has threatened retaliation against you for bringing your complaint, we can help. We will be with you step-by-step through the entire process of reporting the abuse, filing a sexual harassment claim and, if needed, pursuing legal action.
Our experienced sexual harassment lawyers offer consultations to discuss your situation and help you to explore your legal options. Contact us online or call (714) 462-8376 to discuss your legal rights today.
Why Speak Up In California About Sexual Harassment?
You are afraid to say anything. You don’t want to be that person at work who starts trouble. But are you really starting trouble?
You should never be afraid to assert your rights as an employee. It is very understandable that you are worried you will face consequences at work for speaking up or even get fired. However, California employment law protects employees against such retaliation.
When Is Illegal Retaliation?
What is retaliation? And why is it illegal? This is when an employer takes some sort of negative action towards an employee because he or she reported or asserted a sexual harassment claim. The negative action could be anything from getting fewer hours or a less-desirable shift to a demotion, being passed over for a promotion or even being terminated.
Sometimes the employer will claim they fired an employee for some reason other than the illegal one. This is known as pretext, and an experienced sexual harassment attorney can fight against such an assertion.
At California Employment Counsel, APC, our lawyers have a proven track record of helping employees in California. Our seasoned attorneys focus entirely on protecting employees. Even more so, we have a huge focus on sexual harassment claims.
You also should speak up about your sexual harassment claim because you have nothing to lose by reaching out to our firm. We take cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not pay unless we win on your behalf. We strongly urge that you at the very least find out if your claim has merit. You deserve protection if you have suffered from sexual harassment at work. Make the first phone call: (714) 462-8376. You can also reach us online to schedule your free initial consultation. We serve the Orange County, California, and all surrounding areas.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Harassment
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for California employees to encounter sexual harassment without realizing that what they are experiencing is illegal and unacceptable. It’s vital for all employees to fully understand the definition of sexual harassment and know what to do if they encounter such behavior in the workplace. It is not always easy to define what illegal harassment actually is. There are many situations in which the line seems blurred, and therefore you do not know what to do.
The sexual harassment lawyers of California Employment Counsel, APC, can help you deal with this difficult situation. We have successfully handled hundreds of cases involving workplace sexual harassment. We are not afraid to take on any employer, especially employers who failed to properly manage and protect their employees.
Your Questions Are Important | Get Them Answered by A Qualified Attorney
Reliable legal guidance is invaluable when you have experienced something like sexual harassment in the workplace. Your Orange County sexual harassment attorney should be able to clarify your options for legal recourse and investigate the full scope of damages you may be able to claim through legal action against your employer. The California Employment Counsel, APC wants to provide as much foundational information as we can to employees facing sexual harassment at work. We can help you address tough questions like:
What counts as sexual harassment?
It depends on the situation. Essentially, if someone has treated you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that is harassment. It can be in person or via text, overt or subtle, come from a vendor or your boss: there are many ways to harass someone. Sometimes harassment is actually miscommunication or an attempt at humor taken too far. If you have experienced any type of unwanted behavior, make it immediately clear that the behavior is unwanted and unacceptable. It may end right there, but if it does not, it is time to explore your options for legal recourse.
What are some common examples of sexual harassment?
It is important to remember that sexual harassment exists in many forms. Some of the ways sexual harassment can manifest in the workplace include:
- Making unwelcome sexual advances.
- Making crude or sexual jokes, references, and comments.
- Performing sexual gestures.
- Posting lewd or explicit materials in an employee’s private workspace, a shared workspace, break room, or restroom.
If you have experienced any behavior like this at work and it has continued despite your clear protest, you may have grounds for a sexual harassment claim. If your experiences include any unwanted physical contact of any kind, your claim may escalate to a sexual assault or sexual battery case. In this situation, the offender will likely face severe criminal penalties in addition to civil liability for your damages.
What should my employer do for me if I have experienced sexual harassment at work?
It’s always best to attempt to resolve a sexual harassment issue using internal company policy before resorting to legal action. Most companies uphold strict anti-harassment policies and must investigate any sexual harassment claims filed by employees. When an employer learns of sexual harassment but does nothing to stop the problem and it continues, the employee can potentially take legal action against their harasser specifically as well as their employer. If you have reported sexual harassment at work and your employer has not taken any appropriate response, it’s time to speak with an Orange County sexual harassment attorney.
Is it sexual harassment to ask a coworker out on a date?
It’s natural for romantic relationships to develop within some workplaces. Some employers in California and throughout the United States uphold strict anti-fraternization policies that forbid personal relationships between employees. Other organizations do not mind if employees have personal relationships as long as their personal lives do not interfere with their ability to perform their job duties. If an employee asks another employee out on a date and is rejected, they should not press the issue and keep asking. Doing so would constitute sexual harassment.
What can I do if I work with my ex and they harass me?
If you had a personal relationship with a coworker in the past and the relationship ended, you still have options. A past relationship does not insulate your ex from legal action if they start sexually harassing you. Once you have made it clear their behavior is unwanted, unwelcome, and inappropriate, the behavior should stop immediately. Otherwise, you would have grounds for a sexual harassment claim regardless of your past relationship.
Can I pursue a sexual harassment claim if a customer or outside business representative is harassing me?
Many employees interact with the public as customers or with representatives and employees of other organizations. If you have been harassed by a customer or an employee of a partnered business over which your employer has no authority, you should still report the problem and give your employer a chance to fix it. If you report the problem and the issue persists because your employer will do nothing to stop it, get help from an attorney. This behavior may constitute grounds for a sexual harassment claim since your employer has the ability to potentially stop it but did nothing.
What if my boss denies it, and it comes down to my word against his?
This is a common reason people do not report harassment: they think people will not believe them over their boss. However, knowing that you are protected by law can ease your mind. Having a lawyer on your side can help as well. Retain any evidence you have of the harassment, and do not be afraid to bring a case.
What if I’ve been fired, demoted or treated abusively for reporting the harassment? Should I still consider legal action?
Employees in the United States have several rights, including the right to perform certain protected actions like reporting sexual harassment in good faith. Other common protected actions include filing for workers’ compensation benefits, testifying in an open case involving the employer, or reporting a workplace safety violation to a government oversight agency. Whenever an employer intentionally takes disciplinary or adverse action against an employee in response to their protected action, this is illegal retaliation. There are rules in place to protect you from retaliation. It is important to make records of each instance of retaliation because a lawyer can help you stop it and hold them accountable.
Can I recover compensation from a sexual harassment claim?
Sexual harassment of any kind is illegal in California and throughout the United States, and many different legal statues are likely to come into play in your claim. You have the right to claim compensation for any damages resulting from the sexual harassment you experienced. A few avenues of compensation include lost wages and benefits from a wrongful termination, medical expenses for psychiatric treatment you sought in response to the harassment you experienced, and your legal fees, in many cases. Ultimately, the recovery from a successful sexual harassment claim can be substantial and also prevent other employees from experiencing similar situations in the future.
How do I file a sexual harassment claim?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States has the responsibility of overseeing the employment standards throughout the country and fielding reports of sexual harassment and discrimination in US workplaces. The first step in pursuing a civil claim for sexual harassment in the workplace is to file a claim with the EEOC. Your Orange County sexual harassment attorney can assist you with the claims process, and the EEOC will review your claim to determine whether you have grounds for legal action. If approved, you will receive a Notice of Right to Sue that allows you and your attorney to initiate legal proceedings against your employer.
We Provide Free, Confidential Consultations
This list of questions is basic. Each situation is different and requires personalized attention. No one should have to endure sexual harassment in the workplace of any kind. When internal company policies have failed to put a stop to the harassment you’re experiencing at work, swift legal action is necessary. The California Employment Counsel, APC, is here to help you.
We offer free consultations: you can receive our individual attention by calling our Costa Mesa office at (714) 462-8376, or by sending us an online message. We serve clients throughout Orange County and the surrounding area.