Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Los Angeles
Standing Up For The Rights Of Clients In LA County
In most states, including California, it’s unlawful to harass an employee sexually. However, countless Americans across the country still experience harassment through inappropriate touching, offensive jokes, and more. A recent study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) revealed that one in four women and one in five men had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Are you wondering if legal action is an available option for you? The Barkhordarian Law Firm’s sexual harassment lawyers in Los Angeles are available to meet with you to learn more about your situation and whether you can seek compensation in a claim. Our team has been committed to protecting employees throughout the Greater Los Angeles area who have been taken advantage of or mistreated by their employers.
On This Page:
- Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
- Who is Liable for Sexual Harassment?
- Protection Against Employer Retaliation
- Damages We Can Recover
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Both federal and state laws prohibit sexual harassment. At the federal level, sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) considers sexual harassment as a form of employment discrimination at the state level.
Sexual harassment can include a wide range of unwanted behaviors and actions, from derogatory comments and slurs to retaliation after you’ve complained about instances of harassment.
You may have experienced sexual harassment if any of the following happened to you in the workplace:
- Unwanted touching, such as pats on the butt, pinching, or back rubs
- Discussion of sexual acts
- Rude gestures
- Presence of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters
- Graphic comments or invitations
- Unwanted sexual propositions
- Threats to reduce your hours or benefits if you don’t comply with sexual requests
Generally, two main forms of recognized workplace sexual harassment are quid pro quo and a hostile work environment.
What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that translates to “this for that” or “something for something,” implying a type of exchange. This means that quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone offers something in exchange for sexual favors, though it can also be presented as a threat to make the victim feel like they have no other choice but to accept.
Things commonly exchanged for sexual conduct or advances include your hiring, promotions, benefits, and continued employment. This type of sexual harassment is considered severe, meaning that a single incident may be enough to file a sexual harassment lawsuit.
What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment occurs when sexual harassment is pervasive or severe enough to interfere with your work or create an offensive or intimidating atmosphere. Individuals who wish to file hostile work environment claims often have to prove that they suffered some emotional distress to succeed and prove that the actions were frequent. You don’t have to be a direct target of sexual harassment to file a lawsuit for a hostile work environment.
Who is Liable for Sexual Harassment?
Under California law,an employee who is the perpetrator of the harassment is personally liable for damages to their victim regardless of whether or not their employer knew or should have known of the offending behavior.
The law is clear that employers in California can be held liable for sexual harassment committed by their employees. That said, employer liability will vary depending on who is committing the act of harassment and whether or not the harassment was reported to a supervisor or human resources.
It’s important to know that regardless of who the perpetrator is, under California law, employees can’t immediately file lawsuits as a first course of action—an administrative complaint must first be filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to get a right-to-sue notice. It is only after you receive this notice that you may file a lawsuit in court.
Sexual Harassment From a Superior
If the sexual harassment occurred at the hands of a supervisor, the employer is held strictly liable in a lawsuit. This means that your employer is responsible for your damages if they knew or should have known about the harassment or failed to take action to stop it.
Sexual Harassment From a Coworker or Other Individual
When the sexual harassment is committed by a coworker, subcontractor, customer, client, or another individual present in the victim’s place of work, the victim’s employer is liable only if it knew or should have known that the harassment was occurring. If you have found yourself in this situation, you must report the harassment to your supervisor or your employer’s human resources department in writing to preserve your legal rights.
You Are Protected Against Employer Retaliation
Many victims of sexual harassment hesitate to come forward due to fears of employer retaliation, such as being fired, demoted, reassigned, denied a promotion or raise, or having their working hours cut. Suppose you have been a victim of sexual harassment and are experiencing these fears. In that case, it is essential to know that this type of employer retaliation is illegal and that you are protected under the law against mistreatment.
If your employer has taken any negative action against you after reporting concerns of sexual harassment, call us. Our attorneys are prepared to stand by your side and fight to protect your rights.
What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Sexual Harassment Claim?
Victims of sexual harassment have a right to recover damages in California that compensate them for their financial and emotional losses. Some remedies we’ve acquired for clients include damages for emotional distress, hiring or reinstatement, and changes in employer policies or practices.
In some rare cases, victims can recover punitive damages if it can be proven that the employer committed an especially malicious act of discrimination, oppression, or fraud. Employers with 15 to 100 employees can face up to $50,000 in damages, while those with 500 or more employees can face damages up to $300,000. If you believe you’re a victim of sexual harassment, we can help you understand your rights.
Q:How do I know if I have a sexual harassment case?
A:Generally speaking, in order to have a sexual harassment case, you must have endured unwanted harassing conduct that was severe enough to have affected the terms and conditions of your employment, or been the victim of quid pro quo, meaning you were promised a job benefit in exchange for sexual activity. Likewise, your claim must be timely, meaning that it occurred within the last year. If you are unsure if you have a claim, we encourage you to discuss your situation with a skilled attorney from our firm in detail to determine your legal options.
Q:What should I do if I've been sexually harassed at work?
A:First, you should understand your rights. Your employer has an affirmative duty to provide a workplace that is free of sexual harassment and to respond to any incidents with immediate and appropriate action. Read your employer's sexual harassment policy and report the incident in writing. Include as much detail as you can about the incident, including what happened, when it happened, where it happened, and who may have witnessed the behavior. Additionally, make sure you preserve any evidence of the harassing behavior, such as emails, texts, or images. Do this for each incident as soon as possible and always keep a copy of your written complaints. If reporting the incident to your employer fails to resolve the problem, your next step will be to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). An attorney from our firm can help you submit a complaint and advise you of your legal options moving forward.
Q:What should I avoid doing if I have been sexually harassed?
A:First, do not stay silent or wait to act. While it may be uncomfortable to do so, speaking up and notifying your employer of the harassing behavior in a timely manner is crucial. Next, do not assume you are the only victim of the perpetrator's behavior. It is entirely possible and likely that other people who interact with your harasser have dealt with the same sort of mistreatment. Finally, and most importantly, do not confuse sexual harassment with sexual assault. Sexual harassment is a civil matter, while sexual assault ( i.e. forcing someone to engage in involuntary sexual contact or acts through violence, coercion, or incapacitation) is a crime and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If you have experienced any sort of sexual violence in the workplace, we urge you to call the police, report the incident, seek medical care, and contact our firm as soon as possible.
Q:How long do I have to report sexual harassment in California?
A:California law requires you to submit a complaint with the DFEH within one year of the last act of harassment or retaliation. There are also limitations on how long you can wait to file a complaint with the EEOC. In most cases, the EEOC time limit for filing a complaint is 180 days (six months), but because California has its own anti-discrimination law, in California, the federal EEOC time limit for filing a sexual harassment complaint is extended to 300 days. In short, you do not have a lot of time to take action and should not simply "wait and see" if things improve.
Q:Are California sexual harassment laws gender neutral?
A:Yes. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by and against people of any sex or gender. Likewise, the victim of sexual harassment does not have to be of the opposite sex.
Q:Does my work productivity have to suffer?
A:No. FEHA requires conduct to unreasonably interfere with someone's work performance for it to be considered harassing behavior, however 2018 amendments to the law have since specified that harassment victims do not have to show a tangible decline in productivity. Instead, sexual harassment victims must merely show that the harassment altered their working conditions and made their employment more difficult.
Q:What if I waived my rights in my employment contract?
A:Following the passing of California Senate Bill 1300 in 2018, you may now pursue a sexual harassment case even if you have signed an agreement waiving your rights to sue your employer. Employers in California may not require workers to release the employer from liability for sexual harassment in exchange for a raise, bonus, employment, or continued employment. Contracts or agreements that do this are in violation of public policy and are unenforceable.
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