San Diego Sexual Harassment Attorney
We Explain California Sexual Harassment Laws
No person should be subjected to sexual harassment. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is the most prevalent form of harassment that employees experience in the workplace. When people go to work, they should feel comfortable and confident that their place of employment is a safe and welcoming environment and one where they can perform their job duties free from harassment.
To prevent workplace harassment, Congress passed Title VII and the California Legislature passed the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Both laws strictly prohibit sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Our San Diego sexual harassment lawyer may be able to help you determine your legal options if your employer violated these laws.
There Are Two Main Types of Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the type of harassment people are most familiar with. “Quid pro quo” is Latin for “this for that.” This form of sexual harassment involves a supervisor conditioning employee benefits such as promotions, benefits, or continuation of employment on the employee’s acceptance of the supervisor’s harassing conduct or sexual advances.
Under California law, an employer is strictly liable for the sexual harassment of the supervisor and has no special legal defenses available. A victim of sexual harassment can recover lost wages, emotional distress damages, interest, and attorney’s fees. In cases where the employer’s officers, directors, or managing agents knew of the harassment, punitive damages may be awarded as a means to punish or deter the employer.
Hostile work environment sexual harassment is the second main type of sexual harassment. This consists of harassing conduct that is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment for employees. Supervisors, co-workers, and even subordinates can engage in conduct that gives rise to a sexually hostile work environment. Harassing conduct can include sexual slurs, taunts, intimidation, ridicule, groping, grabbing, etc.
This type of harassment need not be both severe AND pervasive, but only severe OR pervasive. Therefore, a single instance of harassing conduct could create a hostile work environment if it is severe enough. Alternatively, a campaign of multiple acts of less severe harassment could collectively create a hostile work environment if pervasive enough. You may also have a claim even though you were not the direct target of the harassing conduct. For example, a woman who witnesses her female co-workers being groped and propositioned can bring a claim for hostile work environment sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment & Employer Responsibilities
An employer must take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. If harassment has occurred, the employer has a duty to take affirmative measures to change the offending individual’s behavior and prevent others from committing similar unlawful conduct.
Reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring include:
- Affirmatively raising the issue of harassment
- Expressing strong disapproval of harassment
- Developing appropriate sanctions for harassment
- Informing employees of their rights and instructing them to report harassment
It is also an unlawful employment practice under FEHA to retaliate against anyone who has opposed sexual harassment or discrimination or has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under FEHA. This means that employees are protected from retaliation if they complain about harassment or discrimination.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment on the job, you may have the right to monetary compensation. Our San Diego sexual harassment attorney understands California’s employment laws and is here to help you get the compensation you may be entitled to.