Dealing With Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Being the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace often makes an employee feel powerless at work. Sexual harassment can come from owners, directors, officers, supervisors, co-workers, clients – the list is long – and it can have devastating effects that no individual should have to endure without taking action against those responsible. As employees, we all have the right to stand up for ourselves; and in the case of those who witness the harassment, the responsibility to stand-up for our harassed colleagues if we see or experience any type of sexual misconduct in the workspace. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore how to quickly and effectively address instances of sexual harassment in the workplace so that you and your co-workers can work free from fear of retaliation.

California employees have a right to a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Sexual Harassment?

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides workers with protection against sexual harassment. Under the FEHA sexual harassment in the workplace is unwanted sexual advances or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature by someone who has a professional relationship with the employee . The unwanted conduct can come from many different types of individuals in the workplace:

  • Managers, bosses, or supervisors
  • Coworkers
  • Company owners
  • Customers
  • Vendors
  • Clients
  • Independent contractors

Under California law, there are two primary types of sexual harassment.

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment – Someone, often a person in a supervisory or position of authority over the employee solicits sexual favors in return for the victim receiving workplace benefits.
  • Hostile work environment – The unwanted sexual conduct, comments, or advances are severe or pervasive enough to negatively affect the work environment, increasing the stress level and making the victim very uncomfortable or worse.

Sometimes the victim can claim both types of harassment. The key is that the behavior was unwelcome. Sometimes this is not easy to prove, but a sexual harassment attorney can help.

What Should You do if You are a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

Your employer has a legal responsibility to provide a workplace that is safe and free from sexual harassment. In the event there is an incident, they are required to act immediately and appropriately to correct the situation.

The first step is to read your employer’s sexual harassment policy. They are legally required to have a policy on sexual harassment that defines it and provides the process that employees must follow to make a report.

Follow your employer’s procedures and report sexual harassment as soon as you can. You may be able to report verbally, but it is always a good idea to report it in writing. At the very least, follow up a verbal report with a written one. Be as detailed as possible in your report, including dates, times, exactly what was said or done, and the names of any witnesses who saw it or anyone you told about it.

If you submit your report via email, make sure you request a delivery and read receipt, and keep them for your records along with your initial complaint. You should also save any communication that you receive from anyone regarding your complaint.

If you file a complaint with your employer and no action is taken you may want to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is worth noting that if your employer does not take action and you are left to make a complaint with either of these organizations, your employer may be held liable and you may be able to sue them for damages.

How can a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Help?

A sexual harassment lawyer in California can help you navigate the complex system to get the justice you deserve. They can file a civil lawsuit on your behalf and help ensure that if you choose to file a complaint with one of the organizations you do so within the statute of limitations. Depending on the organization, you can have up to three years to file.

Your attorney can help you file the right paperwork and maintain documentation of your case. They will be there to support you and help you, especially if the complaint is contested.

Most importantly, an experienced sexual harassment lawyer will serve as YOUR advocate. These experiences can put a toll on your emotional and mental health and well-being. Re-living the trauma can be overwhelming, so having an advocate you can rely on is important to the success of your case.

If you experienced sexual harassment, the Lawyers for Employee and Consumer Rights can help. Call us today to schedule your confidential consultation and get the help you need and deserve.

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