Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. You do not have to put up with it. California has some of the strongest protections for workers in the country. Our sexual harassment lawyers are available for consultations in our San Francisco, Oakland, or San Anselmo offices as well as via telephone. A confidential consultation with one of the top-rated sex harassment attorneys in the Bay Area is your best first step towards defending your rights.
California’s Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) makes sexual harassment in the workplace illegal. But, defining sexual harassment can be difficult. Sexual harassment typically takes two different forms. The more widespread form is where the harasser creates a hostile work environment by behaving in a way that is offensive or abusive towards you because of your sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. The second type is quid pro quo harassment where benefits of employment are conditioned on sexual favors. Either type of harassment violates the law.
Harassment is conduct that communicates an offensive message to the harassed employee. The hostile or abusive conduct must be severe or pervasive so that it makes the work environment intolerable.
Sexual harassment takes many forms. It can be verbal, physical or visual conduct. The harassing conduct may be sexual or nonsexual in nature. What make behavior harassing is that it creates a hostile or offensive working environment for the harassed employee.
It is not necessary that the harassing conduct be sexual in nature. Sexual harassment can include intimidation or hostility directed at an employee because of the employee’s sex or gender. The same conduct can be harassing for men, women and people who identify as non-binary.
Sexual harassment can occur between members of the same sex. Sexual harassment includes conduct directed at an employee because of the employee’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.
Harassing conduct must be unwelcome. Harassment can be unwelcomed even if an employee agrees to have an affair with the harasser or allows the harasser to engage in the offensive behavior.
Sexual harassment is on the rise. Statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show that 17.1% of complaints filed there involve allegations of sexual harassment. Other recent information shows that over half of employees report sexual harassment in the workplace. On college campus, one out of every four female students report being sexually harassed. Employees and students in “liberal” cities such as San Francisco, Berkeley, Pleasanton, Fremont, Oakland, Palo Alto or San Jose are not immune. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work or school, you are not alone. Our attorneys specialize in prosecuting sexual harassment lawsuits. Contact us today for a free consultation.
As soon as an employer become aware of harassment, they must take action immediately to put an end to the conduct. Employers are also required to take corrective action in order to prevent future harassment from occurring. This is because prompt employer intervention not only minimizes injury to the victim, but it also sends a clear message throughout the workplace that harassing conduct is not tolerated.
No one should have to suffer harassment in their workplace, but if a colleague or supervisor yells at or is generally rude to you, this does not automatically create a situation that legally qualifies as a hostile work environment, even if the conduct is unwarranted and hostile in a lay sense. However, if the content of their comments is based on your membership in a protected class, this might give strength to a hostile work environment claim.
In either case, you should report the harassment to your employer, but if the comments are based on your membership in a protected class—and the situation is not quickly dealt with by your employer—you might want to seek legal counsel.
If you or your colleagues are being subjected to sex harassment and suspect you might be experiencing a hostile work environment, report it—preferably in written form. When you put your employer on notice, whether that’s your supervisor or a Human Resources representative, they are obligated to try and remedy the situation. If you don’t document your complaint, however, your employer might later try to claim that you never filed a complaint, in an attempt to undermine your credibility.
It is important to remember that when you report a hostile work environment, you might not be seeking relief for just yourself. Often, harassers target more than one person, so you are most likely helping others in addition. Furthermore, if the harassment goes unreported, it is possible that the harassment might escalate. Neither you nor your colleagues deserve to have to fear going to work and enduring a hostile work environment.
If the situation is effectively remedied, it will undoubtedly create a safer and more productive workspace, which should be an adequate incentive for employers to fix the problem. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. If this isn’t the case, and your employer does not remedy the situation quickly or effectively, legal action is one possible avenue to make sure employers are accountable for their negligence and inaction.
Many people are understandably hesitant about reporting misconduct, as they fear they might be retaliated against in the form of a change in employment status or benefits (i.e. a demotion, termination, or failure to promote). However, retaliation for reporting harassment by a colleague or supervisor is illegal. Don’t let bullying force you into silence or prevent you from seeking justice.
If you have been harassed because of your sex, gender or sexual orientation, here are some steps you can take to fight against sexual harassment:
Do not blame yourself for being a victim. Sexual harassment is illegal and employers must take steps to prevent it. You have the right to work in an environment free from harassment.
Like many victims of sexual harassment, you may be suffering from depression, anxiety, guilt or other physical or mental distress. You are not alone. We understand what you are going through and can help you fight against harassment and hold your employer accountable.
Our lawyers have a reputation for getting results. In 2002, founding attorney Larry Organ won the largest sexual harassment verdict in California’s history at that time. His reputation matters to opposing attorneys and can make a difference in your case. Many victims of sexual harassment are afraid to come forward but remember that coming forward can be done in a confidential setting one-on-one with a sympathetic sexual harassment attorney.
If you are not sure whether you need a sexual harassment lawyer, let us help you decide. Contact us today. With offices in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Anselmoy, we are conveniently located for employees living in the Bay Area, including Alameda and San Francisco Counties.