California Sexual Harassment Attorneys

California & Federal Law Prohibits Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Briefly, sexual harassment refers to both unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.  

Under California law, the offensive conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire, but may be based upon an employee’s actual or perceived sex or gender identity, actual or perceived sexual orientation, and/or pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser and actions that subject co-workers to a hostile work environment. 

The following is a partial list of prohibited behavior: 

  • Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters. 
  • Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, and jokes. Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual. 
  • Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements. 
  • Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors. 
  • Making or threatening retaliatory action after receiving a negative response to sexual advances. 

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning “this for that” or “something for something.” The phrase captures the idea of an exchange. Thus, quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone conditions your hiring, continued employment, promotion or benefits on your submission to sexual advances or some other kind of sexual conduct. Quid pro quo harassment can be couched as an offer or a threat. This type of sexual harassment is considered serious enough that a single incident can give rise to liability. 

What you can do if you’re a victim?

If you are experiencing harassment in the workplace, know that you have options and support when you decide to come forward. We offer a free, and confidential consultation to help you understand your rights. Take the first step and contact our California Sexual Harassment Attorneys to help guide you through the process.

  • If your company has a sexual harassment policy, read it and take action accordingly. Put complaints in writing and keep records of each incident of harassment, noting the date and time and any people involved. 
  • Inform your employer about the harassment, pursuant to the options and requirements set out in the sexual harassment policy, if such a policy exists. In some cases, failure to report the conduct in any way may impact your ability to further pursue remedies against your employer. Nevertheless, supervisors and coworkers remain personally liable for their own acts of harassment. 
  • File a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency. 
    • The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the state agency charged with protecting Californians from unlawful discrimination in employment. If there has been a violation of civil rights laws, DFEH can pursue damages on your behalf. You may file a complaint with DFEH online, by mail, or over the phone. 
    • The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. Their website has information on filing complaints. 
    • Complaints filed with DFEH or EEOC are automatically cross-filed with the other agency. You only need to submit one complaint. 
    • After your complaint is evaluated, your case may be accepted for investigation. The other party is then required to respond to your complaint, and DFEH or EEOC will review the response with you. If the response is unsatisfactory and a violation of federal or California law occurred, the case will be forwarded to the legal division for mediation and a possible lawsuit.  
  • If you are a victim of sexual assault: 
    • Call 911 if you are in a life-threatening situation. 
    • Report the incident to the local police. 
    • See a healthcare provider as soon as possible to receive a health exam and appropriate care. 
    • Call a crisis hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673). 
    • Seek confidential support from your employer or community resources. 
    • Seek out friends and family. 

If harassment led to your firing or forced you to leave your job, you may be able to collect compensation for your missed time from work. The same applies if an employer retaliated in the form of reduced hours, cut pay, or unpaid suspension. Sexual harassers and employers may also face liability for a harassment victim’s psychological distress and fear experienced in the workplace.  

Victims of sexual harassment in California need legal counsel they can rely upon to handle their DFEH and EEOC claims as well as their civil actions against the responsible parties. 

Contact Potter Handy, LLP if you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. Our attorneys will aggressively fight for your interests at every step.  

Call (800) 383-7027 or email us to schedule a free, confidential consultation. 

Sexual Harassment FAQs 

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