Sexual harassment and discrimination are against the law, yet they continue to happen in the workplace. I have been helping clients resolve discrimination and sexual harassment claims for many years. It should not happen, but it does. If it happens to you, I am prepared to skillfully, tenaciously and knowledgeably represent your rights while simultaneously keeping you updated and being responsive to your needs and questions.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act defines sexual harassment as harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, sex, gender or related medical conditions. In California, sexual harassment can include:
Workplace discrimination includes:
In 1991, the concept of workplace sexual harassment gained widespread attention in the United States when Anita Hill accused Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas of making unwanted sexual comments during employment. Despite Thomas being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, Hill’s allegations sparked widespread public debate and interest in the issue of sexual harassment.
In response to this event, President George H. W. Bush changed his existing position and supported a bill that granted sexual harassment victims the right to seek federal damages, back pay, and reinstatement. After the legislation was passed by Congress, the number of sexual harassment claims in the workplace increased by 50% in the following year.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment falls into the category of sexual discrimination, and it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments, as well as employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government.
The #MeToo movement has brought attention to the importance of survivors of sexual harassment sharing their experiences. By holding harassers and organizations accountable in court and in the public eye, we can work toward eliminating sexual harassment, abuse, and the misuse of power in California workplaces. It is essential that victims feel supported and empowered to speak out about their experiences to bring about change and create safer and more equitable workplaces.
Sexual harassment is not limited to one gender or sexual orientation. Both men and women can be victims or perpetrators of harassment, and the same is true for those who identify as heterosexual or homosexual.
It is the responsibility of every employer to create a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. However, this means more than just having a policy in place. Employers should have a clear statement prohibiting sexual harassment and a well-defined grievance procedure, and they should follow this procedure consistently.
Employers need to take active steps to prevent and address incidents of sexual harassment and abuse to create a safe and respectful work environment for all employees.
In California, there are three main types of harassment that are prohibited by law. They are:
It’s important to note that these types of harassment are not limited to the workplace. They can also occur in other settings, such as in a person’s home or in public places. If you have experienced sexual harassment, or any other form of harassment, consider speaking with a San Diego sexual harassment attorney about what your legal options might be.
There are two main types of harassment claims that can be filed in California:
An administrative claim and a civil claim are two separate processes, and you can choose to pursue one or both types of action. It may be helpful to consult with an attorney to understand the options and potential outcomes of different types of harassment claims.
Sexual harassment and harassment based on a protected characteristic are generally recognized as two of the most common types of harassment in California and throughout the United States. However, the prevalence of different types of harassment can vary significantly and depend on a variety of factors, such as the specific industry or workplace, the size of the organization, and the demographics of the people involved.
Sexual harassment can take many forms, including unwanted physical contact or advances, sexually suggestive comments or jokes, or the display of sexually explicit materials. It can occur between people of any gender and can be perpetrated by supervisors, coworkers, or customers.
Harassment based on a protected characteristic can also take many forms and can be directed at an individual or a group based on characteristics such as race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or other protected characteristics. This type of harassment can include derogatory comments or slurs, physical threats or violence, or exclusion from work or social activities.
In California, as in other states, harassment cases can be difficult to prove. California does have specific laws in place, though, to protect against harassment in the workplace, and these laws provide guidelines for what constitutes being harassed and how it can be addressed.
Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct that is based on a protected characteristic (such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation) and that is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. This means to prove a harassment case in California, the person filing the claim must show that the behavior they experienced was unwanted, was based on a protected characteristic, and was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment.
Proving a harassment case in California may involve presenting evidence such as witness testimony, written communication (such as emails or text messages), or other types of documentation. It may also involve demonstrating that the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate action to address it.
Overall, while it is possible to prove a harassment case in California, it may require a thorough investigation and the presentation of strong evidence to establish that the harassment occurred. It is crucial for individuals who believe they have been harassed to document the behavior and seek legal counsel to understand their options for seeking justice, such as holding the perpetrator accountable in a sexual harassment claim.
If you have been through a workplace experience that could be considered sexual harassment, our San Diego sexual harassment lawyers at The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III can help. We will guide you through the process of collecting evidence, building your case, and protecting yourself. There are also some actions you can take.
First, review your company’s sexual harassment policy to understand the process for reporting an issue. It is essential to document each incident of harassment with details such as the date and time, and any witnesses. Keep any supporting evidence, such as emails or memos. If there is one, follow your employer’s process for reporting the harassment.
If you are not satisfied with your employer’s response, you may consider filing a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD), formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies can investigate and potentially pursue damages on your behalf.
If you want to seek compensation or would like assistance during the legal process, contact our attorneys at The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III. We have years of experience with protecting victims of sexual harassment cases.
Sexual harassment and other discrimination are intimidating and can have disastrous effects on a career as well as on a person’s emotional well-being. As an attorney who truly cares about his clients, I take all the consequences of the employment discrimination behavior into account as I move forward with a case.
In order to amount to harassment, the conduct usually has to occur repeatedly over time — not just in a few isolated occurrences. What may seem to be minor conduct can over time amount to a hostile work environment, if done repeatedly.
The value a harassment attorney provides can far outweigh the total cost of their representation. Some of the most common reasons why attorneys receive the call to step in and help include:
While there are a ton of other examples of positive influences an attorney can have on your harassment claim, these are some of the standouts. Be sure to spend time in the initial stages of your attorney prospecting process to ensure the person you choose is suited to represent you and provide you with the most value possible.
The harassment policy that is enforced throughout California stems from the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). It makes it clear that all employers have a responsibility to prevent and address any forms of harassment in the workplace that have been raised or observed. This includes any verbal comments that are inappropriate for the workplace, among other uncalled-for behaviors such as comments against someone’s disability or sexual orientation. The state believes that everyone has a right to work in an environment where they are free from harassment, helping individuals to avoid being distracted from doing their work and hitting their professional goals.
Anyone who believes that they have a valid harassment claim has an entire year to report the incident and advance a case to formally resolve the issue. If more than a year has passed, the statute of limitations prevents that individual from being able to seek justice. This is why many harassment attorneys stress the importance of reporting an incident as soon as you feel comfortable doing so.
If time is up, there are still some things you can do to remove yourself from an environment against which you no longer have legal grounds to pursue a claim. For example, you could request to move to a different department within a company or leave and work for a new business. If this alleged behavior happens often, you will be able to report any new harassment that happens. Each incident starts the clock for an entire year to report.
Yes, any individual found guilty of engaging in harassment at work can be found liable for their behavior. The Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it clear that not only can a company be held liable for allowing a toxic culture of harassment to ensue, but an employee can also face similar consequences if the behavior is isolated to solely their own actions. This includes everyone, from an entry-level employee to supervisors all the way up to the C-suite. No individual should feel that their level of seniority in any company allows them to get away with unethical behaviors. The same rules apply from the bottom to the top.
Everyone in California has the authority to sue for harassment against anyone they believe has engaged in unlawful acts. To begin the process, you need to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. It’s at this step that you would receive a right-to-sue notice. This documentation allows you to file a claim in court. If you can secure a California harassment attorney, their supervision during this process can help you avoid any unintentional errors that could delay the process.
At The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III, our San Diego sexual harassment lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of workers and fighting against unfair employment practices, discrimination, and harassment. We believe everyone has the right to a workplace that is respectful and free from harassment.
We are committed to achieving workplace justice for all Californians under state law. If you need legal representation, contact us online to learn more about how we can help. You can also call my law office at 619-557-0458 to discuss your concerns about workplace harassment or discrimination, including disability discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination.