Sexual Harassment

What constitutes sexual harassment?

California regulations define sexual harassment as an unwanted sexual advance or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

What is the difference between quid pro quo versus hostile work environment claims?

Courts have generally recognized two distinct categories of sexual harassment claims: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when submission to sexual conduct is made a condition of concrete employment benefits. For instance, a quid pro quo claim would exist where a supervisor conditions a pay raise on an employee submitting to his sexual demands. Hostile work environment harassment claims occur when actions or sexual remarks are sufficiently severe or pervasive to make the work environment hostile to a reasonable person. A hostile work environment could occur where a supervisor repeatedly makes lewd remarks about a female employee. 

What are my employer's obligations to prevent sexual harassment?

Your employer has certain obligations under California law in order to prevent sexual harassment including the following:

           Taking all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring.
           Developing and implementing a sexual harassment prevention policy.
           Posting in the workplace a poster made available by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
           Distributing to all employees an information sheet on sexual harassment.

An employer may be liable for sexual harassment even if management was not aware of the harassment. Under California law, employers are strictly liable for harassment by their supervisors or agents. Moreover, harassers themselves may be held personally liable for harassing an employee or for aiding and abetting harassment.

What are some examples of sexual harassment?

Below are some common examples of sexual harassment from prior cases:


Hostile Work Environment:

    Female customer service representative forced to endure hostile work environment from manager including incidents where he pretended to "hump" her from behind, grabbed her head, demanded that she perform oral sex on him, told customers that she had AIDS, called her a slut, and slapped her in the face with his genitals.   Female employee's male co-workers frequently engaged in sexual banter and horseplay in the office such as trading stories about their sexual exploits and prowess. Employee let others know that she is offended by the banter, but her supervisor takes no action.  

Quid Pro Quo Claims:

  Male supervisor consistently hit on female employee, who declined all his advances. At her annual performance review, supervisor implies that her future at the company depends on submitting to his sexual demands   Male supervisor and female subordinate engage in consensual relationship outside of work. After the female employee decides to end the relationship, the male supervisor uses his power to get her fired.  

Should I file my complaint under state or federal law?

Sexual harassment is outlawed under both California law and federal law. However, state law is more pro-employee in many ways including the following:

  Employers are strictly liable for harassment by a supervisor whereas under federal law employers have a possible defense.
  Proving that the perpetrator of the harassment falls within the definition of a supervisor is easier under state law.
  There is no cap on punitive or compensatory damages whereas under federal law there is a $300,000 limit for large employers.

These types of differences can make a major difference in the value of your case and so it is usually advantageous for an employee to file their sexual harassment claim under state law.

How long do I have to file my sexual harassment claim?

Two time limits apply for filing sexual harassment claims under California law. First, you must request a right to sue notice from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of an adverse employment action. Secondly, you must file your lawsuit in state court within one year of obtaining the right to sue notice.

For instance, if you are terminated from employment on June 1, 2013 and obtain a right to sue notice on September 15, 2013 you would then have one year (until September 15, 2014) to file your discrimination lawsuit in state court.

How can an attorney help you?

An attorney can advise you on your alternatives including whether conduct you are currently tolerating in the workplace amounts to sexual harassment.  An attorney can also deal with your employer in any settlement negotiations arising from your harassment allegations. Our firm is well-versed in sexual harassment cases and can litigate a case until resolution.  Remember: no recovery, no fees. We offer free confidential consultations and we only get paid if we obtain a positive recovery in your case.
Socal Employment Counsel - Representing Employees in Workplace Disputes Throughout Southern California
We can review the facts of your case and give you an honest evaluation of any sexual harassment issue you are facing. 

Phone: 213.275.2018

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