Sexual Harassment

You have the right to be free from unwanted sexual harassment in the workplace.

California law and federal law prohibits employers and employees from sexually harassing any workers or employees. Sexual harassment generally includes negative, inappropriate or unwanted conduct directed at a worker based on a worker’s gender.

What is Sexual Harassment?

You are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace if you are subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature or unwelcome verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature. Unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature includes but is not limited to the deliberate, repeated making of unsolicited gestures or comments of a sexual nature, and/or the deliberate and repeated display of offensive sexually graphic materials which is not necessary for business purposes.

Sexual harassment violates the law if the conduct is objectively hostile or abusive. If you or someone you know is or was being sexually harassed at work, then it is important that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The time to bring a sexual harassment claim is very short, and it is important to make sure that you do not lose your right to bring a claim for sexual harassment.

There are many forms of sexual harassment:

  • Unwanted Physical Touching: Unwanted physical touching is generally the most obvious type of sexual harassment. Physical touching is usually more offensive than mere words or verbal abuse, in most cases. Therefore, it is more likely that a court will find unlawful sexual harassment has occurred where there is physical touching.
  • Sexually Derogative Comments: Perhaps the most common type of sexual harassment comes as sexually derogatory comments. These comments may be directed toward women in the workplace. They might be jokes, insults, slurs, or other types of verbal harassment.  In California, comments alone, with no physical touching, can be enough to constitute sexual harassment.
  • Inappropriate Propositions: Propositions are also relatively common in the workplace. In general, a single request by a co-worker to go on a date does not amount to sexual harassment, unless the request is made by a supervisor. There may, however, be a valid claim of sexual harassment if the employee is subjected to repeated unwanted advances by a coworker or if the employee is punished for rejecting an advance.
  • Favoritism And Unequal Treatment: California law prohibits sex-based discrimination. In the context of sexual harassment, this kind of discrimination can occur when supervisors reward employees with whom they are having sex or punish those who refuse to have sex with them.
  • Quid Pro Quo Harassment: If a manager or supervisor is requesting or demanding sexual favors in exchange for promotions or other favorable treatment, this can be known as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. For example, a supervisor tells an employee he will select her for promotion if she goes out with him.  Quid pro quo harassment is unlawful.
  • Isolated Incidents: Prior to 2019, in hostile work environment claims, isolated incidents of sexually-charged conduct are usually not enough to rise to the level of unlawful sexual harassment. This was true even when the employee experienced several such incidents spread out over multiple years. However, recent laws in California have now made clear that even a single incident is sufficient to create a triable issue regarding the existence of a sexually hostile work environment if the harassing conduct has unreasonably interfered with the victim’s work performance, or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

What are the long-term consequences and effects of being subjected to harassment in the workplace?

Communicating about the emotional injuries of a sexual harassment/assault can be difficult, but that doesn’t make the harm any less real.  But with preparation and patience and acceptance, we will listen to you and learn from you.  And then we will help you tell your story. And then we will hold the harassers accountable.

Every sexual harassment case results in an emotional loss to the victim.  The loss might include mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress. These are very real losses and can manifest in physical forms of

  • Heartache
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Sleep-loss
  • Appetite disruption
  • Hypervigilance
  • Self-isolation difficulty concentrating
  • Panic attacks or anxiety
  • Depression

These symptoms are real and can cause serious harm.  We want to help you recover.

Are Employers Responsible for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Employers are directly responsible for the actions of supervisors or other managers who act as their agents if the harassment results in tangible employment action (e.g. termination, denial of promotion). They are also responsible for harassment by supervisors and co-workers if they have knowledge of the harassment and fail to take prompt corrective action.

It does not matter if you are a man or a woman. Gender does not matter in a sexual harassment case. The victim can be male or female, as can the harasser.  If you have been subjected to sexual harassment at work, talk to an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights and options.

Can my employer retaliate against me if I file a sexual harassment claim?

Many employees who are sexually harassed at work are afraid to report it for fear of being fired, demoted or given other adverse treatment. Remember, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for reporting sexual harassment and other workplace violations. We are here to ensure you are protected from all adverse and unlawful treatment, including sexual harassment and retaliation.  If you feel as though you are being retaliated against for filing a sexual harassment claim, or for reporting unlawful sexual harassment, then you need to speak to an experienced employment lawyer who can help you evaluate your case.

The lawyers at our office regularly handle sexual harassment cases across the entire state of California.  Reach out now for a free confidential consultation and to learn more about cases brought on behalf of victims of sexual harassment.