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When Do I Need a Lawyer For Sexual Harassment At Work?

Victims of sexual harassment in Los Angeles and all over California are entitled to recover monetary damages to compensate them for their losses.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment happens frequently in workplaces here and around the country. The EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace found that one out of four women, and one out of five men have experienced sexual harassment.

Picture of Sexual Harassment

What is Sexual Harassment?

The California Attorney General defines sexual harassment in the workplace as a type of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Under California law, offensive conduct doesn’t have to be motivated by sexual desire. It can 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. The definition of sexual harassment in California 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.

Similarly, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that sexual harassment can be unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when this conduct:

  • explicitly or implicitly impacts a person’s employment;
  • unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance; or
  • creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Some common examples if illegal sexual harassment include things such as:

  • Offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, or name-calling;
  • Undue attention;
  • Physical assaults or threats;
  • Unwelcome touching or contact;
  • Intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs;
  • Constant or unwelcome questions about an individual’s identity; and
  • Offensive objects or pictures.

What are the Different Theories of Sexual Harassment?

Both federal and California laws recognize two general types of sexual harassment — “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.”

Quid Pro Quo. This phrase is Latin meaning “this for that.” This type of sexual harassment happens when a person’s hiring, continued employment, promotion, or benefits are dependent upon submission to sexual advances or some other kind of sexual conduct. This sexual harassment can be delivered as an offer or a threat. One incident can be sufficient to find a person or company liable for sexual harassment.

Hostile Work Environment. This type of sexual harassment happens when the nature of the offending behaviors are so pervasive or severe that it changes the conditions of a person’s employment, unreasonably interferes with their work, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Note that you can experience and suffer from a “hostile work environment” despite the fact that illegal behavior isn’t directed at you.

The EEOC says that while “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” harassment are in theory distinct claims, the line between the two can be blurred, and the two forms of harassment often happen together. An employment law attorney can help you sort this out.

Who’s Liable for California Sexual Harassment Claims?

Under California law, a co-worker who’s the perpetrator of the harassment can be held personally liable for damages to their victim—despite the fact that the employer knew or should have known about the harassment.

In addition, an employer can be held “strictly liable” if the harassment was conducted by a manager or if the perpetrator of the employee’s harassment was his or her employer. The theory of strict liability means that if the harassment was perpetrated by the victim’s supervisor, the employer can be held liable for damages for the victim’s suffering and injuries, regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known about it and even if the employer took corrective action.

Likewise, an employer can be held liable for damages if it knew or should have known about sexual harassment but failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action to remedy the issue.

Get Experienced Help

If you believe you’ve been subject to sexual harassment at your job, contacting an employment lawyer can help you get justice in the workplace. The Melmed Law Group is the law firm that handles workplace sexual harassment in California.

Our California sexual harassment lawyer exclusively represent people in need of legal advice, counseling, and litigation representation involving sexual harassment in the workplace. Our sexual harassment lawyers have litigated against the largest companies in the world, as well as smaller companies and even individual California employers.

Melmed Law Group P.C. Employment Lawyers can help you with your sexual harassment employment issue. Contact us today.

Additional information about Sexual Harassment Laws in California.