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Sexual Harassment Attorney in California

In California, employers are legally obligated to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment. However, if an employer is faced with a sexual harassment lawsuit, understanding the types of sexual harassment and the legal recourse available is crucial.

Sexual harassment claims are sensitive, legally complex, and can have serious repercussions for your business. At Law Offices of Albert Chang, our sexual harassment lawyer based in California can guide you through this challenging process. Contact us by our ONLINE FORM or calling us at (310) 769-6836 to schedule a free consultation today.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in California?

Sexual harassment is sex discrimination in the workplace. It occurs when an applicant or employee is harassed on the basis of their sex. This includes harassment that is sexual in nature as well as behavior that is offensive in regards to a particular sex in general. 

While sexual harassment generally conjures up an image of a male harassing a female, in reality, it can also be a female harassing a male, or a person harassing another person of the same sex. Keep in mind, to be considered harassment, the behavior must be more than a simple offhand, isolated comment. Harassment occurs frequently or is so severe that it results in the victim being forced to work in an offensive or hostile work environment. 

In addition, it can be considered sexual harassment when the victim is fired, demoted, or passed over for promotion as a repercussion of the harassment.  

As the above suggests and according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), two basic types of sexual harassment exist:

  1. Quid pro quo sexual harassment, which occurs when a superior or someone in a position of authority (e.g., manager or supervisor) asks for unwanted sexual favors or an inappropriate relationship in return for a promotion, pay raise, a promise not to fire, or other on-the-job benefits; or
  2. Hostile work environment, which occurs when employees are allowed to make crude jokes, share pictures or content of a sexual nature, make sexual comments, or other similar behavior to co-workers, thus, creating a hostile work environment

When an employee files a sexual harassment lawsuit against their employer, it's essential to be aware of the legal landscape and potential liabilities. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the next steps you take may vary, but these steps are also what may mitigate your legal liability as an employer in California. 

Examples of Sexual Harassment in California

Employers and employees should be clear on what actually constitutes sexual harassment. Following are examples of what is generally considered to be sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Inappropriate touching, rubbing, or rubbing up against another person 
  • Inappropriate sexual gestures
  • Making offensive comments about a certain sex, in general,
  • Commenting on the physical appearance of others, including particular body parts and/or clothing
  • Sharing inappropriate sexual media, such as pornographic photographs and videos
  • Making comments regarding a person's gender or sexual orientation
  • Telling inappropriate, lewd, and sexually-based jokes

Sexual harassment can take many different forms, and include actions of one person in the workspace making another person feel as though he or she is the subject of sexual harassment. It is not the intent of the behavior by the offender that determines if harassment has occurred but whether the behavior is welcome by the receiver.

Liability in Sexual Harassment Cases in California

Employees can be held personally liable for sexually harassing co-workers or subordinates. Employers can also be held liable. Determining when an employee or an employer (or both) are liable for sexual harassment depends on the jurisdiction and the particulars of each situation. 

Is the Employer Liable for Sexual Harassment?

To start the process to uncover the answer to this question, you should ask other questions, like: 

  • Was the sexual harasser a person in a supervisory position to the victim?
  • Did the harassment result in a hostile work environment?
  • Did the employer have control over the employee committing the harassment?
  • Did the employer know or should it have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and proper corrective action?
  • Did the victim suffer an employment loss, such as being fired or demoted? 
  • Was anyone in the company aware of the harassment, like a supervisor or someone in human resources? 
  • Does the employer make each employee attend training on sexual harassment?
  • Are there employer policies in place to prevent sexual harassment?
  • Are sexual harassment prevention policies implemented and executed?

Whether or not the employer is liable will come down to who, what, where, and when. Also, keep in mind that some states hold employers strictly liable for sexual harassment. Thus, finding fault – like the above questions are meant to do – is not necessary. This alone is the reason why you should speak to an employment law attorney in your area to make sure you know what the law is and if it applies to your case so that you can address it timely and properly.

What Should Employers in California Do to Prevent Sexual Harassment?

Employers must take proactive steps to ensure applicants and employees have a safe, comfortable work environment free of hostility, discrimination, and sexual harassment. They can do this by implementing preventive policies and procedures. 

Education and Training

Employers should implement company-wide training to educate all employees on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to prevent it. This training should be repeated on a regular basis. It should be kept current, reflecting and incorporating legal updates on the subject. 

Open communication regarding sexual harassment should be encouraged, with staff feeling as though they have an outlet to express their concerns.

Enforcement of Unambiguous Policies

Employers should also develop policies that address sexual harassment in the workplace, and make clear that it will not be tolerated. When an employee does complain about sexual harassment, their claim should be investigated and the appropriate punishment given to the harasser, if the complaint is validated.

An employer must address sexual harassment claims timely and appropriately in accordance with federal and state laws. Retaliating against an employee for reporting sexual harassment is unlawful, and action can be taken against the employer.

What Are Employee Responsibilities to Prevent Sexual Harassment in California?

Unlike employers who must take positive and proactive steps to spread awareness and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace (through training and policies), employees are not required by law to proactively prevent sexual harassment, except to the extent they do not commit it themselves.

However, if policies and procedures exist in their work place, employees should familiarize themselves with such policies and procedures and comply with the mandated rules. 

Thus, it is a good practice for employers to encourage their employees to be alert and proactive to prevent workplace sexual harassment by implementing policies and procedures. For example, guide employees that:

  • If an employee is sexually harassed, they should immediately confront the person, if it's safe to do so and within their means.
  • If possible, the victim should clearly state the behavior is unacceptable and will be reported.
  • If an employee sees a co-worker experiencing sexual harassment, they can offer support. This support could mean helping the victim protect themselves and/or report the incident to their boss, human resources, or another person or department.

Remedies for Sexual Harassment Cases in California

A number of remedies may be available to the victims if they have been the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace. Three potential and important remedies include:

  1. Compensation. If the victim proves a sexual harassment case, he or she is entitled to compensation. Compensation depends on several factors, including but not limited to the presence and extent of emotional distress, loss of wages, lost professional opportunities, medical expenses (like those for psychological care), and the nature and degree of the harassment (verbal versus physical).
  2. Opportunities. If the victim lost a job or professional opportunity, that job or opportunity could be offered or provided again.
  3. Alterations. The affecting employer should make sure its workspace is safe. This can include anything from improved training to the removal of the harasser.  

Contact Us Today

As an employment law specialist with years of experience defending California employers, Law Offices of Albert Chang is well-equipped in helping California employers navigate sexual harassment claims and other workplace issues. Remember, the best defense is always a good offense. By proactively addressing potential issues and fostering an inclusive workplace environment, you can minimize the risk of costly litigation and maintain a positive workplace culture. If your business is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit or if you need guidance on creating a harassment-free workplace, contact us today by filling out our ONLINE FORM or calling us at (310) 769-6836  to schedule a free consultation.

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