What Are My Rights Against Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

What Are My Rights Against Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?

Sexual harassment is a serious form of sex discrimination which is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a far reaching federal law that applies to all employers with 15 or more employees and also applies to state, local and federal governments, labor organizations, and employment agencies.

While sexual harassment can be difficult to objectively identify, it always encompasses requests or demands for sexual favors, unwanted sexual advances, and many forms of physical or verbal behaviors that are of a sexual nature. This type of conduct has the potential to adversely affect a person’s employment or unreasonably interfere with his or her work performance. It can also create a hostile or offensive work environment.

What Laws Protect Me From Sexual Harassment?
Can I Be Retaliated Against For Complaining About Sexual Harassment?
What Can I Do If I Was The Victim Of Sexual Harassment?

What Laws Protect Me From Sexual Harassment?

There are federal and California laws in place to protect you from sexual harassment, whether the perpetrator is a supervisor, a co-worker, or a customer or client you may be doing business with. Furthermore, sexual harassment laws apply to men and women and they explicitly prohibit all forms of sexual harassment, regardless of whether the offending behavior is directed at someone of the same or opposite sex.

California Law

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) exists to prohibit all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. FEHA protections will apply to: 

  • Employment Agencies
  • Private Employers
  • Public Employers
  • Labor Organizations
  • Employment Agencies 
  • State and Local Governments with 1 or more Employees.

Federal Law

The primary federal law that prohibits all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Much like FEHA, Title VII applies to most public and private employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and also includes employer-union apprenticeship programs that have 15 or more employees.

Can I Be Retaliated Against For Complaining About Sexual Harassment?

Absolutely not. Sexual harassment is against the law and retaliating against an employee who complains about or who participates in a sexual harassment investigation is also unlawful.

Let’s consider some examples. Say that an aggrieved employee complains about sexual harassment in the workplace and he or she is then fired while the harasser is allowed to keep their job. Or maybe this same employee is reassigned to a position that pays much less after he or she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint letter. Both examples are potential forms of unlawful retaliation against an employee who was simply acting within their rights.

What Can I Do If I Was The Victim Of Sexual Harassment?

  • Stand Up For Yourself. It may not always be easy, but it’s important to be clear about how the harasser’s behavior is offensive. Say no if you are uncomfortable with any sexual propositions and firmly refuse any invitations or other forms of harassment. Make sure to put your complaint in writing and keep a copy of this communication. 
  • Documentation. Write down everything as soon as an incident occurs. This includes times, places, perpetrators, and any witnesses. If it is safe to do so, ask your co-workers to write down anything they may have heard or seen. Make sure to keep all your documentation in a safe place and preferably not at work. 
  • Make a formal complaint with your employer. Inform your direct supervisor or your Human Resources (HR) department about the harassment. It is best to make your complaint in writing. Be very clear when you describe the problem and offer a solution for how you want the issue resolved. As mentioned, make sure to keep copies of all communication you send and receive from your employer in a safe place.
  • Learn About Your Employer’s Complaint Procedure. This is crucial because most employers have policies and procedures in place to address sexual harassment complaints. If you don’t already have a copy of your employer’s policies, ask for a copy and familiarize yourself with it. You must follow your employer’s complaint procedures, at a minimum. This will also prove that you complied with your employer’s policies when you made them aware of the harassment. 
  • Bring Your Union Into The Conversation. Membership in a union gives you the option of filing a formal complaint through the union, as well as benefiting from the assistance of a union official who can help you through the grievance process. Please be aware that that if you use your union’s grievance procedure, you are still required to file a charge of discrimination with a government agency before you can file a lawsuit in court.
  • File A Sexual Harassment Complaint with A Government Agency. If you decide to to file a sexual harassment lawsuit in court, you must file a sexual harassment charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at www.eeoc.gov.

What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?

If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The sexual harassment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.

We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in California, contact our office at 1-800-247-9235.

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