Sexual Harassment in California FAQ
Sexual harassment is illegal in the state of California. If you are a victim of this behavior, you have certain legal rights. You have many options for taking action to stop harassment, including making a claim under federal and state laws. The protections available to you may allow you to obtain full compensation for any financial or emotional harm caused by workplace harassment by making a claim for damages, but you need to understand your rights.
The Orange County employment law attorneys at The Nassiri Law Group have extensive experience representing employees whose rights have been violated by sexual harassment. While you should contact our attorneys to schedule a free evaluation of your case, we have also prepared some answers to frequently asked questions in order to help you to find the information you need about sexual harassment in the workplace.
- What is Sexual Harassment?
- What are Some Examples of Sexual Harassment?
- When is Harassment Considered Illegal?
- How is Sexual Harassment Dealt With by California Law?
- How Should I Respond if I am Being Harassed?
- When can I File a Complaint?
- Can My Employer Fire Me if I Make a Complaint?
- When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
What is Sexual Harassment?
According to the EEOC , sexual harassment is any type of negative behavior on the basis of sex and may include “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex.”
Furthermore, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) “defines sexual harassment as harassment based on sex or of a sexual nature; gender harassment; and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
Some of the things that might be considered sexual harassment include:
- Sexual solicitations, advances, or unwelcome contact.
- Requesting sex or sexual favors for employment opportunities.
- Gestures, leering, or acting out sexual situations.
- Sexual insults or put-downs.
- Crude comments of a sexual nature.
- Graphic descriptions of an individual’s sex life.
- Demands for sexual compliance.
According to the EEOC , “harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”
This means there are several different types of illegal sexual harassment including quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or someone in a position of authority attempts to trade sexual favors for beneficial employment actions, such as a promotion in exchange for a kiss. Hostile work environment harassment exists when anyone at your workplace, including co-workers or supervisors, makes you uncomfortable at your job because of actions related to sex or gender.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (Government Code sections 12900 through 12996) and its implementing regulations (California Code of Regulations, title 2, sections 7285.0 through 8504) prohibit harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against anyone who “opposes, reports, or assists another person” in reporting harassment.
A state or a federal claim can be made on the basis of sexual harassment if you are being victimized and you can recover compensation for economic and non-economic losses from your harasser or from an employer who fails to stop the harassing behavior.
There are several steps to take if you are being harassed:
- Record any and all instances of harassment, and report them to your superior or HR representative.
- File a complaint with California’s Department of Industrial Relations or the EEOC at their EEOC’s Charge of Discrimination page.
- Contact a lawyer for a consultation. Your attorney will be able to advise you if you should take any further steps or if you have a claim for compensation.
If you are an employee or a job applicant who has been sexually harassed, you must file a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the incident.
You are protected by law if you file a sexual harassment complaint. Firing, demotion, or further harassment is considered “retaliation” and is illegal.
It is advisable to seek legal counsel as soon as you believe harassment is taking place. A qualified attorney can schedule a consultation and allow you to explain your situation in order to determine if you have a case.
Your attorney will also provide advice and resources to ensure that you are aware of your rights, know how to file a complaint, and understand how to get full compensation for losses. If you’re unsure of whether an individuals’ actions constitute sexual harassment, or if your employer is not dealing appropriately with your claims of harassment, a lawyer will be able to help.
The Orange County employment law attorneys at The Nassiri Law Group can help you understand the laws surrounding sexual harassment, or with many other legal issues. Call us today for a free consultation at (949) 375-4734.