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Understanding Workplace Harassment Laws

Employees who are being harassed at work have rights and can hold their employers accountable. That said, it can be difficult to know what laws apply to your case and how to navigate the process. If you believe you are being harassed at work, an experienced workplace harassment lawyer can help you understand your options. 

Federal Laws That Prohibit Harassment

As you may be aware, federal law applies in every state of the country and California employers are therefore subject to federal law. As a result, it is important to first understand what federal laws may apply if you have been subjected to harassment at work. 

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII: prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, and other bases. Under the Act, harassment is considered a type of employment discrimination and is therefore prohibited. 
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): prohibits age-related harassment of persons 40 years of age or older. 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): prohibits the harassment of persons with physical or mental disabilities

All of these laws prohibit two types of harassment: 

  1. Quid pro quo harassment is where sexual favors are sought in exchange for some type of employment benefit such as a promotion.
  2. Hostile work environment where there is a pervasive pattern of behavior that negatively affects the victim’s ability to do their job. 

Harassment claims under federal law are generally handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, your employer must have at least 15 employees in order to be subject to federal harassment laws. In other words, you may not be able to file a claim with the EEOC if your employer has only 10 employees. 

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA is California’s anti-discrimination and harassment law. Generally speaking, it provides broader protection from harassment for employees. Similar to federal law, FEHA prohibits both quid pro quo and hostile work environment harassment. 

In addition, its anti-harassment provisions apply to all employers, regardless of size. This means that you can pursue a harassment claim against your employer even if you are their only employee. 

If you are the victim of harassment, you can pursue a FEHA harassment claim by filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Department for the State of California. You can file your complaint online, by phone, or by mail. Your complaint must be filed within three years of the last incident of harassment. Because harassment can be subtle and difficult to identify, we recommend that you do not wait too long to file your claim so that you do not risk losing your rights. 

Contact Attorneys for Employees if You Are Being Harassed at Work

Taking the first step is the most difficult part of your claim. Once your case is in our hands, we handle the heavy lifting and remove the guesswork and anxiety. Let us help you protect your career – contact us today to discuss your case and how we can help.