Pursuing Sexual Harassment Claims in Los Angeles, CA
Sexual harassment in the workplace is alarmingly common. According to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Commission receives thousands of sexual harassment complaints every year. But, these data only reflect the instances of sexual harassment that are reported to the federal government. A Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer at Attorneys for Employees can help you take action and use our experience to seek all available remedies on your behalf.
The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) and other state agencies receive thousands of complaints each year as well, and it is likely that far more cases go unreported. If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important that you speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. Sexual harassment is against the law, and employees who are victimized can—and should—hold companies accountable.
Understanding the Laws that Prohibit Sexual Harassment in Los Angeles’ Workplaces
Sexual harassment is prohibited as a form of sex-based employment discrimination under federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers in Los Angeles with 15 or more employees, while the anti-harassment provisions under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) apply to employers with only one full-time or part-time worker.
The prohibitions under Title VII and California’s FEHA are similar. Both laws prohibit two specific types of sexual harassment:
1. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or other superior demands sexual favors in exchange for an employment-related opportunity or benefit. For example, if a supervisor demands sex in exchange for a promotion, this is a textbook case of quid pro quo sexual harassment under both Title VII and the FEHA.
Cases of quid pro quo sexual harassment can involve a broad range of other circumstances as well. For example, a Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney at Attorneys for Employees may be able to help you pursue a claim if you were pressured to provide a sexual favor in exchange for any of the following:
- A raise or promotion
- Keeping your job
- Keeping your job assignment or work schedule
- Getting time off
- The opportunity to work from home
- The opportunity to work on a particular project or assignment
- The ability to interact directly with customers or clients
- Any other work-related opportunity or benefit
Quid pro quo sexual harassment can be either explicit or implied, and while both types of cases can be difficult to prove, our experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers will be able to help you. We can use our experience successfully handling quid pro quo harassment cases to fight for the outcome you deserve.
2. Fostering a Hostile Work Environment
The second type of sexual harassment involves fostering a hostile work environment. While quid pro quo sexual harassment requires a specific adverse employment outcome (i.e., being denied a promotion or losing your job), you can file a hostile work environment claim if you have been subjected to repeated or persistent sexual comments, contact, or other conduct at work.
Under both Title VII and the FEHA, occasional and isolated incidents will not rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment in most cases. However, the severity of the incident (or incidents) involved is an important factor. In cases of egregious sexual misconduct, a single act can be enough to create a hostile work environment.
What To Do if You Are a Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment in Los Angeles
If you believe that you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, there are some steps you should take to help your Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer pursue your claim. These steps include:
- Seek Help Immediately – As a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to seek help immediately. This means seeking treatment and talking to a Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible.
- Report the Harassment – Unless you are uncomfortable doing so, you should report the harassment to your employer. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, our lawyers can do this for you. Again, the key is to take action promptly, and you should not hesitate to contact us if you haven’t filed a report.
- Document the Incident (or Incidents) – In sexual harassment cases, documentation is important, so you should try to document the incident (or incidents) as much as possible. We know it can be difficult, but you should write down as many details as you can remember.
- Be Sure to Keep Any Relevant Communications – If you have emails, text messages or any other communications related to your sexual harassment claim, you should be sure to keep these in a safe place. These will be important to share with your Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer.
- Learn About Your Legal Rights – While dealing with your situation can be stressful, it can help to learn a bit more about your legal rights. Our blog is a good place to start, and again, we encourage you to speak with one of our lawyers as soon as possible.
What Not To Do if You Are a Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment in Los Angeles
In addition to taking the steps we just listed, there are also some mistakes you need to try to avoid when you have a sexual harassment claim in Los Angeles. For example:
- Do Not Blame Yourself – No matter what, your current circumstances are not your fault. There is no excuse for sexual harassment, and your employer had a legal obligation to protect you.
- Do Not Post Anything Online – While you may want to post about your situation online, you need to resist the temptation to do so. At this point, you should only discuss your situation with one of our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys.
- Do Not Assume the Problem Will Go Away – Many employees wait too long to take action because they assume (or hope) that the problem will go away. The statistics show that this rarely happens, and most hostile work environments get worse instead of better.
- Do Not Try to Handle Your Situation Alone – As a victim of sexual harassment, you should not feel embarrassed about what happened to you, and you should not try to deal with your situation alone. Help is available, and seeking help is the best thing you can do for your psychological and financial well-being.
FAQs: Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim Against Your Employer in Los Angeles
What is Sexual Harassment?
The EEOC defines sexual harassment as harassment that is based on a person’s sex. It can include the following conduct:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- The promise of promotion or other rewards in exchange for sexual contact
- Offensive comments or slurs concerning a particular sex
- Jokes about a particular sex
It is important to note that the conduct in question does not need to be sexual in nature. Making jokes or derogatory comments about women in general, for example, could be deemed to be sexual harassment.
To be considered sexual harassment, the conduct in question typically needs to be either frequent or severe such that it creates a hostile work environment where the targeted person feels uncomfortable to the point that it interferes with their job performance. To put it another way, a single joke or offhand remark would likely not be considered sexual harassment despite the fact that the joke or comment is offensive. That said, do not hesitate to reach out to a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer if you feel that you have been sexually harassed.
What are the Laws that Protect Employees from Sexual Harassment?
There are several federal and state laws that protect employees from sexual harassment. The chief anti-sexual harassment laws include the following:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The California Fair Employment and Housing Act
Different laws offer different protections. California state law tends to provide more protection than federal law. For example, California state law applies to employers with as few as 5 employees, while federal law applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. Furthermore, California law applies to unpaid interns, volunteers, and independent contractors in addition to paid employees.
What are Some Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment can be overt or implied, explicit or subtle. Here are some examples of sexual harassment similar to what you may be experiencing in the workplace:
- A co-worker routinely makes derogatory comments about women being subpar employees.
- A co-worker attempts to massage your shoulders despite your requests that she stop.
- Your supervisor implies that you will be given a raise if you go away with him for the weekend.
- Someone regularly posts provocative pictures of women in the workplace.
- A co-worker regularly leers at you and comments on your appearance.
- A co-worker repeatedly makes sexual propositions to you.
It is also important to note that both men and women can be targets of sexual harassment, and same-sex sexual harassment is also against the law.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work?
If you have been sexually harassed at work, you should take the following steps:
- Document it. Jot down the date and time that any incidents take place. Describe the nature of the harassment, the name of your harasser, and the names of any witnesses. Save any pertinent emails or other documents or take pictures of any offensive images that were used.
- Make it known that it is unwelcome. As difficult as it may be, you want to clearly state that the conduct is unwanted and unwelcome. You should inform your harasser that their conduct is inappropriate in the workplace and state clearly that you want them to stop.
- Consider reporting it to HR. Review your employer’s anti-harassment policy and follow the process for reporting sexual harassment. If your employer does not have a policy or you are uncomfortable following the policy for whatever reason, you should consult with a lawyer.
- Consult with a lawyer. Even if you report the harassment to HR, the situation is likely far from over. A Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer can not only advise you as to your legal rights but also give you some practical advice for moving forward.
Can I Sue My Employer for Sexual Harassment?
You can sue your employer for sexual harassment if your employer was directly involved in the harassment or if your employer was aware of the harassment and failed to take action. As a result, you can sue your employer for sexual harassment if you were being harassed by a co-worker, an independent contractor, or even a customer or client. Under California law, you can also sue the harasser personally, in addition to your employer.
What is the Process for Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?
In California, you must first file an administrative complaint with the relevant government agency before you can file a lawsuit for sexual harassment. You can file your complaint with the EEOC or the California CRD. Note that when you file a complaint with one agency, it will be cross-filed with the other agency. However, you must make sure that you meet the deadline for both agencies.
Once filed, the agency will review your complaint and determine whether it has merit. The agency will then issue a “right to sue” letter, which you can then use to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer and your harassment.
Can I Recover Damages if I Win My Sexual Harassment Case?
Yes, you can recover damages if you win your sexual harassment case. These damages could potentially include the following:
- Lost compensation (for example, if you were fired or passed over for a promotion as a result of refusing a sexual advance)
- Emotional distress caused by the harassment
- Attorney’s fees and court costs
If the harassment was truly egregious, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.
Can I Be Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?
It is against the law to fire someone in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, but unfortunately, it still happens. If you are fired as a result of reporting sexual harassment, you will then have a legal claim for wrongful termination.
What Should I Do if I Witness Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
You should report it to HR. The victim of the harassment may be too intimidated to report it for fear of losing their job or somehow making things worse. Sexual harassment becomes especially problematic when good people do not take action, even when they are not involved.
How Can a Sexual Harassment Attorney Help Me With My Case?
They can review your case and determine whether you have a claim. They can help you understand your options, and provide guidance even if you are not yet ready to file a complaint. They can also give you practical advice in terms of what to do if your job is in jeopardy or what you can expect once your claim is filed.
How Do I Know If I Have a Claim for Workplace Sexual Harassment in Los Angeles?
While sexual harassment is clearly against the law, it isn’t always easy to tell if you have a claim. Not all comments or interactions that most people would consider harassing rise to the level of sexual harassment under Title VII or the FEHA. If you think you may have a claim, the best thing you can do is talk to our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers as soon as possible.
How Can a Sexual Harassment Attorney Help Me With My Claim?
You can file a claim on your own if you choose to do so. But this is not your best option. It is far too easy to make mistakes, and you need to make an informed decision about what remedies to seek (and why). Our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys at Attorneys for Employees can help with all aspects of the process, and hiring an experienced lawyer will give you the best chance of securing the outcome you deserve.
Can I Get Fired for Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?
It is against the law for employers to fire employees because they file sexual harassment claims. If you get fired, you will be a victim of retaliation, and our lawyers can help you seek appropriate legal remedies for this as well.
Schedule an Appointment with a Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer
If you would like to speak with a lawyer about filing a sexual harassment claim in Los Angeles, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. Please call 310-601-1330 or contact us confidentially online to schedule an appointment today.