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What to do when you face sexual harassment at work

Experiencing sexual harassment can leave you feeling unsure of what to do. Maybe this is something you have been suffering for some time, thinking there is nothing that can be done. After all, you need the job, and sometimes you just have to put up with unpleasantness.

If that rings familiar, you should know you have legal protections under California law. There are specific steps you can take to end the harassment without having to fear for your job. The following points offer a basic summary; however, every situation is different. You can get the right advice for your circumstances by discussing your concerns with an experienced lawyer.

Let your employer know

First, you need to inform your employer of the harassment. California law mandates employers to have a written policy on dealing with harassment in the workplace and to distribute it to employees. It should state whom you should notify of harassment that occurred. This person could be your immediate supervisor, an HR representative or another designated supervisory-level employee. If one of these people is the one engaging in harassment, you may need to go to that person's supervisor instead.

You should not skip this step even if you are deeply convinced it will not stop the harassment. If you end up needing to take your claim further, it will help to have evidence your employer knew of the harassment and did not put a stop to it. This also means you should keep a detailed record of your conversations on this topic.

File with DFEH

If speaking with your employer does not solve the problem, your next step will be to file a complaint with The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The official filing deadline is one year from the date of harassment. Of course, in many cases, harassment can continue over a period of time, sometimes with breaks. It can be hard to identify the moment it crossed the line from unpleasantness into illegality. Your attorney can help you figure out a timeline for your case.

File a lawsuit

You will be able to take your case to court once the DFEH issues a right to sue notice. The deadline is one year from the issuance of the notice.

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