2024 What Is Considered Sexual Harassment at Work in California?

With societal rules changing quickly, it can be difficult to recognize what specific actions can be considered sexual harassment in the workplace. Fortunately, California has extensive laws about sexual harassment to protect employees who live in the state. To find out more about your unique situation, contact a California sexual harassment attorney.

What Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

There are two types of workplace sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo. In quid pro quo sexual harassment, an employer or a manager pressures an employee to perform sexual acts for them. They can either do this by offering benefits like raises or advancement or threatening consequences like being fired or demoted. This behavior can either be explicitly said or implied. This method of sexual harassment is usually considered egregious and is a bit easier to prove, especially if consequences did occur after the employee refused the advances.
  • Hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is a form of sexual harassment that threatens an employee’s feeling of peace or safety in the workplace. The specific actions are taken into account as well, but a large part of the validity of a hostile work environment case is how the employee felt after the actions occurred. If the actions were done but the employee did not feel threatened or harmed by them, it likely would not hold up in court as sexual harassment.

Specific Actions Representing Harassment

In some contexts, the specific actions performed are not as impactful in determining the verdict of the case if the employee was significantly affected. Still, it can be helpful to know what types of things can qualify as sexual harassment in certain situations:

  • Touching. This is probably the most popular action people think about regarding sexual harassment. The specific area touched has a great impact on the outcome of the case, even if the touches were considered sexual by the employee. The court will also consider how often the touches happened when determining a verdict.
  • Sexual comments. This action is usually more difficult to prove as sexual harassment since comments that are simply vulgar do not necessarily count. Comments usually need to be targeted at a specific person or group and need to be especially severe to qualify as sexual harassment.
  • Requests for advances. Usually, single occurrences of requests for something like a date or romantic relationship are not grounds for a sexual harassment claim, but excessive requests might be. This is especially true if you are then treated differently due to rejecting their advances. This could include excessive staring, leering, or targeted comments about you.
  • Leering. Leering is the act of egregious staring at an individual in a sexual manner. Usually, the leering is done toward that person’s private parts or breasts. While this can be difficult to prove, consistent and repetitive leering over significant periods might be considered sexual harassment.

Regardless of the actions performed, it is important to understand that every case is different. Just because an employer behaved a certain way does not necessarily mean that the courts will automatically call it sexual harassment. To get a second opinion on the validity of your case, discuss the specifics with an employment lawyer who works with victims of sexual harassment.

What Can You Do?

The first step in any sexual harassment claim is to attempt to work it out with your employer if possible. If this is not a possibility for you, the next step would be to file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If they do not agree to take your case, they can give you a right-to-sue notice that allows you to file a civil case directly against your employer within one year of receiving the notice.

FAQs for Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Q: What Is Legally Considered Harassment in California?

A: In California, an action that was caused due to the member’s affiliation with a protected class can be considered a form of harassment. Protected classes include things like race, gender, and age. In the context of sexual harassment, this can mean asking an employee to perform sexual favors in exchange for benefits or to prevent consequences. Other actions can be considered harassment if they create a hostile work environment for the employee.

Q: What Is the Workplace Harassment Policy in California?

A: An employee who believes that they are experiencing sexual harassment can do one of three things:

  1. They can attempt to resolve it themselves with their employer without any outside assistance.
  2. They can file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
  3. They can take legal action against their employer (this is only possible if they are granted permission to do so by the DFEH).

Contact a harassment lawyer to determine which option fits your case.

Q: Are Harassment Cases Hard to Prove?

A: Harassment cases are typically evaluated by the frequency of the harassing actions, the severity of the actions, the impact on the employee, and the surrounding context of the situation. Some cases might be difficult to prove based on certain elements of the situation. To figure out whether you have a valid claim, schedule a consultation with a Sacramento, CA sexual harassment lawyer to determine your next steps.

Q: Can I Sue My Employer for Harassment in California?

A: An employee can file a claim against their employer for sexual harassment in California, but only if they have a right-to-sue notice. To receive a right-to-sue notice, they must first file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If they decide not to represent you in delivering your complaint to your employer, they can send you a right-to-sue notice, giving you up to one year to file a claim in court.

Take Action Now

Filing a claim against your employer can be complicated. Don’t let your company’s strong legal team prevent you from seeking justice. Schedule a consultation at the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton today to learn more about your options. The staff can confidentially review your case to determine potential outcomes and give you tangible actions to recover what you can.

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