Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyers
We aggressively and effectively defend victims of sexual harassment while protecting their privacy during the litigation process.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, we urge you to contact us for a free and confidential consultation. Our sexual harassment lawyers will advise you of all of your legal options including alternatives to pursuing litigation.
No one should have to go to work and be harassed. All employers have a legal obligation to prevent sexual harassment.
Do not let intimidation ruin your career or hold you back from asserting your rights. California has some of the most powerful legal protections in all of the United States that safeguard employees from unlawful harassment.
You are Not Alone. Every year, thousands of individuals file charges of sexual harassment. A significant portion of those individuals are men. Complaints from men of sexual harassment have nearly doubled in the past decades. Although most sexual harassment cases involve male supervisors and female subordinates, harassment of male employees by female employees is also actionable. Same-sex harassment equally gives rise to liability.
The three most common sexual harassment complaints for both genders are:
- An employee is fired or denied an employment benefit because he/she refused to grant sexual favors or because he/she complained about harassment. Even if you cannot prove that the harassment actually occurred (e.g., he/said she/said situation), retaliation for complaining of sexual harassment is illegal.
- An employee quits because he/she can no longer tolerate an offensive work environment. This is otherwise known as a constructive termination.
- An employee is exposed to a hostile and offensive work environment.
Do Not Blame Yourself. Sexual harassment is generally motivated by the desire to exert control, to demean or to humiliate another person – not by sexual desire. Suffering in silence might make it worse.
Harassers often exploit the unequal power relationships in the workplace and the fear that employees have of losing their jobs in targeting victims.
Unless harassment is dealt with appropriately, it will likely escalate into a hostile work environment forcing you to leave your job — the exact result you were trying to avoid by not speaking up.
Sexual harassment manifests itself in many forms. There are two general theories of harassment recognized by California courts.
“Quid pro quo” (also known as “tit for tat”) harassment is when an employee’s job benefits (i.e., retaining the job, advancement opportunities, good performance evaluations, and/ or coveted work assignments) are contingent on providing sexual favors to a supervisor. This occurs when a supervisor takes advantage of the disparity of power to extort sexual favors from an employee. In this scenario, there is usually some kind of express or implied threat that if the employee says no, he or she will face consequences.
The supervisors’ advances must be unwelcome. If there is a mutual attraction, an employer cannot be held liable. An employee, however, may still maintain a claim for sexual harassment if after a consensual relationship ends, the supervisor becomes vindictive.
For purposes of this analysis, just because an employee submits to “unwelcomed advances” to avoid facing an adverse employment action, does not make those advances consensual. The inquiry turns on whether the employee indicated that the advances were unwelcomed.
An employee may have a claim for quid pro quo harassment, even if a supervisor withholds a job benefit on a single occasion. Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual desire. Very often harassment is more about the abuse of power to humiliate, diminish, and bully an individual rather than sexual attraction. A victim, however, does have to demonstrate that for example had she been a man, she would not have been subjected to harassment.
In addition to showing that the advances were unwelcomed, to prevail under a theory of quid pro quo harassment, an employee must also demonstrate that he or she suffered a tangible employment action (e.g., fired, denied a promotion) as a consequence of refusing to submit to sexual demands and that this adverse employment action was caused by his or her refusal. If an employee does not suffer an adverse employment action, her or she might have a claim for hostile work environment harassment.
“Hostile environment” harassment applies to situation wherein an employee did not suffer a tangible employment action, e.g., a demotion, termination, etc, but was nonetheless harassed with offensive comments, sexual innuendos, and/or physical antics. Under this theory of liability, you have show that the harassment was either severe or it happened so frequently that it created an abusive work environment. The actions at issue do not have to be sexual. For example, an individual working in an environment wherein her or she is frequently picked on with questions of competence, rumors, offensive jokes while members of the opposite sex are not treated in the same way, may have a claim for hostile work environment harassment.
Not all offensive harassment gives rise to a claim. Isolated and infrequent incidents of offensive gender-related jokes or occasional teasing is not considered bad enough to give rise to a lawsuit for sexual harassment. Keep in mind, however, just because some types of offensive conduct do not meet this high legal standard, it does not mean that they are appropriate or should be tolerated at work. You should certainly report offensive incidents to your employer. Depending on the unique circumstances of your situation, your employer most likely has a duty to take corrective action including but not limited to launching a fair and unbiased investigation. If instead of remedying the situation your employer retaliates against you, you may have a standalone retaliation claim.
The foregoing was a simple overview of a complicated area of law and is not intended to replace a professional legal opinion. If you suspect something is a miss at work or that you are being sexually harassed, please contact an employment law attorney who is familiar with sexual harassment laws. Our offices are located in Los Angeles and Culver City and we provide free consultations to potential clients.
For more information about California laws relating to sexual harassment, please visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you have cause to pursue legal action against your employer for sexual harassment, California law requires you to act quickly. California imposes strict deadlines for pursuing legal action. Failure to comply with these deadlines will result in forfeiture of your right to pursue a lawsuit.