Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment
WJA has a long track record of litigating sexual harassment cases. They include gender stereotyping, quid pro quo (e.g. boss wants sexual favors in return for promotion), and hostile work environment cases. Both California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act make it illegal for your employer to discriminate based on your gender, which includes sexual harassment.
Generally, there are two categories of sexual harassment:
- “Quid Pro Quo” – quid pro quo occurs when a more senior manager or employee demands that you perform sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, obtaining a job or in exchange for some other workplace benefit.
- “Hostile Work Environment” – This is the more common type of sexual harassment seen in the workplace. Hostile work environment occurs when a supervisor or other employee makes sexually suggestive comments, gestures, advances, pictures, emails, texts, touch or humor that unreasonably interferes with your work performance.
In 2019, California passed a new law, making allegations of sexual harassment much easier to prove. For example, only one incident of sexual harassment may be sufficient to hold your employer accountable in a hostile environment case, if the harassing conduct has unreasonably interfered with your work performance or created an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Your employer is also liable if it fails to prevent this type of behavior, even if it comes from a non-employee customer or independent contractor. Likewise, it is a serious violation of the law for your employer to retaliate against you for reporting instances of sexual harassment, whether it be internal complaints to a manager or human resources or a complaint to an outside authority like the EEOC or DFEH. Therefore, if you are fired for complaining about sexual harassing behavior, you may have an additional claim for retaliation and wrongful termination.
If you believe that you are the victim of sexual harassment, it is extremely important that you document the behavior and keep records such as emails, letters, text messages and the like. It is equally important that you immediately contact us to talk with an attorney and explore your rights and options going forward – especially how to initiate your company’s grievance process and be protected from retaliation. At Workplace Justice Advocates, PLC, our sexual harassment attorneys have extensive experience litigating sexual harassment cases of all types. We offer free and confidential consultations to our clients and work primarily on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t pay us any fees unless and until we achieve a successful resolution of your lawsuit.
Although hostile working environment is often associated with sexual harassment, other protected categories can also form the basis of a valid claim, such as harassment based on race, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or medical condition. As long as the harassing activities, taken as a whole, are severe and pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment, your employer can be held liable for any damages you may have incurred, especially if you have been fired as a result. The first step is contacting our experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Workplace Justice Advocates, PLC. If you are still employed, you should contact us before you decide to quit or do anything to permanently alter your employment situation. We can evaluate your case for free and provide useful advice that could save your job and preserve your rights.