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Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyers

The page explains that, in evaluating a workplace sexual harassment case, the most important issues to California sexual harassment attorneys are: supervisor, or manager sexual harassment – For the purposes of strict liability sexual harassment managers, supervisors and lead persons are individuals having the authority, in the interest of the employer to hire employees, fire employees, transfer employees, suspend employees, layoff employees, promote employees, discharge employees, adjust their grievances, discipline them, reward them, effectively recommend any of these actions, and to direct them.

Our sexual harassment lawyers have had considerable case success holding employers liable for sexual harassment done by so-called, “Team leads” and lower level supervisors who have the authority to direct the flow, assign the sexual harassment victim work, or maybe schedule the sexual harassment victim. Sometimes the lower level supervisors are liable for sexual harassment because they are thought of as supervisors by the sexual harassment victim. Lower level management may also be liable for sexual harassment if they are the employee the sexual harassment victim must call if they are going to be absent, or ask permission to leave early.

Harassing Behavior

The Fair Employment and Housing Act defines harassment because of sex as including sexual harassment, gender harassment, and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The Fair Employment and Housing Commission regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. The following is a partial list of violations:

·         Unwanted sexual advances

·         Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors

·         Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances

·         Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of suggestive objects or pictures, cartoon or posters

·         Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, and jokes

·         Verbal sexual advances or propositions

·         Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations

·         Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements

California Sexual Harassment Law

The law recognizes two types of sexual harassment:

·         Quid pro quo harassment: When sexual favors are demanded by a supervisor or manager as a condition of employment, such as a promotion.

·         Hostile work environment: When an employer knowingly allows a hostile, offensive, oppressive or intimidating work environment based on sex to continue, and which adversely affects an employee’s ability to work.

The vast majority of sexual harassment victims are women, but men can suffer the effects of these behaviors too. This type of harassment usually involves a group of employees.

Employer Liability

All employers are prohibited from harassing employees in the workplace. If harassment occurs, an employer may be liable even if management was not aware of the harassment. An employer might avoid liability if the harasser is a non-management employee, the employer had no knowledge of the harassment, and there was a program to prevent harassment. If the harasser is a non-management employee, the employer may avoid liability if the employer takes immediate and appropriate corrective action to stop the harassment once the employer learns about it. Employers are strictly liable for harassment by their supervisors or agents. The harasser can be held personally liable for damages. Additionally, Government Code section 12940, subdivision (k), requires an entity to take “all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring.” If an employer has failed to take such preventative measures, that employer can be held liable for the harassment. A victim may be entitled to monetary damages even though no employment opportunity has been denied and there is no actual loss of pay or benefits.

Employer Obligations

All employers have a legal obligation to prevent sexual harassment.

  • Employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.
  • Employers must help ensure a workplace free from sexual harassment by posting in the workplace a poster made available by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
  • Employers must help ensure a workplace free from sexual harassment by distributing to employees information on sexual harassment. An employer may either distribute a brochure that may be obtained from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or develop an equivalent document, which must meet the following requirements:
  • The illegality of sexual harassment
  • The definition of sexual harassment under state and federal laws
  • A description of sexual harassment, utilizing examples
  • The internal complaint process of the employer available to the employee
  • The legal remedies and complaint process available through the Department and the Fair Employment and Housing Commission
  • Directions on how to contact the Department and the Fair Employment and Housing Commission
  • The protection against retaliation for opposing the practices prohibited by law or for filing a complaint with, or otherwise participating in investigative activities conducted by, the Department or the Commission
  • # Employers with 50 or more employees must provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees who are employed as of July 1, 2005 and to all new supervisory employees within six months of assuming a supervisory position. Thereafter, covered employers must provide sexual harassment training and education to each supervisory employee once every two years.

Enforcement Of The Law

Employees or job applicants who believe that they have been sexually harassed may, within one year of the harassment, file a complaint of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The Department will investigate the complaint and attempt to resolve the disputes. If the Department finds evidence of sexual harassment and settlement efforts fail, the Department may file a formal accusation against the employer and the harasser. The accusation may lead to either a public hearing before the Fair Employment and Housing Commission or a lawsuit filed on the complainant’s behalf by the Department. If the Commission finds that harassment occurred, it can order remedies, including up to $150,000 in fines and/or damages for emotional distress from each employer or harasser charged. In addition, the Commission may order hiring or reinstatement, back pay, promotion, training, and changes in the policies or practices of the involved employer. A court may order unlimited damages.

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