Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under state and federal laws. If you are a victim of this type of behavior, justice should be pursued. Speaking up about the sexual harassment you experienced empowers you, causes the perpetrator to face consequences, and protects future employees. You will be making a tangible difference in your life and to society when you acknowledge and combat sexual harassment. Contact the office of Sessions & Kimball by using our online contact form or call us at (949) 380-0900 for a free consultation today.
Why You Need A Lawyer
Sexual harassment in the workplace is becoming more prevalent, according to the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). The association reports that, while both men and women are more likely to be harassed by the opposite sex, harassment by the same-sex also occurs. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 11,364 charges of sexual harassment in a single recent year, 16.3% of which were filed by males.
At Sessions & Kimball LLP, our attorneys specialize in representing California workers in a range of discrimination and harassment matters, including sexual harassment. Our practice is devoted exclusively to employee rights, and we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to provide top-level representation in a range of employment matters.
Victims of Sexual Harassment are Protected Under the Law
It is important to know what to do if you have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. California and federal laws protect employees from this type of activity. Sexual harassment claims can involve any or several of the following situations:
- Rude or inappropriate sexual comments
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- “Quid pro quo” situations in which career advancement is based upon requests for sexual favors
- Unwanted touching
- Graphic comments, sexually degrading words, sexually suggestive or obscene messages or invitations; or
- Fear of retaliation if you report the sexual harassment
Who Can File A Sexual Harassment Claim?
Simply put, anyone who has been sexually harassed in a work setting can file a lawsuit. This includes employees, job applicants, volunteers, interns (paid or unpaid), and other people providing services as independent contractors.
2 Main Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment In California
Quid Pro Quo
In Latin, quid pro quo literally means “this for that” or “something for something.” Quid pro quo harassment occurs when something regarding your employment is conditioned on your submission or agreement to some type of sexual advances or sexual conduct. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can include an offer, a suggestion, or even a threat. Additionally, it can be implicit or explicit. An employer can explicitly say, do, or request something, or they can implicitly suggest something through other behaviors or their tone. Regardless of how it occurs, quid pro quo is a very serious offense, and even one single incident can give rise to a lawsuit.
Legal Elements of Quid Pro Quo
In order for there to be a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, the following criteria must be met:
- An employee experienced unwelcome sexual advances, demands, or comments;
- The sexual advances came from a supervisor (this can be the employee’s immediate supervisor, or someone ranked above his/her supervisor, etc. This is a requirement for quid quo pro. The threat, promise, or sexual advances cannot come from a co-worker. It has to be someone in a supervisory position for this type of claim); and
- If the employee rejected the supervisor’s sexual demands, a tangible negative employment action resulted from that.
Interestingly, as an employee, you only have a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim in California if your employer actually follows through on their threat or promise. If your employer doesn’t follow through, you may still have a claim for hostile workplace harassment. Additionally, you must be able to show that the negative employment action was caused by your refusal of sexual advances. It’s not enough to simply show that an adverse employment action was taken against you. If your employer ever does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, you should make sure you know what your options are. Contact an experienced attorney who can help walk you through what to do.
Hostile Work Environment
Hostile work environment sexual harassment usually often occurs more discretely over a longer period of time. An employer or co-worker is creating a hostile work environment when they continually engage in behavior or speech that is so pervasive or severe that it alters the conditions of your employment, unreasonably interferes with your work, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It is possible for one action or one comment to create a hostile work environment, but it’s less likely. Interestingly, you can experience a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment even if the harassing and hostile behavior is not directed at you.
How Does California Define A Hostile Work Environment?
Determining whether a hostile work environment exists depends on several factors, both objective and subjective. Objectively, the behavior that is alleged to create a hostile work environment must be something that a reasonable person in the position of the victim would find offense, hostile, or abusive. Additionally, the victim must actually experience some sort of emotional distress as a result of the behavior. Further, the victim needs to show that the harassment subjectively affected their ability to perform their work, disturbed their mental state, or otherwise interfered with their well-being in some way.
3 Main Factors To Consider
When trying to determine if an employer’s or co-worker’s behavior has created a hostile work environment, courts consider the following three factors:
- The severity of the behavior
- The frequency of the behavior
- The context and surrounding circumstances of the behavior
The more often the behavior occurs and the longer it goes on, the more likely it is that you will have a claim for a hostile work environment.
We Represent Plaintiffs In Sexual Harassment Claims
Sexual harassment often boils down to a “he said, she said” scenario. This is because many sexually inappropriate acts happen in the privacy of an office or car. If you don’t have physical proof of the sexual harassment that occurred, you may feel like it will be impossible for you to bring a claim. This is a myth.
At Sessions & Kimball LLP, we understand the burdens required to bring a claim of sexual harassment, so we can help you find different ways to prove your case. Our experienced attorneys can also help you in contacting witnesses who may speak on your behalf. If your case is litigated, we are highly experienced at conducting discovery so that the employer is forced to admit to mistakes and errors.
Don’t let fear stop you from doing the right thing. Sexual harassment affects all walks of life. We have represented restaurant employees, retail clerks, educators, managers, temporary workers, independent contractors, teenagers, grandparents, straight people gay people, men, and women. Sexual harassment happens. When it does, contact our attorneys so we can analyze your personal situation.
Sexual Harassment Claims Have Special Statutory Deadlines
There are many statutes in place to help sexual harassment victims. The interplay between state and federal law, and case law, can be complex. Many plaintiffs believe they can file a sexual harassment claim within a year of being terminated. This is not always the case. Our attorneys can help you determine the last date of the harassing act, and therefore what relevant deadlines exist.
In California, Employers Have An Affirmative Duty To Prevent Sexual Harassment
In California, all employers have an affirmative duty to attempt to prevent sexual harassment and to immediately correct any discriminatory and harassing conduct once they become aware of it. It is the employer’s obligation to ensure that their workplace is free from sexual harassment of any kind. Additionally, there must be written policies in place regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Policies In California
In addition to the requirement of a written policy, employers must also ensure that there is a process that employees can participate in when they’ve been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. When an employee makes a complaint, the employer is required to do the following:
- Deal with the complaint promptly
- Keep the complaint as confidential as possible
- Respond to the employee making the complaint
- Make sure the complaint is properly investigated by the appropriate personnel
- Document the investigation
- Track the progress of the complaint
- Take appropriate action if the complaint is founded
Additionally, the employer must make sure there is an avenue for employees to report sexual harassment to someone other than their supervisor. This is especially important when the employee is accusing their supervisor of harassment. It is important to seek out a qualified employment attorney to handle your case and get the compensation you deserve.
Legal Help for Sexual Harassment Victims in Orange County
If your employer, supervisor, or coworker is making unwanted sexual advances, we will help you to take action. The sexual harassment attorneys at Sessions & Kimball LLP protect the rights of employees who are victimized in the workplace and will help you to pursue full compensation for all damages. We have extensive experience in this area of the law, and you can trust us to handle your case with the highest level of professionalism. Contact the office of Sessions & Kimball by using our online contact form or call us at (949) 380-0900 for a free consultation today.