Sexual Harassment Lawyer
What is Sexual Harassment?
California has a fundamental public policy against sexual harassment in the workplace. Since 1985, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) has prohibited sexual harassment of an employee. Government Code section 12940, subdivision (j)(4)(a) provides, “[f]or purposes of this subdivision only, ‘employer’ means any person regularly employing one or more persons." Thus, all employers accused of harassment (based on sex or another classification listed in Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (j)(1)) are subject to a FEHA harassment claim.
The FEHA makes sexual harassment of an employee by any person unlawful. In addition, it is unlawful “[f]or an employer ... to fail to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.” Sexual harassment is defined as including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
California's FEHA recognizes two theories of liability for sexual harassment claims – quid pro quo harassment, where a term of employment is conditioned upon submission to unwelcome sexual advances – AND – hostile work environment, where the harassment is sufficiently pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment. The court employs a “totality of the circumstances” approach to determine the severity of the harassment.
Furthermore, FEHA prohibits acts of retaliation against an employee who has made a complaint of discrimination or harassment.
Common Forms of Sexual Harassment
Unwelcomed sexual advances
Requests or demands for sexual favors
Offensive or derogatory remarks about a person's sex, gender, or gender identity
Displaying sexually-offensive symbols, pictures, or videos
Level of Conduct Necessary To Be Illegal
The law does not prohibit teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious. Sexual harassment is illegal when it becomes so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or when it results in an adverse employment action, such as a termination.
What Should You Do If You Have Been a Victim of Sexual Harassment?
If you believe that you are a victim of sexual harassment, you should reach out to an experienced sexual harassment Employment Law Attorney to discuss your unique situation. As you can tell, every situation is different and no one-sized-fit-all approach will work for every employee.