Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer

 

Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination. Most people hear the term “sexual harassment” and associate it with unwelcome touching or sexual advances. However, sexual harassment does not have to be sexual in nature. It is any form of harassment due to the victim’s sex. This can include offensive or rude comments based on a person’s sex.

When faced with sexual harassment at work, it is important to know your rights. There are several protections at both the federal and state level meant to ensure the safety of employees. If you feel you have been sexually harassed in Los Angeles, talk with one of our sexual harassment attorneys. At Mathew & George, our lawyers have the experience to ensure that your sexual harassment claim is taken seriously by your employer.

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Type of Sexual Harassment

Quid Pro Quo

In Latin, quid pro quo means “something for something.” That’s exactly what happens in this type of harassment. It occurs when an employer, supervisor, or someone in a position of power makes an employment benefit contingent on sexual behavior.

This type is what people most often think of when they consider workplace sexual harassment. In exchange for sexual demands, a supervisor offers:

  • a promotion
  • favorable performance reviews
  • recommendations
  • raises
  • sought-after positions
  • assignments or shifts

Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also occur if a supervisor threatens retaliation if the employee doesn’t meet sexual demands. This can include:

  • the risk of job loss
  • bad performance reviews
  • demotion
  • unfavorable shifts
  • pay cuts

It is illegal if a supervisor commits even a single action of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Even if the employee doesn’t yield to the demand, it can serve as the basis for a lawsuit. Employees who suffer this type of harassment must be able to report their incidents without any risk of retaliation. The harassment itself and the retaliation for reporting such incidents are illegal.

Hostile Work Environment

Unlike quid pro quo harassment, hostile work environment is a much broader category. It encompasses activities that many people may not even realize are forms of sexual harassment, such as:

  • Sexual jokes
  • Unwanted and persistent interactions, such as asking for dates continually
  • Interference with someone’s ability to move freely
  • Displays of inappropriate or offensive materials

Verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature can contribute to a hostile work environment. Any employee at any level can contribute to a hostile work environment. It can also affect employees who aren’t the intended target of harassment.

Any of these activities must be unwelcome, frequent, and persistent to be a case of harassment. Isolated incidents don’t count as harassment; continued incidents do.

While not all employees act as an extension of the company, an employer may still be liable for a hostile work environment in a lawsuit. There must be proof that:

  • the employer knew or should have reasonably known about the conduct
  • did not take immediate steps to prevent the behavior

When the employer does take such steps, the company may have a defense for the hostile environment suit.

Some harassers may feign ignorance if confronted about their unwelcome behavior. Some may attempt to brush it off as joking or harmless. This is not a viable excuse. California state law requires employers to conduct regular sexual harassment training for employees. The DFEH requires two hours of training every two years, and new hires must receive this training within the first six months of hire.

Other Behaviors That Constitute Sexual Harassment

  • Physical contact. Any type of unwanted touching, groping, or other physical contact counts as sexual harassment. If the action is violent or severe, it can also constitute sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. This can include actions of a sexual nature or physical harassment based on the victim’s sex.
  • Verbal abuse or Bullying. Light teasing will not count as sexual harassment in court. If someone makes offensive jokes about a person’s sex, it is important to say that the speech is unwelcome and offensive. In some cases, verbal harassment may affect several people in the workplace. Even if the harassment targets one person, other people nearby may also consider the speech harassment.
  • Visual harassment. Harassment can also take the form of sexually suggestive photographs or images in plain view of others. An example is an employee who pins pictures of women in bikinis or lingerie in their work space where others can easily see them. This behavior may not intend to make people feel uncomfortable. However, it is important that you ask the offender to keep them out of the view of others if it is offensive.
  • Discrimination against pregnant or nursing mothers. It is illegal to discriminate against pregnant women. Employers have special obligations to pregnant employees. Making rude remarks about a woman’s pregnancy or a nursing mother’s need to pump breast milk at work is sexual harassment. Although the harassment is not sexually suggestive in nature, the victim is targeted due to her sex.

How Do I File a Sexual Harassment Claim?

Before considering filing a claim with the government, speak with your employer. Many companies have internal policies to contain sexual harassment incidents before they explode into lawsuits. Consult your company’s code of conduct if you encounter any type of sexual harassment at work. In some situations, you might be able to end the harassment simply by talking to the offender or Human Resources. However, if the harassing actions do not stop or your company does not take the claim seriously, you should consider filing with the appropriate agency.

Filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint

Sexual harassment cases can fall under state or federal jurisdiction. In California, state sexual harassment claims are filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. For the DFEH, you must file a claim within one year of the date of harassment. For the EEOC, this deadline is 300 days in California. It is important to note that complaints are automatically cross-filed between agencies.

After filing a complaint, the agency will start an investigation. An agent may contact you to go over the details of your claim and gather any evidence. After looking at the facts, they will contact your employer on your behalf. The agency will invite both you and your employer to participate in mediation to settle the claim. If mediation fails, the agency will then issue a Notice of Right to Sue. This means you have the right to pursue a lawsuit against your harasser.

If you received a Notice of Right to Sue, you will need a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer. Mathew & George have a track record for success in all manner of harassment-related lawsuits. We believe in tenacious legal representation for every one of our clients and can help you find justice.

Examples of Sexual Harassment Cases

Some general examples of situations that would constitute sexual harassment include:

  • A supervisor promises an employee a promotion if he or she performs a sexual favor for the supervisor.
  • A coworker regularly makes offensive jokes about women, which upset and offend several women in the workplace.
  • An employee hangs a calendar in his or her cubicle featuring nude or suggestive photography in plain view of other employees.
  • A pregnant employee is refused a promotion because she will soon need to take maternity leave.
  • One employee is promoted over another more qualified employee because of sex.
  • An employee regularly makes offensive comments about men or women in general.

Remember that victims and harassers can be either men or women, and a victim and harasser can be the same sex. The important factor is whether or not the conduct is unwelcome.

Compensation in a Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

When sexual harassment leads to an adverse employment action, the victim can file a claim to recover damages. These damages include:

  • Back pay. If you were fired or denied due compensation, you can sue for the money you should have earned. This can include lost wages, estimated missed tips or commissions, bonuses, accumulated vacation time, benefits, stock options, or other forms of financial compensation you should have reasonably expected to receive.
  • Front pay. In sexual harassment cases that causes the victim to lose their job, the victim will often push for reinstatement to their former position. This can also happen in cases where a person was forced to quit due to the harassment. Due to the nature of some companies and businesses, reinstatement is not always reasonable possible or practical. The relationship between the victim and harassing employer may have been too hostile to warrant a return. In these cases, a judge will award compensation for the time spent between jobs after losing or vacating a position due to sexual harassment.
  • Pain and suffering. Sexual harassment of any kind can be psychologically distressing. “Pain and suffering” is the legal term for the compensation a victim receives for the harm caused by the harassment. In some cases, this will depend on testimony from an expert witness.
  • Punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the harasser and discourage any future incidents. They may affect other areas of the organization aside from the harasser. For example, a director knew about a subordinate manager’s sexual harassment and did nothing to deter or prevent the conduct. If so, the director can be held liable for the harassment and forced to pay punitive damages. In California, there is no set cap for punitive damages.

Contact Our Sexual Harassment Attorneys

If you’re pursuing a sexual harassment claim, the best asset you can have is an attorney. Find a Los Angeles attorney with a proven track record of successful outcomes for clients in similar cases. Vet potential lawyers carefully before agreeing to representation. Sexual harassment lawsuits can quickly grow into complex ordeals. You’ll need an attorney who has the necessary experience and skill.

At Mathew & George, we represent victims of sexual harassment against their aggressors. We can handle any type of employment case you bring to us! Contact us today for more information.