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Sexual harassment in an employment environment is strictly against the law in California and across the United States. Unfortunately, sexual harassment continues to be a serious problem for many employees in many different workplaces. Whether you work in a bar and restaurant or as an executive in a corporate office, there is a very real chance that you might experience sexual harassment.

With the #MeToo movement bringing attention to the sexual harassment problem in the entertainment industry, more and more people in different industries are coming forward to report sexual harassment, as well. One obstacle is that many employees are not sure if what they experienced qualifies as unlawful harassment under the law, or how to go about protecting their rights. You should never hesitate to contact a San Diego employment attorney who represents employees in sexual harassment cases.

The experienced California employment law attorneys at Mara Law Firm can review your sexual harassment incident with you and determine if you are eligible to take legal action against your employer or someone else. When you speak with us, you can rest assured that our conversation will remain confidential. If we are able to pursue your case, we will zealously advocate for your legal interests and help you obtain the best possible result.

What Sexual Harassment Looks Like

Each situation involving sexual harassment will be unique, and identifying harassment involves reviewing the specific facts of what happened to you. In general, there are two different categories of harassment.

Creating a hostile work environment – Harassment often comes in the form of comments, jokes, or other material regarding your sex or sexual nature that is offensive. In order for such comments to constitute unlawful harassment, they must create a hostile work environment. Some people might make an isolated comment and, usually, one comment is not enough to create a hostile environment. Instead, conduct must be persistent enough – or a single incident that is offensive enough – to make a reasonable person feel that they cannot work in such an environment. If you report such conduct to your employer and they fail to stop it, they should be liable for the harm you experienced.

Quid pro quo harassment – Quid pro quo harassment occurs when your boss or someone else with authority makes a sexual request and connects it with an employment decision. This can generally happen in one of two ways:

  • Threatening to fire you if you refuse sexual advances
  • Offering a promotion, pay raise, or another benefit for sexual conduct

This type of harassment is so serious that your employer does not need the chance to stop the conduct before liability applies. Instead, if a supervisor engages in this type of conduct, your employer should be accountable without any additional steps required from you. You should discuss possible harassment with a legal professional as soon as possible.

What Specific Activities Amount to Sexual Harassment in California?

No one should have to tolerate workplace sexual harassment in any form. In some cases, it can be difficult to tell whether a particular comment or behavior amounts to sexual harassment. Some of the most common types include the following:

  • Rude gestures that a supervisor or employer directs towards an employee
  • A person blocking or impeding your ability to move
  • Using sexually degrading words in conversations or making sexually suggestive or graphic comments
  • Issuing obscene messages or sexually suggestive invitations
  • A work supervisor or workplace employee displaying or giving you posters, cartoons, or pictures that are sexually suggestive in some way
  • Discussing acts of a sexual nature
  • Jokes, slurs, or epithets that are derogatory or sexually explicit
  • Engaging in unwanted sexual caressing or touches, including pinching or back rubs
  • “Accidentally” brushing up against an employee’s body in an attempt to make contact with them

If you have experienced any of the above at the hands of a work supervisor or employee, it is important that you speak to an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. At Mara Law Firm, we can help you determine if you are eligible to take legal action against your employer and can explain your rights to you in clear and easy-to-understand terms.

Liability for Workplace Sexual Harassment

In California, employers are strictly liable for sexual harassment that occurs in the workplace. This includes harassment from a workplace supervisor – and when the employer perpetrates the harassment. In the context of sexual harassment, strict liability means that the employer is responsible for damages, regardless of whether or not they took prompt action – and regardless of whether the employer knew (or should have known) about the ongoing sexual harassment.

An employer is also responsible for damages if they either knew – or should have known – about the sexual harassment and failed to take prompt, corrective action to remedy the situation.

When an employee files a sexual harassment claim or lawsuit against their employer, they may be eligible to recover various damages. Those damages include:

  • Monetary compensation for a promotion or back pay
  • Hiring or reinstatement of their employment
  • Monetary compensation for mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Forced changes in the employer’s sexual harassment policies and procedures

If you ultimately prevail in your sexual harassment claim or lawsuit, you may be eligible to recover the reasonable value of your attorney’s fees and court costs. This includes costs associated with obtaining an expert witness to testify in court on your behalf.

The experienced employment law attorneys at Mara Law Firm can help you file your civil claim or lawsuit and pursue the compensation and other damages that you deserve.

Speak with a Skilled California Employment Law Attorney for Assistance

No employee should ever have to deal with any type of sexual harassment at work, and you should never hesitate to learn about your options to protect your rights, your well-being, and your career. Know that the legal team at Mara Law Firm is ready to assist you, and our goal is to ensure that all employers are held fully accountable for sexual harassment and other employment law violations. If you have concerns you would like to discuss with an experienced California employment law attorney, call 619-762-2949 or contact us online today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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