Both California and federal laws protect employees from being sexually harassed in the workplace, either by their superiors or by their coworkers.
In workplaces of 15 or more employees, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex, i.e. sexual harassment. In California, this law is codified under the Fair Housing and Employment Act, Government Code, § 12940(j). Any employer with five or more employees is covered by this law.
In California, the following is required in order to bring a claim for sexual harassment against an employer:
1. You were an employee of the defendant, or you had applied for a position there;
2. You were subjected to unwanted harassing conduct because of your gender;
3. That the harassing conduct was so severe, widespread, or persistent that a reasonable man/woman in your circumstances would have considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive;
4. You considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive;
5. That either a supervisor engaged in the conduct themselves, or, supervisors should have known and failed to take immediate action;
6. You suffered harm because of the conduct.
In order to bring a suit against an individual employee in the work place, the requirements are essentially the same.
It is often the case that the harassment is quid pro quo, or, when an individual promises or conditions some type of benefit (e.g. a promotion) on accepting their sexual advances. Or, in the alternative, it occurs when employment decisions are made based on the rejection of the harasser’s advances.
There are strict deadlines when it comes to how long you have to file a lawsuit for sexual harassment in the workplace, and you are required to first file your claim with a state or federal agency.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, please contact our firm to set up a free consultation. There are a number of different agencies and deadlines to navigate through, so it's important you take action as soon as possible.