In the wake of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment in the workplace has become a hot button issue. For years, companies have educated their employees on proper conduct and the ramifications of improper conduct, but have only sporadically enforced their own policies.
These policies, which are backed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, entitle all employees to a workplace free of harassment and abuse. Every state in the U.S. has passed their own civil rights legislation, and California has stronger legislation than most.
At Rubin Law Corporation, we represent employees in sexual harassment lawsuits. Below, we discuss how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as what you need to build your case against an employer who has failed in their duty to ensure a safe and harassment-free workplace for its employees.
Building a Case for Sexual Harassment
In general, most employees try to handle their issues in-house. It is only when internal methods fall short that they end up suing their employer. It’s important to take this first step by reporting an offending employee or employees to an HR department if your company has one. This ensures that they were put on notice that unacceptable behavior was occurring in the workplace.
There are two types of sexual harassment claims. Those are:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment. This type of lawsuit claims that a supervisor conditioned some workplace advantage on an express or implied requirement of sexual favors. For instance, when a supervisor predicates advancement on the condition that a subordinate has sex with them, that is an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
- Hostile work environment. A hostile work environment lawsuit claims that a supervisor, another employer, an agent of the employer, or even a contractor who works under the guidance of an employer (or a combination of all the above) repeatedly and consistently made an employee feel uncomfortable based on either gender discrimination or sexual advancements.
In the majority of cases, proving a hostile work environment will require that you show that there was an ongoing pattern of sexually-oriented attention directed at you. You must also show that when you reported this harassment, the HR department either ignored you or retaliated against you.
In some cases, however, if the conduct is so egregious (such as forced touching or grabbing) an employee may bring a lawsuit without showing a repeated pattern of abuse.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
The majority of sexual harassment lawsuits are those that allege that an employer fostered a company culture that allowed sexual harassment of one or more female employees to continue. This means that, even after an employee brought the problem to their attention, the harassment continued. In other words, you will need to show that you attempted to handle the problem internally.
One of the key requirements for a sexual harassment lawsuit is that the behavior is unwelcome. For instance, everyone enjoys a good joke. Workplace banter is good for morale and rapport. But when those jokes are a prelude to unwelcome sexual advances that can make an employee feel intimidated or uncomfortable. In these cases, if you submit a complaint to your HR department, the HR department must do something to curb the unwanted behavior. This can include:
- Speaking to the employee and letting them know that there will be consequences if the unwelcome behavior continues,
- Transferring the employee, or,
- If the situation warrants it, firing the employee.
Legally, a hostile work environment includes behavior that is either intimidating or demeaning and unwelcome. It must be pervasive and an employee must have attempted to resolve the situation internally before filing a lawsuit.
Employer Liability in Sexual Harassment Claims
All U.S. employees are entitled to a safe workplace. This includes a workplace that is free of harassment of any form. Under California law, your employer may be liable if:
- A supervisor sexually harasses a subordinate; or
- Your employer fails to take action after you file a report of sexual harassment;
- Or the conduct was so egregious that it does not have to be either repeated or pervasive.
Contact a Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Attorney
If any of the above rings true for your experience then, chances are, you have a viable sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer. Don’t be intimidated. All workplaces in California should abide by their own guidelines and both California and Federal law. The law entitles you to a workplace free of demeaning comments or intimidation. To learn more about how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Rubin Law Corporation today.