What To Expect After Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim

It’s illegal to harass a job applicant or employee in the workplace because of their sex. Sexual harassment refers explicitly to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other harassing actions of a sexual nature. Harassment also includes offensive remarks about someone’s sex. Men and women suffer harassment in the workplace every day, but some choose not to take action for fear of retaliation.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, the only way you can ensure the behavior changes is to report the behavior with your employer per their company policy. Your employer cannot legally retaliate against you when you report sexual harassment. It’s in your best interest to consult an experienced sexual harassment lawyer at Perkins Asbill. Until you have the chance to meet with an attorney, here is a broad overview of the process of filing a harassment claim and what you can expect afterward.

Filing an Internal Complaint with Your Employer

The first step to stop sexual harassment at your job is to file an internal complaint. Your employer has a legal duty to have a policy in place for employees to report sexual harassment. Once you file your complaint with your employer, they must investigate the incident(s) and take swift action to prevent continued harassment. For some sexual harassment victims, filing an internal complaint alleviates the issue, and no further action is necessary. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

If your employer fails to take corrective action and you continue to experience sexual harassment, you might have to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Company policies concerning sexual harassment vary across organizations. However, you can expect some general things to occur after you file an internal sexual harassment complaint.

Your Employer Should Promptly Investigate Your Complaint

Once you file your complaint, your employer has a legal responsibility to take your report seriously. They should have a designated person or department, likely a human resources representative, who initiates an investigation quickly. The person assigned to your complaint will typically gather additional information based on the statement you provided. They will want to know specifics about the conduct you deem as sexual harassment, who has been harassing you, and the names of co-workers, clients, or others who witnessed the harassment. Additionally, the person investigating the case will want to know about anyone else who suffered harassment from the same person.

Depending on the depth of your internal sexual harassment complaint, you might have to provide more information, including detailed descriptions of the harassment and a chronological account of multiple incidents. You can also expect the investigator to ask you why you waited to report the harassment if you did not immediately file a complaint. Ultimately, the investigator will decide whether sexual harassment occurred.

Your Employer Should Take Corrective Action Against Your Harasser

From a legal standpoint, not all offensive comments of a sexual nature qualify as harassment. However, suppose the harassment has occurred so frequently that it created a hostile work environment for you or led to an adverse decision related to your employment. In that case, the investigator will concur that sexual harassment occurred. At this point, your employer needs to take corrective action against your harasser. Examples of corrective measures include:

  • An oral or written warning
  • Demotion
  • Reassignment
  • Deferred promotion
  • Deferred pay increase
  • Termination

Your Employer Cannot Retaliate Against You for Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint

Retaliating against an employee for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law, even if the investigation concluded that sexual harassment did not occur. You must watch for signs of retaliation or hostility after you file a complaint. Examples of adverse treatment that might constitute retaliation:

  • Bullying
  • Insults
  • Isolation
  • Assault
  • Removal from special projects

If your employer terminates you, demotes you, or lets others create a hostile work environment after you complain about sexual harassment, the law permits you to file a retaliation claim against them.

Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint with the EEOC

If your employer did not take your internal complaint seriously and investigate your report, did not take corrective action against your harasser to stop the behavior, or retaliated against you, your next step is to file a formal complaint with the EEOC. They enforce federal laws against discrimination and investigate employee discrimination and harassment complaints.

You can initiate an investigation by filing a complaint online. However, you will eventually have to speak with an EEOC counselor. The closest EEOC field office to Sacramento is in San Francisco. Your sexual harassment complaint needs to include your name, address, phone number, description of harassment, date of the incident(s), why you feel you were harassed, the damages you have suffered, and your signature.

The EEOC will send a confirmation that they have received your formal complaint and assign a representative to your case. The representative will review and investigate your case. Under federal law, the EEOC has 180 days from the final harassment incident to complete its investigation. If you haven’t received any communication, you can request the investigator’s ruling about your case.

If the investigator did not find you have a viable harassment claim, you can request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. If the investigator found harassment occurred, they might negotiate a settlement with your employer. You can choose to accept or deny the settlement.

Contact an Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyer

When employers respond appropriately and quickly to reports of sexual harassment, hiring an attorney isn’t always necessary. However, if your employer ignored your complaint, retaliates against you for filing a report, or refuses to comply with the terms of a settlement with EEOC, you need an experienced sexual harassment attorney on your side.

As you proceed through the EEOC complaint process, you might receive a notice that you can file a lawsuit against your employer. An experienced attorney can help you bring a lawsuit against your employer in the applicable court and ensure you meet all deadlines and do not miss out on the opportunity to recover damages.

The skilled legal team at Perkins Asbill understands the challenges of dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, and we are here to help. If you live in Northern California, contact us at 916-446-2000 or online to discuss the specifics of your case and determine your next steps.

Bad Faith Claims: 5 Things Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know

People carry all types of insurance for injuries, property damage, and more. Whether you file a claim for a car crash, damage to your home, or for your business, you deserve to be treated fairly by your insurance provider. Paying monthly premiums should ensure that you can recover benefits when you file a claim.

Unfortunately, insurance companies are businesses and notorious for preserving their bottom line, even if it means protecting their profits at the expense of their policyholders. They often use questionable tactics and push moral boundaries to avoid paying out claims. Insurance companies that cross the line are guilty of acting in bad faith, but they do not want you to know about bad faith claims and your rights as a policyholder or claimant.

Below, we discuss five things insurance companies don’t want you to know about bad faith claims, so you can be prepared if they treat you unfairly and make it difficult to recover compensation when you need it most.

1. Insurance Companies Have a Legal Obligation to Act in Good Faith

Each state has laws that force insurance companies to handle claims in good faith. Insurance carriers must review claims and respond to claimants in a timely fashion. They must also negotiate settlements honestly and make a strong effort to resolve claims. Insurance companies who intentionally mishandle insurance claims with unfair practices or fraud are breaking the law.

An insurance provider’s obligation to act in good faith carries various responsibilities and actions towards the policyholder. They do not want you to know they have a legal duty to act a certain way because they can avoid some or all financial liability for a claim more easily when they do not play by the rules. Examples of bad faith actions that some insurance providers commit include:

  • Taking too long to respond to a claim
  • Taking too long to investigate a claim
  • Treating claimants unfairly in their decision
  • Improperly interpreting a policy
  • Offering unreasonable and unfair settlements

When insurance companies engage in any of the above behavior, it’s likely that the policyholder and/or claimant has grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company.

2. Your Insurance Provider Is Not Working for You 

You pay at least several hundred dollars per year in insurance premiums. However, many people spend thousands because they pay for insurance for their vehicles, boats, ATVs, businesses, homes, and more. You would think that paying your premiums would mean your insurance provider will act in your best interest and pay out claims without much of a fight. Additionally, large insurance companies spend millions on print, television, and radio advertisements to market their friendly, neighborly ways, leading people to believe their provider is truly on their side. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Insurance carriers want to avoid paying out large claims and when they can get away with it and completely deny claims when possible, even if their policyholder has never filed a claim before and always pays their premiums on time.  Bad faith actions are driven by insurance providers’ heavy focus on protecting their profits.  They don’t want you to know they value their bottom line more than they value your business. You NEED insurance, and in many cases, the law requires it. They can pretend they are working for you without following through.

3. Limited-Time Offers Are Fake 

Insurance companies like to make predatory settlement offers to avoid paying out large claims. In the wake of injuries and/or property damage, some claimants are desperate for money. If they are injured, they might not be able to work, and medical bills are piling up. In other cases, they might need money to help them pay for temporary housing.  Insurance providers make quick settlement offers soon after injury, especially in personal injury claims when the claimant is not the policyholder.

They want to attract people who are suffering economically to “take the money and run.” These offers are often far lower than the value of the claim, and they put pressure on people to take them by claiming they are the “best offer” or the “final offer.” The average person doesn’t realize that this is only a strategy to pressure someone into taking the settlement, so the company doesn’t have to pay a larger amount later on. If an insurance company refuses to pay you fair compensation for your claim, you can take them to court to seek a higher amount.

4. You Can Sue an Insurance Provider for Bad Faith

Most people know that if they sue someone after an injury, one or more insurance companies could be involved in the lawsuit. However, many do not know that if an insurance company acts in bad faith, they have the right to file a lawsuit against the company and seek compensation for damages related to the mishandling of their claim.

If you choose to bring a bad faith lawsuit against an insurance company, you could receive the full amount of the original claim plus interest. Additionally, courts sometimes award extra money to plaintiffs to punish the insurance company if they acted fraudulently. This additional compensation is referred to as punitive damages.

5. You Have the Right to Legal Counsel During Settlement Negotiations

Finally, insurance companies do not want claimants to know they have the right to hire a lawyer to handle settlement negotiations. They hope that claimants do not get legal counsel, eventually get frustrated, and give up their claim or accept an exceptionally low offer. Attorneys understand the tricky tactics insurance companies use and know how to protect their clients. Additionally, lawyers are trained negotiators who typically get better results than their clients would get without legal counsel.

At Perkins Asbill, our team of skilled insurance bad faith lawyers has ample experience helping clients get the compensation they deserve for their insurance claims. Contact us today online or call 916-446-2000 to learn more about how we can help.

COVID-19 Retaliations are on the Rise: Here’s Why

The safety issues related to COVID-19 have been clear across the country for the past year. Many businesses have made sacrifices in an effort to keep their employees safe, from providing specific safety gear intended to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and instituting social distancing policies in the office to requiring employees to work from home in an effort to reduce or prevent the spread of the virus.

Unfortunately, not every company has taken those measures.

Some companies have chosen not to institute safety policies, in spite of clear instructions issued by OSHA regarding the management of COVID-19 in the workplace. Others may not enforce those policies, leaving employees in essential positions–many of whom still have immense concerns about COVID-19 exposure–at risk. 

Reporting COVID-19 Violations

Increasingly, employees who continue to work in essential professions are filing reports against their employers. They may report violations for a lack of health and safety compliance, or they might report violations regarding their ability to take time off after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Under the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees have the right to report those violations–and they are protected from retaliatory behavior on the basis of those reports. 

Because of those rights, employees can safely report any violation of safety protocols in the workplace, including employers who do not require social distancing or masks, or employers who put their employees in undue danger in spite of the continued rise in case numbers. Many employees, frustrated with the “essential workers” label even as their employers refuse to protect them, have chosen to report their employers’ lack of effort. California has issued millions of fines related to COVID-19 violations, including:

  • Bars opening before they had the legal right to do so
  • Ignoring state regulations requiring staff to wear masks
  • Forcing employees to work in spite of possible or confirmed COVID-19 symptoms
  • Failing to alert employees that a coworker had tested positive for COVID-19

As the pandemic continued, complaints increased. Many employers had a hard time keeping up with increased sanitation measures and requirements. Others had a hard time staffing their businesses, thanks to staffing shortages and other challenges–and, as a result, may have pushed employees to get back to work sooner than mandated even if they fell ill. Those violations stacked up, even in big-name businesses–and many employees chose to report those violations. 

Retaliations Against Reporters

Employees have the right to report health and safety violations in the workplace, including–or perhaps critically–COVID-19 safety violations. Under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers cannot retaliate against whistleblowers: the employees who share that information and push for better working conditions. 

Employers cannot fire whistleblowers for those actions. 

Whistleblowers are protected after they report a violation. Employers cannot fire them for respecting the law and insisting on safe working conditions, in spite of the fact that those safe conditions might create a financial challenge for the employer. 

Employers cannot discriminate against whistleblowers.

Whistleblowers cannot be passed over for promotion or denied opportunities in the workplace due to their decision to report those violations in the workplace. 

Employees cannot have their hours cut as a direct result of reporting violations.

Whistleblowers have their hours and time at work protected in addition to their employment. They have the right to report health and safety violations, including COVID-19 violations, without having to worry that it will cost them their jobs. 

In general, many health and safety reports are anonymous: that is, an employee can report violations and have OSHA conduct an inspection without attaching their name to the report. However, in spite of this protection, many employers manage to find out who reported the violation–and they may act against those whistleblowers, in spite of the fact that there are regulations in place to help protect whistleblowers. 

Why Retaliation Claims are Rising

Many employers, despite the fact that they know their employers are protected, retaliate against them for reporting health and safety violations anyway. Essential businesses, especially those that have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, may use a variety of excuses to justify their decision to move whistleblowers out of the workplace. In reality, however, many of them do not wish to face the fines and penalties associated with health violations–or to pay the cost of instituting those vital safety measures. As a result, they may use a range of excuses to justify their decision to cut an employee’s hours or fire an employee. 

Employers may claim that they struggle with staffing costs.

Despite the fact that many businesses across the country are struggling to find an adequate number of workers, many businesses, including essential businesses, also continue to struggle with staffing costs. Profit margins have been tight for many businesses in the past year, making it increasingly difficult for employers to staff their businesses. 

Employers often claim that they have another reason for firing an employee or cutting their hours.

Frequently, employers claim that they have another reason for firing the employee. They may look for excuses, including writing the employee up for not-so-obvious “violations” that do not really fit the requirements of the job position, or they might simply choose to cut an employee’s hours without clear explanation. In right-to-work states, it can prove even more difficult to determine why a specific employee might have been let go or had his hours cut. 

Did You Face Retaliation for Reporting COVID-19 Violations?

If you reported COVID-19 safety violations in your workplace and faced retaliation for it, you may have the right to financial compensation for your employer’s decision, including, in some cases, legal costs and the cost of your missing wages. If you have faced retaliation for whistleblowing, an experienced employment lawyer can take a look at your situation and give you more information about your rights. Contact Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation today at 916-446-2000 to learn more about your rights under employment law.

How to File a California Employment Discrimination Claim

It is against the law for California employers to discriminate against protected class citizens during your scope of employment or the application process. You could file a claim for financial compensation if a company discriminated against you for reasons related to your gender, race, religious beliefs, or medical conditions.

While these cases are challenging to prove at times, it is not impossible to achieve. If you believe you have a discrimination claim, speaking with a California employment lawyer is the most practical method for receiving legal guidance as to how to proceed. He or she can help you prove your claim while handling the communication between the company and their team of attorneys.

In this article, the legal team at Perkins Asbill describes how to file an employment discrimination claim, signs of discrimination, and other relevant topics that help you understand what to expect during the process.

Filing an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit in California

The first step in submitting a workplace discrimination claim in California begins with going to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Victims of discrimination must go through the proper administrative avenues before filing a claim for compensation in civil court.

While it is possible to avoid this step in specific circumstances, DFEH advises that parties filing a civil lawsuit first to speak with a California employment lawyer first. Not correctly filing a claim going this route means that you could disqualify yourself from receiving future compensation after courts make a decision.

After going through the administrative process, your attorney will petition the court and serve the complaint upon your employer as well as other named individuals in the lawsuit. He or she will also advise you as to whom against you should file your claim.

Many employees assume that it is the name of the company. However, your managers and other relevant individuals might be named as well.

Upon serving the complaint, pre-trial litigation ensues. It is typically during this phase that discrimination victims, who have strong claims, may receive a settlement offer. You do not have to accept an offer that you do not believe is fair.

If your former employer chooses to forgo the opportunity to settle out of court, your case will continue litigation. Your lawyer will build your case and take it to the final trial if necessary.

Determining If You Experienced Discrimination

Workplace discrimination tends to be more covert than obvious. Managers and human resources personnel believe that they are more intelligent than the system and erroneously think that subtle acts will gently push you out of the way, and no one will be any wiser.

Big mistake.

It is not just a single action that they are avoiding. Proving a discrimination claim is a set of measures established over time.

If you notice that managers and co-workers treat you differently than others or than in the past, it might not be in your head. The subconscious mind signals to you when something is wrong.

Potential and sustained patterns of discrimination may include:

  • A sudden drop in your performance evaluations
  • Team members and managers leaving you out of meetings
  • Changes in work responsibilities
  • Reduced pay or work hours
  • Overt acts of discrimination
  • Making sexist or racist remarks
  • Managers not doing anything about your reports of misconduct

As you can see, there are several ways in which discrimination can occur. If you are still working there, start keeping a private, hidden personal journal that includes the date and time each act of discrimination occurred. Your journal is admissible as evidence in California civil courts and will become valuable to you as you proceed.

Protected Class Citizens in California

Workplace discrimination is something that can affect anyone at any time. It is an act not just reserved for minorities, as many people mistakenly believe. Primarily it affects protected class citizens.

You cannot receive discrimination for the following characteristics:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Gender and gender presentation
  • Medical and cognitive disabilities
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Ancestry

You cannot experience exclusion, harassment, or discrimination for these characteristics. For example, if you are an unmarried woman who works among married women and exclude you because it is a “wives club,” you might have an employment discrimination case.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

You do not have to shrink back as someone else leverages their veiled confidence based on something of which you have no control. Filing a claim for discrimination compensation for your financial, physical, and emotional losses is possible. Talking with a California employer lawyer, like Perkins Asbill, can help you understand your next strategic move.

Call Perkins Asbill  for More Information

We understand how frustrated and upset you are. The California employment law lawyers at Perkins Asbill  invite you to contact us for a consultation by calling 916-446-2000 or submitting a request via our online contact form.

Can you be fired in California for being transgender?

Although society has become more understanding about gender identity, that does not mean an individual’s decision to change gender has gained complete acceptance. If you have undergone this transition, you may find that certain people do not approve of this change. If those people include your employers or fellow employees, that can create a challenge in the workplace.  If you suspect you have been fired because you are transgender, it is time to consult with an attorney, who can examine your situation and determine whether or not you may have a case against your employer for wrongful termination.  

California Fair Housing and Employment Act

The California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FHEA) prohibits employers from firing employees just because they are transgender. Whether or not a person has had surgery to change gender is immaterial. California law bars discrimination and harassment in employment based on gender, gender expression and gender identity.

Federal Employees

California’s FHEA does not apply to federal workers. However, that does not mean federal employees are left unprotected. Discrimination against transgender people violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to a 2012 decision by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That section of the Civil Rights Act does not allow employers to discriminate against employees based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin.     

Exempted Employees

Certain employees are not covered by FEHA. This includes those working for a company with four employees or less, unless an employee claims harassment. Employees of nonprofit or religious organizations do not fall under FEHA jurisdiction.  

Dress Codes

An employer’s dress codes may trigger transgender discrimination, but that is not a reason to fire an employee. In California, transgender individuals have the right to dress to the code conforming to gender identity, including the wearing of uniforms.  

Proving Why You Were Terminated

Your employer is not likely to tell you explicitly that you were terminated for being transgender. However, if you strongly suspect, or even know, that is the reason, you must prove the firing was the result of discrimination. Your attorney will discuss your work history with you, and will ask when the atmosphere became discriminatory. Your lawyer may want to know:

  • Did you work for your employer under the different gender?
  • If you did work under your former gender, did you experience problems?
  • Did any management changes occur, after which you perceived discrimination?
  • What were your employee reviews prior to transitioning, and did they change?

Possible Remedies

California law provides remedies for those terminated or discriminated against because of gender identity. You may be eligible for reinstatement, back pay and promotion, along with payment of your attorney fees. You may also receive damages for emotional distress, along with punitive damages.

You have already made a brave decision in changing your gender identity. It is important to stand up for your rights if you think you lost your job due to discrimination. Our attorney’s will let you know if you have a legitimate case against your employer. Learn more by calling our office at 916-446-2000 or sending us an email.

Five Steps to Take If You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated from Your Job

Getting terminated from your job can create a great financial strain on your life. If you feel that the reason you were fired was not legitimate, you may be entitled to compensation. However, it is crucial that you act quickly. Here are five steps to take if you are wrongfully terminated: 

Document Everything

Keep records of all the events leading up to the termination, as well as everything that happens shortly after. Put together documents such as emails, termination notices, memos, and any other communication between you and your employer during the period before you are fired. If possible, record any verbal communication that may give an indicator as to why you were wrongfully terminated, although make sure you respect your state’s privacy laws.

Conduct Your Research

Carry out comprehensive research on acceptable reasons for termination in your state. Check that the reasons your employer has given are valid. If they are not, ask your lawyer to file a suit for wrongful termination as quickly as possible.

Consult Your Union

If you are a union employee, consult your union to find out what reasons your employer can use to terminate your employment. Your union representative will then research to find out if you have a valid claim. If you have a case, they can also help you fight for the damages that are due to you.

Find a Lawyer as Soon as Possible

Contract the services of a lawyer as soon as you have received notice relieving you of your services. Starting early will help your lawyer act quickly and make sure that you get a hearing at the earliest possible moment. Even though you may be cash strapped during this time, certain lawyers will agree to work for a contingency if you have a strong case.

Have Your Lawyer Go Through Your Severance Contract

You should have your lawyer go through your severance contract with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that your employer meets all legal obligations after firing you. The obligations include paying the proper amount of severance pay, transferring your retirement funds, paying for unused leave, etc.

In Conclusion

Employer laws are set in place to protect employees from being fired for illegitimate reasons. If you win your wrongful termination suit, you will be able to earn back money in lost wages and damages. Remember to contact an experienced attorney that will be able to guide you through the process. 

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job or if you are an employer in California who has questions about the state’s laws on wrongful termination, contact the knowledgeable and experienced team of employment attorneys at Perkins Asbill today. To schedule a consultation, please contact us at  916-446-2000.

Lost Your Job? Wrongful Termination Checklist

Being fired from your job is painful and perhaps embarrassing. You may feel frightened and overwhelmed. However, if you were fired for an illegal reason, it is called “wrongful termination,” and you may have a case to file against your employer.

What is Wrongful Termination?

“Wrongful termination” is any firing of an employee that is done in violation of federal, state, or local laws, the terms of an employment contract, or for any reason that goes against public policy. Being fired unfairly does not rise to the level of wrongful termination according to the law, however, there are several reasons that you may have been fired for an illegal reason.

Wrongful Termination Checklist

To determine if you were fired for an illegal reason and would have a claim for “wrongful termination,” follow this checklist to see if any of these situations apply in your circumstance. If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may be eligible to file for wrongful termination.

  • Discrimination and Harassment

    • Were you terminated due to your ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, or genetic information?
    • Did your employer ever make statements of a discriminatory nature towards you?
    • Is there either circumstantial or direct evidence from your employer or other employees that you were fired for discriminatory reasons?
    • Were certain groups of people treated differently in your office?
    • Were comments made by your employer that could have been construed as racist, sexist ,or otherwise discriminatory?
    • Were there ever any unwelcome sexual advances, or sexual requests by an employer?
      Did you get fired after terminating a romantic relationship with an employer?
  • Retaliation

    • Did you tell a government agency or law enforcement about suspected violations of the law or regulations that you believed your employer engaged in?
    • Did your employer react negatively to learning that you reported potential violations?
    • Were you ever warned about engaging in such participation or reporting such violations?
    • Were you ever discouraged from exercising your rights under the law, such as under the FMLA?
  • Breach of Employer/Employee Contracts

    • Did your employer fire you against the provisions in your employer handbook?
    • Did your employer make verbal promises, such as guaranteeing that you would have a job, and then fire you?
    • Did your employer provide adequate reasons according to the handbook or your employer/employee contract for the firing?
    • Did your employer act in bad faith? For example, if you worked for a company for 30 years and you were fired with only one week away from full benefits.
  • Violation of Public Policy

    • Were you fired for voting, participating in jury duty, or filing a worker’s compensation claim?
    • Were you told by your employer to lie under oath or break the law?

An Experienced Employment Attorney on Your Side

A survey shows those employees who were wrongfully terminated, and hired legal representation in the matter, earned 150% higher on average in their claim than those who represented themselves.

The experienced employment attorneys at Perkins Asbill can help you build your case regarding your employer’s discriminatory practices, or illegal actions, and help you get the compensatory damages you are owed. For more information, and to speak with one of our attorneys at Perkins Asbill, please call us at 916-446-2000 or online today.

California Sexual Harassment FAQs

Through the #metoo movement that has swept the nation, encouraging victims of sexual harassment and abuse to tell their stories, a heightened awareness of the problem and proliferation of sexual harassment allegations have become public. However, it is just as important to understand your rights and legal options as a victim of sexual harassment.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual Harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It takes two forms – quid pro quo and hostile workplace.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is where a sexual act or favor is made as a condition of getting a job, keeping a job, getting a promotion, or some other circumstance related to employment. For example, if a supervision requires a subordinate to enter into a romantic relationship in order to gain career advancement, the supervisor has committed quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Hostile workplace sexual harassment occurs when sexual harassment is so pervasive and/or severe that it creates an abusive work environment. Factors to be considered as to whether conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive are: the frequency of the conduct, whether the conduct was verbal or physical, when the conduct was patently offensive, such that any reasonable person would find it offensive, and whether the harasser was a co-worker or a supervisor. An example of a hostile workplace would be one where sexually explicit photographs are posted in a break room, or female employees are encouraged to wear revealing clothing.

Is Sexual Harassment Illegal in California?

Yes. Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the 1964 California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act classify sexual harassment as sexual discrimination and prohibit such conduct.

What Are Examples of Sexual Harassment? 

Sexual harassment can occur in many different forms. It is not limited to the stereotypical situations of a male superior harassing a female subordinate. Women can be guilty of sexual harassment toward men and individuals may commit sexual harassment against members of the same sex. Here are a few examples of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Hanging sexually explicit photographs or other images in the workplace
  • Making sexual comments about a person of the same or opposite sex
  • Engaging in inappropriate or unwanted physical contact
  • Making derogatory jokes of a sexual or discriminatory manner
  • Offering benefits in exchange for sexual favors
  • Making sexual threats

This list of examples is not exhaustive.

What Is Sexual Harassment Retaliation?  

Many individuals may fear reporting sexual harassment in the workplace because they do not want such complaints to negatively impact their current or future employment. Retaliation occurs when an employee makes a complaint or report of sexual harassment in good faith, or if they participate in an investigation of sexual harassment, and they are subject to negative treatment by their employer as a result. Retaliation may take the following forms:

  • Ignoring the victim
  • Giving the victim a negative performance rating/review
  • Gossiping about him or her
  • Subjecting him or her to the “rumor mill”
  • Giving him or her less desirable work assignments.

How Can an Employer Be Liable for Sexual Harassment?

California and federal courts have sent a clear message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and that employers must take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring by way of training both supervisors and employees. An employer who knows of the sexual harassment of an employee and does not take prompt, appropriate action to respond will be held responsible for the harassment. If an employer does not know of the harassment, but should have known, they may still be held legally accountable. If the employer fails to provide sexual harassment training, this will be strong evidence of liability in a victim’s case.

Do California Employers Have to Provide Sexual Harassment Training?

Yes. By January 1, 2020, California employers with five or more employees must provide a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour to all nonsupervisory employees within six months after they begin their position.

Employers must provide the required sexual harassment training in a classroom setting, through interactive e-learning, or through a live webinar. Trainees must be given instructions on how to contact the trainer with questions and receive an answer within two days.

This training must be provided to each employee at least once every two years.

What Sexual Harassment Training Do California Employers Have to Provide?

Any sexual harassment training provided in California must explain:

  • The definition of sexual harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The statutes and case law prohibiting and preventing sexual harassment
  • The types of conduct that can be sexual harassment
  • That the complaint process has limited confidentiality
  • Remedies available to victims
  • How employers must correct harassing behavior
  • How to prevent sexual harassment
  • Supervisors’ obligation to report harassment
  • Resources for victims

Which Employees Do Employers Have to Train?

Employers having five or more employees must train all supervisors in California, as well as non-supervisory employees. A supervisor is anyone with authority to hire, fire, assign, transfer, discipline, reward other employees, or anyone who can effectively recommend (but not necessarily take) these actions occur.

Who Can Provide Sexual Harassment Prevention Training?

There are three types of qualified trainers in California. They are attorneys who have been members of the bar of any state for at least two years and whose practice includes employment law under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and/or Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964; human resource professionals or consultants with specialized practical experience in sexual harassment prevention, investigation, and response; and law schools, or college or university instructors with post-graduate degrees and experience or special teaching credentials related to the subject.

How Can California Employers Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

California employers can prevent sexual harassment by:

  • Drafting a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that complies with state and federal law
  • Conducting ongoing education for employees about sexual harassment
  • Monitoring the conduct and environment of the workplace
  • Encouraging comments regarding the work environment, including problems regarding sexual harassment
  • Letting employees know that there is a “zero-tolerance” for sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Posting the sexual harassment policy in a prominent place and distributing the policy to all employees
  • Treating allegations of sexual harassment seriously and investigating them
  • Being both neutral and objective during an investigation of an incident
  • Quashing rumors and further offensive actions by coworkers immediately after the incident occurred
  • Appropriately disciplining the harasser after the conclusion of any investigations

How Can Employers Discipline a Harasser?

Disciplinary action for sexual harassment may range from reprimand to permanent dismissal. Managers/supervisors should be aware that the implementation of discipline could cause other employees to become angry or resentful, which could include retaliation against the victim.

While disciplining someone under these hostile conditions may be difficult, it is absolutely appropriate and necessary. A very clear “zero tolerance” message must be sent to all employees to ensure their understanding that sexual harassment conduct is not permissible.

Is Complimenting a Co-Worker Sexual Harassment? 

Generally, it is acceptable for a coworker or even a supervisor to compliment a colleague in the workplace. Telling someone they look good today or complimenting a new piece of clothing is generally considered fine. It is, however, inappropriate if the comment is accompanied by a leering stare and/or a whistle, is continually given to only one particular person or is accompanied by a sexualized innuendo or behavior. Any of these actions may be deemed as sexual harassment. For example, saying to someone, “Hey baby, you are sure looking fine today,” is unacceptable harassing behavior.

Is Dating a Co-Worker Sexual Harassment?

Consensual dating at work is generally permissible. However, awkward situations can occur. For example, if the relationship falls apart and the coworkers are still forced to work around each other on a daily/regular basis, work-related interactions could become negatively affected by the failed relationship, and sexual harassment could occur in the aftermath.

Is Dating a Supervisor Sexual Harassment?

Consensual dating of a supervisor is also permissible but is rarely advisable. Such relationships often give the perception (at least) of a conflict of interest and that the supervisor is “playing favorites.” To counter this perception, supervisors have been known to overcompensate by giving too much work, for example, to his/her partner thus treating the partner unfairly.

Again, the break-up mixed with constant daily contact may lead to sexual harassment, (e.g., if one party continues making advances in the workplace in attempts to save the relationship or makes a negative sexual comment in anger about the former lover. Because the implications are great and the potential complexities are many, dating in the workplace should proceed only after careful consideration of the potential problems.

What Can I Do If I Experience Sexual Harassment?

While each person needs to decide the best plan for him or herself, many individuals have found informal action facilitates the fastest resolution with the fewest complications. You can start with telling the person involved to stop the behavior. Try to be as clear as possible. (e.g., “It makes me uncomfortable when you rub my shoulders, please do not do this.”)

If this does not work, you should consider putting it in writing, and telling the person what conduct you find offensive and what action you will take if it continues.

If none of the above works, tell your supervisor (unless he or she is the offender) or a human resource person in your organization (i.e., file a complaint). Check to see if your organization has a mediation or informal complaint resolution process.

What Should I Do If I Experience a Sexual Assault, Sexual Violence, or other Criminal Acts?

If you experience sexual harassment that rises to the level of violence or assault, you should immediately contact law enforcement. Please visit the California Attorney General’s webpage on Sexual Violence at https://oag.ca.gov/workplace-sexual-harassment for more information about sexual violence and available resources for victims of such violence.

I am a Supervisor and Have Received a Complaint of Sexual Harassment from an Employee? What Should I Do?

If you are an employer or supervisor who has been advised of sexual harassment occurring in your workplace, you should first reassure the employee that you appreciate being informed about any problems, that you will investigate, and that you will follow up. It is difficult for employees to come forward regarding sexual harassment, as many fear retaliation from the harasser or being ridiculed, ostracized, or otherwise “left out” by their coworkers. It is even harder when the employee coming forward is the victim and has to expose something very personal to their supervisor at the place where they earn a living.

To put the employee more at ease, explain all of the options the have at your company (e.g., formal investigations and reporting, informal handling of the matter and mediation). The complaining employee should be informed of resources such as counseling that may be available to him or her. All complainants should be made aware that retaliation of any form against them will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline. You should periodically check with the complainant employee to ensure that the harassment has ceased and that no retaliation has ensued.

The spectrum of disciplinary actions an employer should consider in response to allegations of sexual harassment should range from reprimand to permanent dismissal — based on the conduct. Appropriate discipline sends a clear “zero tolerance” message to all employees. Eventually, all parties will understand that sexual harassment conduct is not permissible.

In addition to coworkers, supervisors are also responsible for ensuring that their employees are not sexually harassed by the public, clients, or vendors. All managers and supervisors should inform their employees that such conduct will not be tolerated and that they should immediately report any sexual harassment from the public, clients, or vendors. If the harassment is from a customer, you must still take appropriate action within your control to ensure that the offensive behavior stops.

If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment or if you are an employer in California who has questions about the state’s laws on sexual harassment, contact the knowledgeable and experienced team of employment attorneys at Perkins Asbill today. To schedule a consultation, please contact us at 916-446-2000.