Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer
What is sexual harassment in the workplace?
Workplace sexual harassment is the unlawful discrimination of an employee or job applicant due to that individual’s sex, and it is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This type of harassment can come in several forms, including unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and hostile verbal or physical encounters of a sexual nature. It can also involve non-sexual encounters that are aimed at an individual’s gender. For instance, a work supervisor who claims women are inferior to men would be just as guilty of workplace sexual harassment as a co-worker who makes lewd comments about a colleague’s body.
Perpetrators of sexual harassment can be male or female, and they can be direct supervisors to the victim, a superior from another department, a co-worker or a non-employee, such as a customer or business client.
Sexual harassment is not simple teasing or an isolated case of mildly offensive behavior. Instead, it involves situations where an employee’s hiring, firing or promotion depends on his or her submission to or rejection of unwanted sexual advances. It also can involve serious and sustained sex-based conduct that creates an unwelcoming or hostile work environment for employees.
How common is sexual harassment?
As the #MeToo movement made clear, sexual harassment is prevalent in American workplaces, including in Orange County. It is also likely underreported. Since 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has received an average of 12,574 charges of sex-based harassment in the workplace each year. However, recent studies have shown the problem occurs much more often than is actually reported.
For example, a recent Cosmopolitan survey of 2,235 full- and part-time female employees found that approximately one-third of women have experienced job-related sexual harassment at some point in their careers. Of those who have suffered harassment, 81 percent have experienced verbal harassment, 44 percent have experienced unwanted touching and/or sexual advances and 25 percent have reported receiving lewd or sexually suggestive emails or text messages. Meanwhile, EEOC statistics show that up to 17 percent of men also experience workplace sexual harassment.
How to tell if you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace
As stated above, workplace sexual harassment can occur in many ways, and some victims may not even realize it is happening to them. For example, the Cosmopolitan survey found that 16 percent of those polled said they had not experienced sexual harassment. However, those same participants reported being subjected to sexist or sexually suggestive comments at work. Apparently, they didn’t realize that such behavior qualifies as unlawful sexual harassment.
Sometimes, incidents of sexual harassment are overt. A manager who threatens the career of a subordinate because he or she refuses to go on a date is an obvious example. Another clear violation is a manager offering of a job, promotion or work-related perk in exchange for a sexual favor. However, less overt circumstances can also constitute harassment. For instance, supervisors who repeatedly invite employees to stay late or come to dinner alone could be trying to get unwanted one-on-one time with that employee. Another example could be a co-worker who constantly invades an employee’s personal space.
Some general rules to remember about sexual harassment:
- Victims and perpetrators can be male or female
- Victims and perpetrators can be of the same sex
- Perpetrators can be superiors, co-workers or non-employees
- People other than the victim can also be impacted by the harassment
- Someone does not have to suffer economic injury or lose his or her job to be the victim of illegal sexual harassment
- The perpetrator’s actions must be unwanted, and the victim needs to state the behavior is unwanted
- Employers and employees must remember that sexual harassment is never permissible and allegations must be taken seriously
Remember, employees who are unsure whether they are experiencing workplace sexual harassment can always contact a sexual harassment lawyer for clarification.
What should I do if I’m a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace?
As the statistics posted above indicate, around one in three women and one in five men become victims of workplace sexual harassment. So what should a victim of sexual harassment do?
Prepare in advance to speak up
Sexual harassment can be a very jarring experience, and some people physically and/or mentally freeze when it occurs. In order to prevent this, it may help employees to consider what their response should be in advance. A strong response could help to discourage the perpetrator and make it clear for legal reasons that the harassment was unwanted.
Make notes of any incidents of harassment
Victims of harassment should write down exactly what happened as soon as they can. Include any promises or threats that were made. Any relevant texts, emails or documents should also be saved. These records should be kept in a safe location.
Report the harassment to the employer
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that employees must report sexual harassment to their employer in order to retain the right to sue. If an employee’s company has a specific protocol for reporting harassment, it should be meticulously followed. If there is no protocol in place, employees should report harassment to their immediate supervisor. If the supervisor is the perpetrator, the harassment should be reported to the supervisor’s boss. However, victims should keep in mind that their employer’s human resources department is designed to protect the company and may not conduct a thorough investigation. With that in mind, victims should always document their communications with HR.
Report the harassment to state or federal agencies
If an employer fails to resolve a sexual harassment complaint, the victim can file a complaint with a state or federal agency, such as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the EEOC. Employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who file formal complaints. That doesn’t automatically mean that an employer won’t retaliate, but it does mean the employee could take legal action if they do. If a government agency cannot resolve an employee’s complaint, it will issue a “right to sue” letter. This means the victim has grounds to take an employer to court.
Take legal action
Victims granted the right to sue by a government agency can file a civil lawsuit against their employer with the help of a sexual harassment attorney. If the suit is successful, a victim could be awarded:
- Job reinstatement
- Back pay
- Lost benefits
- Damages for mental anguish or emotional distress
- Attorney fees and court costs
In addition, the employer may be required to change its policies and training procedures to ensure incidents of sexual harassment do not happen again.
Do I need to hire a sexual harassment lawyer?
Victims of sexual harassment will likely have many questions about their situation. An Orange County sexual harassment attorney could assess an employee’s case and explain all legal options available. For example, an attorney could provide information on:
- Whether a victim’s experience meets the legal requirements of sexual harassment
- How to properly document incidents of harassment
- What to say to the perpetrator
- How a victim can protect himself or herself from employer retaliation
Even if legal professionals determine that a specific case does not merit legal action, they could help an employee understand how to identify sexual harassment in the future. Contact us today for your free consultation.
- This article should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute legal advice, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship with anyone. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney in your community.
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A Review of Rizio Lipinsky
Sexual Harassment Lawyer
I was the victim of harassment at my place of work, based on my same sex relationship and my status as a gay male. I was taunted, called names, humiliated in front of co-workers by my supervisors and manager. When I told my H.R rep and district H.R they did nothing. The last straw was when my H.R and supervisor started telling the general workforce about my sexual status and if they've ever seen me in any lude acts. That's when I took legal acting against the company. Daren was recommend to me by a friend, so i looked him up and read his profile. I was looking for a lawyer who had experience in labor relations, sexual harassment and harassment based on sexual orientation and he fit the bill.
From our first meeting, he made me feel comfortable discussing the full details of what was happening to me at work. He took notes and kept me composed during every meeting we had. He gave me realistic time frames for what was to come moving forward. Standing up to my harassers was not easy but Daren assured me that I was making things better for myself and others.
Fast forward several months.... Litigation time. He prepared me about the environment we were about to enter. I was extremely nervous and excited at the same time. I wanted to tell the "Big Brown company" I have worked for and still do what they've done to me and how wrong they were to treat me and many others like me that way. So they had the TEAM of lawyers and the district H.R manger on one side and Daren and I on the other. Daren's words were sharp, clear and to the point. To make a long story short, we came to a very fare settlement. I did not loose any wages and still had my job which I've held for 17 yrs.
In the end I left really good for what I've done and I owe it all to Daren, for taking my case, knowing the law and caring for peoples rights in today's society.