United States federal law, Title VII, permits a person who can prove they were a victim of sexual, physical, and/or verbal harassment to sue if the company they work for has 15 or more employees and suffers under one of the first 2 categories, at least.
- Quid pro quo – This for That: A person with authority or power at your job makes explicit or implicit demands that will be to your advantage or prevent you from detriment. Examples of this could be offers of promotion in exchange for sexual favors, or applying a penalty to you if you refuse. A single incident is not enough.
- Hostile Work Environment: Speech or conduct on the part of a worker, supervisor, vendor, or client that is so severe and persistent that it creates an environment of intimidation or humiliation. Examples of this may be inappropriate touch, sexual jokes or repeated sexual advances. A single incident does not count.
- Other Important Aspects of This Law: a) the conduct of the harasser is not welcome, b) both genders can be victims of sexual harassment, c) the harasser and the victim do not have to be opposite genders.
Pertinent California State Law
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) defines sexual harassment as: unwanted sexual advances or visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. People are protected in this category due to their sex or gender, condition of pregnancy or recent childbirth, or have a relevant medical condition.
Steps to Take Before Having the Right to Sue
If you feel sexually harassed, either physically or verbally, the first thing you should do is communicate with the harasser and ask him or her to stop behaving in this way. In some cases this is enough, but if nothing changes, you should follow the instructions outlined in the worker’s manual for these cases. Usually, you are required to write a detailed report about the type of harassment you are being subjected to. The company is obligated to take immediate action. Many situations are resolved at this level, but others are not. If the behavior persists after having followed these steps, you have the right to notify one of two agencies, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Legal Responsibilities of Your Employer
Your employer is obligated to take all necessary measures to prevent discrimination. There should be a poster provided by the DFEH on the wall or bulletin boards of the workplace. The law also requires the employer to create a manual specifying the actions that constitute sexual, physical, and verbal harassment. Once your supervisor is notified that sexual harassment has occurred or is occurring, it is his or her job to investigate the incident, take immediate measures to eradicate it, and to help you even if you have not experienced losses. Retaliating against you is illegal. Failure to comply with one of these requirements is punishable by law.
Benefits of Contacting Employment Attorneys
The sexual, physical, and verbal harassment law offers you protection, but you must act quickly once you have run out of options with your employer. The law requires you to notify the EEOC within 180 days or the DFEH within a year. One of these agencies will give you the option of opening an investigation or will give you a letter giving the right to sue. What should you do in this case? Which route will be best for you? There are nuances to the law that are difficult to navigate and any error or lack of action on your part can keep you from filing a suit. Our group of doctors and lawyer at Grupo MedLegal offer you a free consultation. We will analyze your case, explain the law in more detail, and assist in the process.
What Are You Entitled to if You Win the Lawsuit?
You have the right to receive compensation for punitive damages. Of course, if you decide not to sue and to let one of the agencies investigate and resolve your case, the monetary remuneration will be more limited.