The workplace can be a stressful place: deadlines, late nights. But being the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace can make the workplace terrifying and make a worker feel totally powerless.
Suffering through workplace sexual harassment can not only affect your performance at work but cause serious emotional distress and take a toll on your mental health. If you’ve been the target of workplace sexual harassment, you may not know what to do. While it may feel like you don’t have many options, there are things you can — and should — do to take back your life, your career, and your personal safety. Suing for sexual harassment can be an important step in regaining control of your career and your life.
Everyone should be able to go to work in a safe, supportive environment, and under California and federal law, your employer has a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect you from harassment. Unfortunately, sexual harassment still occurs in the workplace and can happen to women and men in any occupation, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
It is important to remember that there are laws in place designed to protect you from sexually harassing behavior in your workplace. California law defines sex-based harassment to include sexual harassment and gender harassment. Under California and federal law, there are two main categories of sexual harassment: (1) hostile work environment, and (2) quid pro quo harassment. Understanding these categories can help you to protect yourself and be aware of your legal rights.
In a hostile work environment situation, you are subjected to severe or pervasive lewd comments, unwanted or inappropriate touching, vulgar gestures, or similar behavior. It is not required that the behavior, comments, or touching be both severe and pervasive. Under the law, a single incident may be enough to create a hostile work environment if it is severe, or a pattern of less egregious behavior may create a pervasive hostile environment. Anyone can create a hostile work environment — bosses, co-workers, subordinates, and even customers.
The second scenario is more commonly known: quid pro quo. In this situation, someone above you in the workplace hierarchy is pressuring you or subjecting you to inappropriate behavior. A quid pro quo, or “something for something,” situation involves your supervisor or superior making benefits, promotions, raises, or employment itself conditional on accepting harassing behavior.
A third, less common situation for sexual harassment occurs when you have had to quit your job because the harassment was intolerable and your employer refused to help. This is called a constructive discharge, and in this case your employer may be held responsible if a reasonable person in your situation would have resigned.
In sexual harassment cases, your harasser or your employer may be responsible for compensating you for your emotional suffering and professional losses. You may also be eligible for reinstatement to your position, entitled to a promotion, or qualified for back pay. In addition, your employer may be required to train the company’s employees and implement sexual harassment policies to make sure no one else has to suffer the same harm as you.
If you are the victim of workplace sexual assault, it is important to act quickly to protect your rights against your harasser and your employer. There are strict deadlines for filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Only a qualified attorney can help you determine the right steps for you.
Sexual harassment at work is a serious offense and can affect every aspect of your life. Standing up for yourself and your rights can be a challenge but you don’t have to do it alone. The Liskey Law Firm is able to leverage their experience to fairly advocate for you and your rights. Contact us immediately to fight back against workplace sexual harassment and reclaim your life.