SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
Sexual harassment is illegal under California law. Employees throughout San Diego and the Golden State have a right to a workplace that is free from such misconduct. California employers must undertake reasonable steps to prevent such conduct, investigate complaints and take appropriate action as needed. Similarly, employees may file a formal or informal complaint about harassment due to sex or gender that they’ve experienced or witnessed. Employees have a right to do so without being retaliated against. Retaliation or wrongful termination for a good faith complaint is unlawful even if the employer determines that no sexual harassment occurred.
EXAMPLES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment occurs when an employer, supervisor or coworker makes unwanted sexual advances or unwanted statements or gestures of a sexual nature. Harassment includes a wide range of offensive sexual and gender-based behavior:
- Visual conduct, such as leering, sexual gestures and displaying pornographic images
- Verbal conduct, such as derogatory statements or jokes about a person’s body or sexual relationships
- Physical conduct, such as unwanted touching, groping, assault or blocking a person’s movement
- Quid pro quo harassment, which occurs when a person offers employment benefits or makes threats in exchange for sexual favors
- Retaliatory actions against the employee who denied or participated in sexual activity with the harasser
EMPLOYERS MUST TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT HARASSMENT
California employers have a strict requirement that they must take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Employment handbooks, policies and investigations are part of this prevention. Supervisor training about sexual harassment prevention may also be required. But if those policies and procedures aren’t enforced, then they are meaningless and the employer may still be liable for harassment that has occurred.
REMEDIES FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Employees or applicants who are sexually harassed may recover a wide range of damages and remedies based on the misconduct:
- Back pay (for lost earnings)
- Front pay (for future lost earnings)
- Lost bonuses and commissions
- Lost benefits (dental, medical, vision, etc.)
- Lost pensions and retirement earnings
- Hiring and reinstatement
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Medical expenses
- Policy changes
- Emotional distress damages
- Punitive damages
- Attorney’s fees and costs
- Injunctive relief
These damages can often be recovered through a resolution at mediation.
ENFORCING YOUR RIGHTS
San Diego and California employees that have suffered harassment should move promptly to enforce their rights. The law bars claims that aren’t filed in a timely manner. At Ferraro Employment Law, we provide a free case consultation to help employees who have been victims of harassment understand and enforce their rights. Contact us today for a free and confidential evaluation of your sexual harassment claim.