Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new; however, recent changes in state and federal laws hold employers much more accountable than they have been in the past. Sexual harassment occurs under a number of circumstances. It can happen to both men and women, in companies large and small, and affects every type of industry and profession. California sexual harassment laws works to protect those who have been exposed to it.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination defined under federal law as any “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”
There are two main types of sexual harassment claims that can be brought under federal law: “Quid pro quo” and “Hostile environment”. Quid pro quo claims involve a person of authority requesting sexual favors as a condition for continued employment or advancement. These claims are direct forms of sexual harassment, and are very serious.
Hostile environment claims are more indirect, and deal with the overall work environment. These types of claims involve instances where employees regularly engage in offensive behavior or tell sexual jokes that compromise the overall work environment.
Under federal law, employers have to take certain steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. They are required to take reasonable measures to both prevent and correct instances of sexual harassment. Furthermore, where supervisory employees (bosses and managers that rank above you in the company structure) are found guilty of sexual harassment, the company is held strictly liable for any actions that result in a significant change of the victim’s employment status. Companies can likewise be held liable for their employees actions if they fail to provide an adequate avenue to submit complaints, or when the employer knew or should have known of the unlawful conduct but failed to prevent it.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act
In addition to federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, California its own set of antidiscrimination laws to further prevent sexual harassment. These laws are primarily found within California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). FEHA prohibits all forms of discrimination in the workplace based on characteristics such as race, religion, gender, religious beliefs, marital status, age, and medical conditions. To help prevent discrimination in the workplace, including sexual harassment, FEHA sets forth a number of statutory rights, obligations, and remedies that govern the relationship between employers and employees.
Notably, California’s FEHA provides greater protection against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination than is otherwise available under federal law. For example, federal law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees; whereas, FEHA applies to employers with 5 or more employees (or 1 employee for sexual harassment claims).
What to do if you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace
If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment in California, the first step is to tell your harasser to stop. In addition to verbal communications, you should also file a formal complaint through the grievance system established by your workplace. If the conduct is particularly offensive or persists, you need to contact a qualified Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney.
The sexual harassment lawyers at Makarem & Associates have successfully represented plaintiffs in sexual harassment suits. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward as a victim of sexual harassment, and we’re here to help you. Contact us today by phone 310.312.0299 or email [email protected] to discuss your case.