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My Attorney Is Sexually Harassing Me

by | Jun 13, 2024 | Sexual Harassment


When Your Lawyer Becomes the Predator: Understanding Sexual Harassment by Lawyers in California

Imagine seeking legal help, only to be harassed by the very person entrusted to protect your rights. Unfortunately, sexual harassment can occur in any professional setting, including lawyer-client relationships. This can be particularly confusing and upsetting, as lawyers are supposed to uphold high ethical standards. Here’s a breakdown of California’s laws regarding sexual harassment by lawyers and what you can do if you’ve been targeted.

The Power Imbalance: Why Lawyer Sexual Harassment is Different

Lawyers hold a position of power over their clients. You likely view them as indispensable experts guiding you through a difficult situation. This inherent power imbalance makes it challenging to say “no” to unwanted advances. California law recognizes this and provides protections for clients facing sexual harassment from their lawyers.

It’s Not Just About Sex: Understanding the Types of Harassment

Sexual harassment encompasses a broader range of behavior than just sexual advances. Here are the two main categories recognized in California:

  • Quid pro quo: When a lawyer makes legal representation conditional on sexual favors. This could involve promises of better outcomes in exchange for sex or threats of negative consequences like dropping your case if you refuse.
  • Hostile work environment: Repeated and severe unwelcome sexual conduct, comments, or advances that create a hostile or intimidating atmosphere. This could include inappropriate touching, sexual jokes, or offensive comments about your appearance.

Where to Draw the Line: Defining Unwanted Conduct

The line between friendly banter and harassment isn’t always clear-cut. However, California courts focus on specific behaviors that constitute sexual harassment:

  • Sexual advances: Unwanted requests for dates, sexual propositions, or suggestive comments.
  • Verbal sexual harassment: Derogatory comments about your body, sexual jokes, or offensive language.
  • Physical harassment: Unwelcome touching, groping, or any physical contact with a sexual connotation.
  • Visual harassment: Displaying sexually suggestive images or materials.

The severity, frequency, and context of these actions all play a role in determining if harassment has occurred.

Don’t Stay Silent: Your Rights and Options

If your lawyer sexually harasses you, here’s what you can do:

  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of the harassment, including dates, times, specific actions, and any witnesses present. Evidence is crucial to building a strong case.
  • Report the Harassment: Inform your lawyer’s supervisor, Human Resources department, or the State Bar of California.
  • Seek Legal Help: An experienced sexual harassment attorney can guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and fight for compensation.

Holding Abusers Accountable: Legal Consequences for Lawyer Sexual Harassment

California takes sexual harassment seriously, and lawyers are not exempt. Here’s what could happen to your lawyer if found guilty:

  • Disciplinary Action: The State Bar could reprimand, suspend, or disbar your lawyer, potentially ending their legal career.
  • Lawsuit: You can file a lawsuit against your lawyer seeking compensation for emotional distress, lost income, and legal fees.

Moving Forward: Finding Justice and Healing

Sexual harassment by a lawyer can be a deeply unsettling experience. But remember, you are not alone. California law protects you, and you have options. By reporting the harassment and seeking legal representation, you can reclaim your power and hold your lawyer accountable.

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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You may consult with our qualified attorneys to discuss your specific situation.