Wednesday, July 17, 2013

About California Sexual Harassment Claims

Most employees in California are fortunate enough to be protected by its extensive employment and labor laws, particularly the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). 

These laws may be similar and different in many ways, but employment agencies that enforce them, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) make it a point to go after employers that continually subject their employees to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

One of the common employment issues in California employment that is prohibited under Title VII and the FEHA is sexual harassment. According to EEOC’s statistics, the federal employment agency receives around 2,000 of sexual harassment claims in California every year. While it is prohibited under the two laws, covered employers find it hard to eliminate such occurrences in their workplaces, which explain why sexual harassment claims are filed almost persistently every year. According to many California sexual harassment lawyers, it is important for employees who are being victimized by such form of unfair workplace treatment to assert their rights by seeking immediate legal actions.

Sexual harassment in California

Basically, sexual harassment in California is categorized under sex discrimination. Like any other form of employment harassment, it is any unwelcome sexual conduct or action made to an employee in any aspect of his or her employment. This form of harassment in the workplace does not have to be sexual in nature; it may also involve making offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For instance, a female employee is harassed by her immediate superior by making offensive comments pertaining to women in general.

Moreover, a certain action such as a petty slight, annoyance, or isolated incident of sexual nature may not be considered illegal. As long as it is not persistent, an immediate superior, coworkers, or an employer may not be held liable for sexual harassment. It is only illegal under the federal and state employment and labor laws if these elements are present:

·         The sexual conduct is pervasive or severe;
·         The sexual conduct promotes a hostile work environment; and
·         The kind of working environment the employee is subjected into causes a tangible change in his or her employment status or benefits.

Circumstances involving California sexual harassment claims

California sexual harassment claims often involve certain circumstances such as the following:

·     The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, manager, or any immediate superior,  a   co-worker, or even a non-employee.
·      The victim and the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex; a male (or female) victim can be harassed by an immediate superior of the same sex.
·      The victim does not have to be the person directly harassed; anyone could be affected by the offensive conduct, e.g. the victim’s co-worker.

Moreover, certain claims can be one or a combination of the following classifications of sexual harassment; namely verbal, physical, or visual. Such sexual harassment is verbal if it involves name-calling, making repeated sexual innuendos, and blurting inappropriate jokes or remarks about an individual’s outfit. It is considered physical sexual harassment if the harasser makes unwanted physical contact towards the victim, such as stroking, groping, or touching. Visual sexual harassment happens if the harasser shows or displays digital or print material that is sexually offensive in nature, to include not only photos, but also correspondences such as e-mails or letters.

Further, there are claims in which the harasser requires the victim to engage in sexual activity so that the latter can be eligible for advancement such as a job promotion or salary raise. This is what sexual harassment lawyers in California call quid pro quo sexual harassment. Refusing to give in to such demands may result in the victim facing an adverse employment decision, such as demotion or even termination.

Legal advice for sexual harassment victims

If you have been sexually harassed by one of your co-workers or your immediate superiors, it should be imperative that you exercise your rights as an employee. You must file a written complaint with your employer’s human resources department right away, but if such action does not provide you the needed result, then it would be best that you file a formal complaint with either the EEOC or the DFEH. Alternately, you may consult with our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers.