Sexual harassment is a serious problem anywhere, but when it happens in the workplace it can be especially troublesome. When there is a hostile work environment because of sexual harassment in the workplace, it can disrupt a person’s career and affect the victim for years.
If you have experienced clear instances of harassment, you must take action to ensure that the appropriate corrective action occurs. These five crucial steps can help you move forward with your life and protect yourself against the harasser.
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What Must an Employer Do About Sexual Harassment at Work?
Employees should be aware that all employers must have a written sexual harassment policy that describes how to prevent and report any incidents of sexual harassment. An employer must also communicate emphatically that they disapprove of any unlawful behavior within the work environment.
Employers also must explain and enforce their sexual harassment policy. This means that supervisors and co-workers should know what to do when someone comes to them with a complaint. Employers must also explain the different types of sexual harassment that can occur. Some examples include unwanted touching and requests for sexual favors.
Proper training can often prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. However, when a claim is made, your employer must investigate it. Their job is to take remedial action and put an end to any harassment that’s causing harm or discomfort. If your employer doesn’t take the situation seriously, you can explore other legal options to hold them accountable.
Who May Be Liable for Workplace Sexual Harassment?
In California, it’s unlawful for any employer to allow workplace sexual harassment to occur. That said, the individual harassing their co-workers is also responsible for their behavior. However, if it’s a supervisor harassing workers, the employer is liable for their conduct.
The “supervisor” is defined as someone who has the authority to hire, discharge and promote employees. Supervisors can also assign and delegate tasks to other workers. Remember, it’s their job to intervene and take action whenever incidents of sexual harassment come to their attention.
You can hold an employer liable for sexual harassment even if unlawful behavior didn’t come from a supervisor. California law enforces a standard of negligence when it comes to employer liability in sexual harassment cases. If an employer is made aware of any harassment occurring and fails to stop it, they can be held liable.
What Should I Do If I Want to Sue for Workplace Sexual Harassment?
The first thing you should do is file a complaint with your employer. This usually requires you to report unlawful behavior to your supervisor or Human Resources Manager. We also advise that you collect any evidence regarding the incident(s), such as emails, text messages, etc.
The issue won’t always resolve itself when you report incidents of sexual harassment to your employers. Another alternative is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They can investigate your claim and determine how to handle the matter.
It would be beneficial to hire an sexual harassment attorney to represent your case and assist you throughout the process. You can schedule an appointment and speak with them about what happened to you at work. Their job is to strengthen your case and hold your employer accountable. Filing a lawsuit can also help deter potential perpetrators in future and protect other employees.
What Are My Rights If Sexual Harassment Has Taken Place?
Workplace sexual harassment is discrimination that violates Title VII under the Civil Rights Act. In other words, it’s unlawful to harass anyone based on their sex. Keep in mind that workplace sexual harassment typically falls under two categories:
- Quid pro quo. This is when a worker is asked to perform sexual acts as a condition of their employment. For example, a supervisor may coerce a subordinate to engage in sex with them in exchange for job security or promotion.
- Hostile work environment. This involves pervasive, unlawful behavior from other employees that recur in the workplace. Examples include unwelcome touching, making offensive jokes or insulting someone based on their gender.
The EEOC always advises that you also inform the harasser about their conduct when you file a complaint. Furthermore, once the complaint is made, your employer can’t retaliate against you. Some examples of retaliation include changes in work schedules or dismissal from your job.
Know Your Company’s Policy on Harassment
In California, a company should have a detailed policy defining sexual harassment and the procedures for handling sexual harassment claims. You should review a copy of this policy and understand how to proceed going forward. Your employer must ensure that you are not stuck in a hostile work environment, so the company policy should define how sexual harassment should be addressed. Unfortunately, most of the time, most companies fail to have a sexual harassment policy or training on sexual harassment. In these situations, you must speak to a sexual harassment attorney about what your rights are moving forward.
When Safe To Do So, Clearly Demand an End To the Behavior
If possible, tell the person engaging in harassment to stop in no uncertain terms. Having a coworker witness this request can also help. Although interacting with a harassing individual can be stressful, it is also important to clarify that the conduct offends you and that you wish for it to stop. Clarification can help you later in the process, especially if you must begin considering how to pursue a legal remedy. In some cases, a clear demand may be sufficient to put an end to the offensive behavior. Most importantly, your employer, supervisor or HR, must be notified about the sexual harassment. If the employer is unaware of the sexual harassment that is occurring, then they may be able to escape responsibility when it comes to the harassment. However, sometimes, the harasser is also your direct supervisor or owner of the company. In these instances, when you are unable to report the conduct to a separate individual, please speak to an attorney right away about how to report the wrongful conduct.
Document Instances of Harassment
If the harassment occurs continuously, you should try to document its occurrence by noting the time, date, location, and what was said. You may not be able to legally make an audio or video recording of the incidents due to California’s strict “two-party consent” rules. However, you should continue to document the harassment as it occurs, especially if the harasser carries on with their behavior even after you’ve taken other appropriate steps to curtail the issue. You can also document the incidents by sending your complaints to HR. It is also important to report any instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault by reporting it to the police or local law enforcement. Generally, people will go with a support person, spouse, or friend when reporting the crime to law enforcement.
Report the Harassment To Your Employer
Follow the guidelines spelled out in your company’s handbook to report sexual harassment to management or the appropriate authorities within human resources. Provide the evidence you’ve gathered to bolster your claims. Ideally, this should be the end of the situation and the start of a resolution. Your company’s HR team should take corrective action to ensure that the harassment stops and that the potential for it to reoccur is minimal. Unfortunately, not every business follows these rules correctly. A company’s HR can have conflicting interests. For instance, there is a continuing conflict with the HR representative in representing the company’s interests versus the employees’ interests. Due to this conflict, it is difficult to know whether the HR representative truly supports your concerns and the harassment that has occurred.
Contact a Trustworthy Lawyer to Evaluate Your Case
In some cases, your employer may act appropriately to address the issue and to correct the problem, up to and perhaps including the termination of the offending individual. However, not every business correctly follows its own procedures. You may continue to experience harassment, or perhaps you’ve experienced illegal retaliation because of your report. In these circumstances, the next step is clear: connect with an attorney to represent you.
At HHJ Trial Attorneys, we treat every case as an individual matter, providing personalized attention for our clients and a safe place to discuss your concerns. With in-depth experience in litigation, we have the strength to stand up for your right to a workplace free from harassment. Contact us today to share your story during a scheduled consultation.