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Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace is all too common, and can leave employees scarred in more ways than one. This type of harassment is not only unacceptable, it’s not permitted in California.
Under California’s The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), workers have the right to a workplace free of verbal, physical, sexual, and other abusive behaviors, including quid pro quo and hostile work environment harassment. Workplace conduct is legally considered harassment when it is: offensive; unwelcome; severe; creates an intimidating or hostile work environment.
An employee can also have a viable harassment claim under California labor and employment law even if the offensive behavior was not committed by a supervisor. If it’s committed by the supervisor, the employer is strictly liable for the harassment–even if the employer’s behavior was not negligent in any way. If it was committed by someone other than a supervisor, the employer is only liable if it behaved negligently with respect to the harassment.
In California, in order for an employee to have a valid claim of harassment under the “hostile work environment,” they need to be able to show that the harassment was either severe or pervasive. A “hostile work environment” does not need to involve sexual harassment — or have anything to do with sex or gender. It can also be based on race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age and many other factors.
Employees who experience harassment have the right to sue their employer for damages.
Before you reach out to us, make sure you tell someone in the organization about the harassment — either a supervisor or a member of the Human Resources Department. Then, file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Lastly, you wait for the DFEH to issue a “right to sue” notice (this may be done right away, or following an investigation of the complaint by DFEH). Once the notice is issued, the employee and his/her employment attorney may file a civil lawsuit against the harasser and/or the employer seeking monetary damages.
DFEH requires that these complaints be filed within three years after harassment occurs. A civil lawsuit must be filed within one year of receipt of a “right to sue” notice from DFEH.
Bottom line: You do not need to suffer in silence, give us a call — we are here to help.
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