If you’re a victim of workplace sexual harassment in California, it’s against the law, and it has to stop now. Here are eleven tips from our Oakland sexual harassment lawyers about what needs to be considered to stop workplace sexual harassment.
TIP #1: TELL THE PERPETRATOR TO STOP
To prevail with a legal claim for sexual harassment, a victim/plaintiff will have to prove that the harassment was unwanted behavior.
Be certain that the perpetrator knows the behavior is unwanted. Directly tell the perpetrator to stop.
In order to be sure that the harasser knows that his or her conduct is unwanted, a victim must plainly tell the harasser to stop.
If this doesn’t work, write a letter to the perpetrator that tells him or her to stop the sexual harassment and that the behavior is unwanted.
Make and keep several copies of that letter. You may need it later if the matter becomes a lawsuit.
TIP #2: FULLY DOCUMENT INSTANCES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Keep a written and detailed account of every incident of harassment. Save letters, memos, emails, and any other documents that might be pertinent.
Documenting harassment includes documenting more than just the actual harassment itself. Keep and copy any documents related to performance reviews, demotions, title changes, or benefits.
TIP #3: REPORT SEXUAL HARASSMENT RIGHT AWAY
Particularly in California, it is imperative to make – and to document – a workplace sexual harassment complaint at once.
Speak to your supervisor or manager or to that person’s supervisor or manager – or speak with your human resources department or officer immediately.
Most employers have a standard process – “proper channels” – for reporting harassment. Follow that process.
Going through the procedure might stop the harassment. If it doesn’t, you’ll prove that you made every reasonable effort to resolve the matter internally before you took legal action.
TIP #4: FOLLOW UP ON YOUR INITIAL COMPLAINT
When an employer learns that workplace sexual harassment is happening, the employer must take measures to ensure that the harassment will be eliminated.
After you make a sexual harassment complaint to your employer, it’s imperative to find out what steps are being taken to eliminate the harassment.
TIP #5: GET COUNSELING IF YOU NEED IT
Sexual harassment may trigger anxiety, depression, traumatic stress, sleeplessness, and reduced work performance.
Sexual harassment victims should not try to cope with such issues on their own.
Seek professional counseling if you need help with the emotional distress that sexual harassment can generate.
TIP #6: KNOW THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Know your rights. Employees in California have comprehensive legal protection against workplace discrimination, workplace sexual harassment, and employer retaliation.
However, not all inappropriate behavior in the workplace constitutes illegal discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Illegal sexual harassment includes:
1. “quid pro quo” harassment – basing a term of employment upon the acceptance of an unwanted sexual advance
2. hostile work environment sexual harassment that offends, intimidates, or humiliates someone because of his or her gender
TIP #7: UNDERSTAND WHAT EMPLOYER RETALIATION IS
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a sexual harassment or discrimination victim for:
1. filing a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
2. opposing discriminatory workplace practices
3. participating in a sexual harassment investigation
4. taking legal action to stop workplace sexual harassment
If a sexual harassment victim does not understand what constitutes employer retaliation, that victim may miss the opportunity to file a claim against the employer for retaliation.
Furthermore, if you do not realize that retaliation is illegal, you may be intimidated from taking action to stop the sexual harassment.
Do not be intimidated. An employer cannot stop you from reporting and fighting sexual harassment.
TIP #8: BELIEVING AN EMPLOYER’S FIRST RESPONSE TO YOUR CLAIM
A human resources department functions to protect an employer. Thus, a manager or HR director might tell you that you do not have a viable sexual harassment claim.
Or a manager may tell a victim that the matter will be resolved and no attorney will be needed.
When the issue is sexual harassment, don’t rely on your employer’s answers or advice.
Even when they have good intentions, human resource directors and managers are not lawyers, and they may not grasp the finer points of sexual harassment laws.
You have the right to experienced, objective legal counsel.
Discuss your case with an experienced San Francisco sexual harassment attorney. Get sound legal guidance that you can trust.
TIP #9: FILE AN ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT – AND MEET THE DEADLINE
In California, before an employer can be sued for sexual harassment, a sexual harassment victim must obtain a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the EEOC or the DFEH.
Under California law, you must file a sexual harassment claim with the DFEH within a year of the date that you experienced sexual harassment.
Under federal law, you must file a sexual harassment claim with the EEOC within three hundred days of the date that you experienced sexual harassment.
If your employer in California is a small business, file your claim with the DFEH. The EEOC only regulates employers with fifteen or more employees.
The DFEH governs California businesses with five or more employees, but when a claim is for sexual harassment, California sexual harassment law extends to every employer in the state.
Harassment victims should have an experienced San Francisco sexual harassment attorney help file a claim with the DFEH or EEOC. Harassment lawyers routinely handle these filings and know what these agencies are looking for.
TIP #10: DETERMINE IF YOU ARE LIMITED BY AN ARBITRATION AGREEMENT
If you agreed to an employment contract that includes an arbitration clause, you may not be able to pursue a lawsuit. You may be forced to accept an arbitrated settlement.
An arbitration hearing is a legal-style procedure where both sides present their cases to a neutral arbitrator who usually makes a final ruling.
An arbitration clause in an employment contract usually obligates both sides to accept the arbitrator’s decision as final.
If you signed an employment contract, have your attorney review it and explain how it may restrict your ability to take legal action against your employer for sexual harassment.
TIP #11: HAVE A LAWYER’S ADVICE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
Sexual harassment victims frequently wait too long to speak with an attorney. They may not be sure if they need an attorney, or they may not be precisely sure what constitutes sexual harassment.
Talk to an attorney first. Learn where you stand legally. That way, you can deal with your sexual harassment situation from a position of knowledge and confidence.
A sexual harassment lawyer can begin quietly working for a settlement from your employer while the other stages in the legal process transpire.
Your attorney will help you file with the DFEH or EEOC to make sure that your paperwork is comprehensive and accurate.
After obtaining the right to sue, your attorney can then proceed to file a lawsuit and continue private negotiations until a settlement – or a verdict – is reached.
California does not tolerate workplace sexual harassment. If you are a sexual harassment victim, the law is on your side. Contact an attorney, stand up for your rights, and stop the harassment – now.