Eisenberg Law Group

Sexual
Harassment

Sexual Harassment Lawyer Los Angeles

Sexual harassment laws protect employees from unlawful sexual harassment, including unwanted sexual advances, sexual comments, and sexual gestures.  Further, sexual harassment laws protect employees from sexual harassment based on their gender or gender identity.  Employers, co-workers, customers or vendors of the employer are prohibited from engaging in sexual harassment of any of the employer’s employees.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, call our experienced law firm for a FREE, confidential, no obligation consultation.  At Eisenberg Law Group, we believe that all employees should be free to work in a healthy work environment, free from sexual harassment, or any harassment at all.  When someone’s rights are violated and they are subjected to sexual harassment, this can lead to serious psychological trauma, immense mental anguish and suffering, and feeling trapped in one’s employment situation with no one to turn to.  At Eisenberg Law Group, we can help you pursue a case against the perpetrator so that you can obtain justice, reclaim your mental health and well-being, and prevent the perpetrator from harming any other potential victims in the future.

Types of Sexual Harassment

There are two primary types of sexual harassment recognized by both state and federal law:

Economic Quid Pro Quo: this occurs where an employee is subjected to sexual conduct in order to receive job benefits, such as getting or retaining a job, or receiving a favorable performance review or promotion.

Example: An employee’s supervisor states that they will not get a promotion unless they spend the night with the supervisor.

Hostile Environment: this occurs where the sexual conduct had the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, or unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance.

Example: An employee’s supervisor makes repeated, unwelcomed comments about wanting to spend the night with the employee, making the employee feel uncomfortable.

What is Harassment?

The California Supreme Court has defined “harassment” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act as “conduct outside the scope of necessary job performance, conduct presumably engaged in for personal gratification, because of meanness or bigotry, or for other personal motives.”

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment occurs where sexual advances are made toward an employee that are unwelcome.  This can include any of the following:

  • Unwanted sexual advances or invitations to engage in sexual conduct
  • Sexual gestures, displaying sexually provocative photos or objects, or inappropriate staring
  • Verbal conduct such as making lewd comments, degrading remarks, sexually explicit jokes, inappropriate comments concerning one’s body, clothing, appearance, sexual activity, or sexual relationships
  • Physical conduct such as unwanted touching, impeding one’s ability to move and causing them to feel trapped physically, and unwanted movement into one’s personal and private space
  • Offering employment benefits, such as a job, raise, bonus, or promotion in exchange for sexual favors, or demanding sexual activity or sexual requests as a condition of continued employment
  • Making or threatening retaliation after an employee rejects a sexual advance, comment, or gesture

Laws Governing Sexual Harassment Claims

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law governing sexual harassment and applies to employers with 15 or more employees.  The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the California state law governing sexual harassment and does not require a minimum number of employees and provides broad protections for employees in California.

Is My Employer Responsible if My Supervisor Sexually Harasses Me?

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, an employer is strictly liable for workplace harassment by a supervisor.  Under federal law, the employer is vicariously liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor with authority over the employee.  Further, under federal law, the employer is strictly liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment of an employee when the harassment is accompanied by “tangible employment action” against the employee. 

Therefore, in both state and federal cases, if you have been harassed by a supervisor, you can almost always hold your employer accountable.

How Does the Law Define a Supervisor?

Under California law, a supervisor is defined as anyone having authority from the employer to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees.

Under federal law, a supervisor is defined as one who has the power to take “tangible employment actions” against an employee- i.e. able to hire, fire, fail to promote, reassign with significantly different responsibilities, or make decisions causing a significant change in benefits received by the employee.

Do I Have a Case Even if My Supervisor Didn’t Harass Me?

Although each case must be evaluated individually, generally speaking, yes you do.   Under California law and federal law, if your employer was negligent in allowing a hostile work environment to exist, you can hold your employer accountable.  If your employer knew of the harassment, and failed to stop it, you can hold your employer accountable.  Moreover, if your employer should have known about the harassment, and failed to stop it, you can hold your employer accountable. 

What if I Engaged in a Sexual Relationship with My Supervisor Because I Thought I Had To?

Although some employer-employee or supervisor-employee relationships may be consensual, often times employees feel that they must submit to a relationship with their employer or supervisor so that they don’t lose their job or valuable job benefits.  Even where an employee engages in sexual activity with an employer or supervisor, the employee may still bring a sexual harassment claim where the employer or supervisor’s acts were unwelcome and the employee felt obligated to engage in the relationship in order to obtain or retain job benefits.

What Should My Employer Do to Prevent Sexual Harassment at My Workplace?

To prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, the employer’s policy should:

  • Provide a definition of sexual harassment;
  • Identify whom employees should contact if they are subjected to sexual harassment;
  • Ensure that harassing supervisors can be bypassed in registering complaints;
  • Describe the disciplinary measures that the company may use in a harassment case;
  • State that the complaint will be kept confidential to the extent possible;
  • State that retaliation will not be tolerated; and
  • Be distributed to each employee on the employee's first day of work, with receipt acknowledged by the employee.

What Should You Do if You Have Been Harassed or are Being Harassed at Work?

Immediately report the harassment to the proper person designated by your employer to handle such complaints.  Reporting the harassment to employees other than the person designated by your employer may be insufficient if you are claiming that your employer allowed a hostile work environment to exist and failed to stop it.  Check your employer’s harassment complaint procedure and follow the instructions and protocol carefully.

Contact our office for a FREE, confidential, no obligation consultation.  We can guide you through the process in order to ensure that you achieve justice, are compensated for your harms and losses, help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible, and make sure that nobody else is sexually harassed by the perpetrator.

Employers and perpetrators are well aware of the potential liability they face if they are caught engaging in sexual harassment or allowing sexual harassment to occur within their company.  In an effort to avoid getting caught, employers and perpetrators often attempt to cover up their sexual harassment.  Therefore, it is critical that you contact our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys immediately so that we can begin our investigation before important evidence is lost or destroyed. 

What Damages are Recoverable in Sexual Harassment Cases?

If an employee sues under California law, he or she is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical and psychiatric expenses, past and future wage loss, damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

In a sexual harassment case, a plaintiff does not need to undergo psychiatric or psychological treatment in order to recover damage for emotional distress.

To recover punitive damages, i.e., damages to punish the defendant employer, a plaintiff must prove:

  • that the employer hired or retained the harassing individual with knowledge of his or her unfitness for the position and in conscious disregard of other’s rights for safety;
  • authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct; or
  • was personally guilty of oppression, fraud or malice.

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