Orange County

Orange County Office

1101 Dove St, Suite 230
Newport Beach, CA 92660

(949) 945-6303

Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Workplace sexual harassment continues to plague women in Orange County. In decades past, professional women anticipated job-related sexual harassment and simply coped with the abuse to preserve their careers. Times are changing, but many employees continue experiencing harassment based on their gender, sexual identity, and marital status. Quid pro quo harassment has gradually transitioned to more subtle forms of workplace misconduct, including creating hostile work environments and using social media to sexually harass coworkers.

Whether you’ve been subjected to unwanted sexual attention from coworkers, propositioned by supervisors, or victimized in the good ol’ boys environment, confidentially connect with our dedicated Orange County firm. We may help claimants understand their rights under California anti-harassment and discrimination laws, trigger independent sexual harassment investigations, and recover deserved compensation from offenders and complacent employers. Schedule a free consultation with our O.C. sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawyers today by contacting us.

Defining Sexual Harassment Under California Law

State and federal laws broadly define workplace sexual harassment as any unwanted or unlawful verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature. California law provides the following examples of qualifying harassing conduct, but this list isn't exclusive:

  • Sexual assault
  • Blocking or otherwise impeding movement for sexual purposes, such as cornering women in an office or restroom
  • Crowding, stalking, or physically interfering with another’s normal work while making direct or indirect sexual advances
  • Creating and distributing sexually offensive drawings, cartoons, emails, and messages
  • Making derogatory comments or using sexual slurs
  • Requesting sexual favors conditioned upon employment benefits

Reporting one major or multiple minor instances of harassment may trigger state sexual harassment investigations. These labor laws cover women, men, non-binary, and transgender individuals and often involve unlawful discrimination claims. Sexual harassment protections in Orange County also apply to applicants, independent contractors, interns, and volunteers. For example, potential employers cannot offer applicants jobs in exchange for sexual favors. This conduct also qualifies as quid pro quo workplace harassment in California, potentially entitling applications to damages.

Identifying Criminal Sexual Harassment in Orange County

Claimants have come forward with clear-cut cases of workplace sexual harassment involving underlying criminal conduct. Title 9 of the California Penal Code lists qualifying state sex crimes, including any unlawful sexual touching, such as brushing a female coworker’s chest or rubbing against her, indecent exposure and public masturbation, rape, molestation, and attempting or threatening this conduct. Such actions not only support sexual harassment complaints, they frequently result in criminal charges and civil liability under state tort laws.

California’s labor regulations require employers to take affirmative steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment and protect victims after alleged sexual assault. These responsibilities may include conducting pre-employment criminal background checks, suspending the alleged offender during harassment investigations, and providing the victim with paid leave to participate in investigations and obtain medical care. If claimants successfully prove sexual harassment occurred and show that their employers could have prevented the harassment or failed to protect the victims thereafter, employers might bear independent financial liability under 2 CCR § 11023.

Pushing Back Against Explicit or Implied Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Epitomized by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, quid pro quo harassment occurs when workplace superiors explicitly or implicitly request sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits or based upon implied career threats. Many employees do not report quid pro quo harassment because they fear job-based reproductions. California takes a strong stance against this type of sexual harassment and holds employers strictly liable for sexual harassment committed by supervisors. Any conduct based on sex, including singling out young female employees for specialized attention, may qualify as quid pro quo harassment and gender discrimination in Orange County.

Importantly, anti-harassment laws also prohibit implied requests for sexual favors. Implicit sexual requests may include managers asking employees to join them for late-night drinks or requesting neck massages for sexual gratification. In these more subtle cases, courts ask whether a reasonable employee would have felt unable to refuse without risking their careers or benefits. Many managers engage in these subliminal behaviors rather than directly requesting sexual favors. Just because the request is veiled or otherwise indirect does not eliminate sexual harassment protections. Such offenders frequently believe they're avoiding state sexual harassment laws, but they're often mistaken. If you’re being implicitly harassed by a workplace superior, consider confidentially speaking with our Orange County firm.

Conduct Creating Sexually Hostile and Discriminatory Work Environments in Orange County

California regulations broadly define hostile work environment sexual harassment as any gender-based actions or comments unreasonably interfering with the victim's work or otherwise creating offensive and intimidating work environments. Quid pro quo harassment may also qualify as hostile work environment sexual harassment. For example, it's not uncommon for multiple relationship requests to begin impacting employee performance due to workspace anxiety. While sex crimes and explicit requests for sexual favors in exchange for benefits often create an intimidating work atmosphere, hostile work environment harassment may also include the following:

  • Constantly ostracizing the only female employee, including making derogatory comments about her abilities and appearance
  • Leaving harassing notes or sexual cartoons for female coworkers to find
  • Constantly catcalling or using sexually offensive language and innuendos
  • Engaging in physically intimidating conduct, including blocking doors or constantly staring at, crowding, waiting, or otherwise following the harassed employee
  • Isolating, blackmailing, or spreading offensive rumors about female or coworkers of differing sexualities

For conduct to qualify as hostile work environment harassment, it must be motivated by the employee's gender, sexual identity, or sexual orientation. The conduct doesn't have to include requests for sexual favors and can involve implicit prejudice and gender-based discrimination. Orange County employees singled out due to their sexual preferences might also file hostile work environment claims with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Distinguishing Workplace Discomfort From Actionable Sexual Harassment

All employees come from unique cultural backgrounds with various life experiences. Simply making prolonged eye contact is considered sexually inappropriate in some cultures. As such, California law requires harassing conduct to be both subjectively and objectively offensive, meaning that both the claimant and the wider public must find the conduct inappropriate based on current sexual and gender norms. Consider the following examples:

  • Both objectively and subjectively offensive – A male offender inappropriately slaps his female coworkers rear while making sexually derogatory comments. She finds this conduct offensive, and it also carries criminal penalties. Such behavior qualifies as sexual harassment in Orange County.
  • Only subjectively offensive – A male coworker asks a female coworker out for a drink. In her culture, both alcohol and unsolicited relationship requests are highly offensive. She subjectively sees this as workplace harassment, but it is not objectively offensive. Such behavior likely doesn't qualify as sexual harassment, and claimants should engage in mediation with human resources. However, the conduct may become sexual harassment if the offender knows about the claimant's personal convictions and continues to engage in subjectively offensive behavior.
  • Only objectively offensive – A female coworker sends sexually explicit emails to a male coworker, but they are not unwanted. He does not suffer from workplace discomfort or finds the content personally offensive. While this would be considered objectively offensive and likely against corporate policy, it probably doesn't qualify as sexual harassment.

Generally, offenders must assume that the offensive behavior is unwanted. Unintentional harassment and mistakes still qualify as sexual harassment in California. State regulations recommend that claimants struggling with potentially subjective harassment report their discomfort to human resources. Taking such action is not required to trigger legal protections, but many H.R. professionals offer guided mediation to resolve misunderstandings. However, a lack of obviously offensive conduct should not discourage potential claimants from speaking with local sexual harassment counsel or requesting state intervention. This conduct can eventually create a hostile work environment that impacts your mental health and career.

Understanding the Association Between Unlawful Discrimination and Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment and unlawful gender discrimination often go hand-in-hand. Cal. Gov. Code § 12940 and federal Equal Opportunity Employment (“EEO”) laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on gender, sexual identity (Bostock v. Clayton County), and marital status. Discrimination refers to any unfair workplace treatment based on your protected status, such as harassing only single, female coworkers or refusing to promote an employee who denied the boss’s sexual advances. These situations generally involve both unlawful gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. However, discrimination claimants must show they were subjected to unfair workplace practices based on their protected status. If an employer retaliates against an employee for speaking up about workplace harassment, this might also qualify as unlawful discrimination in Orange County. Experienced sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys can identify the legal claims available in each case.

Recovering Retaliation Compensation for Orange County Sexual Harassment Claimants

Unfortunately, belittling and otherwise retaliating against sexual harassment victims occurs in many cases. Studies indicate that less than 10% of sexually harassed employees formally complain because they fear making the situation worse or losing their jobs. California prohibits retaliating against employees for filing or preparing to file sexual harassment complaints, including direct retaliation (suspension or termination) and indirect retaliation (isolation and hostilities). Unlawful retaliatory conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Filing disciplinary or negative reports about the employee’s work performance
  • Reducing pay, hours, overtime, and associated benefits
  • Industry blacklisting, isolating, ostracizing, and spreading rumors about the claimant
  • Firing, transferring, demoting, or suspending the claimant
  • Exacerbating or creating workplace hostility through intimidation, aggression, selective enforcement of employee policies, and harassment
  • Threatening immigrant workers with visa revocation or deportation
  • Attempting or threatening to undertake the above conduct

In addition to sexual harassment and discrimination claims, victimized employees may file separate retaliation complaints with the California Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit. The state will not request social security numbers or photo I.D., and claimants may come forward regardless of immigration status. The initial complaint process is confidential, as is the attorney-client relationship. If you’ve experienced a dynamic change in your work environment, workplace relationships, schedule, or pay after raising sexual harassment concerns, this may amount to unlawful retaliation in Orange County.

Damages Available for Orange County Sexual Harassment, Gender Discrimination, and Retaliation Claims

Every sexual harassment case differs in terms of severity and liability. The offender generally bears direct liability for qualifying workplace sexual harassment, as do any coworkers who aided and abetted the unlawful conduct, including encouraging the harassment, assisting the offender, or covering for friends during inquiries. Claimants might also hold employers liable for quid pro quo harassment, failing to sufficiently address alleged harassment, or violating related labor regulations. Unlike coworker harassment cases, most discrimination and retaliation cases naturally involve employer liability.

Various options for addressing sexual harassment exist and often depend on the claimant’s desired outcome. Some employees only want the offender reprimanded or removed, which may involve formally complaining to human resources. Other employees suffered from serious emotional and financial damages resulting from prolonged harassment, sexual assault, and employer retaliation. Extremely hostile work environments may also result in forced resignation, which courts treat as constructive wrongful termination. These claims often result in financial damages, including

  • Lost wages and career opportunities
  • Lost fringe benefits, including health insurance and retirement contributions
  • Mental health and medical costs
  • Attorney’s fees, legal costs, and interest on wrongfully lost income
  • Punitive and statutory damages to punish offenders

Claimants might demand punitive compensation in cases involving intentional sexual battery, direct retaliation, and forced resignation. Similar to criminal fines, punitive damages punish liable offenders and employers for unacceptable conduct. The amount of available damages depends on application statutes but generally involves multiplying the claimant's direct damages. Do not let sexual harassment derail you financially, emotionally, or professionally. Discuss your right to seek needed compensation with our experienced Orange County firm.

Connect With Orange County’s Premier Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Attorneys

At our firm, we provide dedicated legal services to victims of sexual harassment in Orange County. We offer free, confidential consultations backed by our no recovery, no fee guarantee. The guarantee means eligible claimants might obtain confidential and experienced legal services without any upfront fees or costs. Discuss your workplace sexual harassment and discrimination claims with our dedicated lawyers today by calling or scheduling a free consultation online.