What Should I Do in Response to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Workplace sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination violating California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment includes both:

  • Unwanted sexual advances or other verbal, visual, or physical conduct that is sexual in nature
  • Actions that make the workplace intimidating, hostile, or offensive based on an employee’s gender

California law doesn’t require that offensive behavior be motivated by sexual desire. It can also be based upon an employee’s:

  • Actual or perceived sex or gender identity
  • Actual or perceived sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions

The definition of workplace sexual harassment includes many types of offensive behavior as well as gender-based harassment of an individual of the same sex as the harasser and actions that subject other employees to a hostile work environment.

What to Do If You Become a Victim of Sexual Harassment

If you are experiencing workplace sexual harassment, it’s crucial to know that you have legal rights and options. Your employer should have a sexual harassment policy. Now is the time to read it and act accordingly. Make sure to put your complaints in writing and maintain records of each incident of harassment, including the date and time and all involved individuals and any witnesses.

First, tell your employer about the harassment, according to the options and requirements in your employer’s sexual harassment policy, if one exists. In some cases, failure to report the behaviors could impact your ability to seek other remedies against your employer or the perpetrator. Even still, supervisors and coworkers remain personally liable for their own actions if they are the harasser.

Then, file a formal complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has the job of protecting Californians from unlawful employment discrimination. If civil rights laws were violated, DFEH can pursue damages on your behalf. You have the option to file a complaint online, by phone, or by mail. The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. You can find information on filing complaints on their website. Complaints filed with either agency are automatically cross-filed with the other. As such, you only need to submit a single complaint.

Once your complaint is evaluated, your case may be accepted for investigation. If it is, the other party is required to respond to your complaint, and DFEH or EEOC will review their response with you. Suppose the response is unsatisfactory and a violation of federal or California law occurred. In that case, your complaint will be forwarded to the agency’s legal division for mediation and a potential lawsuit.

A Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyer Can Help

Those experiencing workplace sexual harassment simply want it to stop. However, it rarely will on its own. Many of them seek the professional legal services of an experienced workplace sexual harassment lawyer. An attorney can help ensure you take all the right steps to protect your legal rights and interests while helping you bring the behavior to a halt. Reach out to an attorney today for more information.

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