Sexual harassment laws have been on the books for decades. Here in California, workers enjoy some of the most extensive statutory protections in the nation. However, incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault have remained all too prevalent.
As a result, there has been renewed effort placed on effectively responding to claims of sexual harassment. The “Me Too” movement and groups such as “Time’s Up” have brought increased attention to the ongoing sexual harassment that women face, and have pressured government and business leaders – particularly in the entertainment and technology industries – to make changes. This pressure has led to beneficial changes, including multiple new laws in California designed to increase protections for victims of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances as well as other actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex. “Quid pro quo” sexual harassment occurs when an employee’s submission to sexual conduct is made a condition of employment, promotion, or other terms of employment. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct based on sex or gender unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Your right to be free from sexual harassment as well as harassment because of your sex or gender is protected by both state and federal laws. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission handles violations of federal sexual harassment law, and employees can file a complaint with the EEOC. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act also prohibit sexual harassment. California laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace protect employees, applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers, and independent contractors. Complaints can be filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Having laws on the books is an important first step toward eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace. But laws are only effective when they are enforced. Many employees over the years suffered in silence out of a reasonable fear of being retaliated against for reporting illegal conduct in the workplace. Many industries had an ingrained culture of silence that made reporting unacceptable. Victims who chose to enforce their legal rights had little support and often faced devastating social consequences after making harassment known.
But recent political movements have caused more employees to have the courage to come forward and report the harassment that they have experienced. Victims are speaking up and holding employers accountable for sexual harassment. They are filing complaints with federal agencies and creating bad publicity for employers who allow harassment to flourish in their workplaces. And they are getting compensation for their financial losses by filing civil lawsuits against employers who allow sexual harassment to happen.
At Minnis and Smallets, we fight hard to protect the rights of employees. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced San Francisco sex harassment lawyers. When you hold an employer accountable for providing a safe workspace, all California workers are safer and more secure in their legal rights.