Sexual Harassment Claims
Our San Francisco employment lawyers help victims of sexual harassment bring legal claims against their employers.
Employees should get advice from a sexual harassment attorney in San Francisco if they have experienced any form of sexual harassment in the workplace. In some cases, the attorney may recommend taking immediate legal action, such as filing a claim. In other cases, it is important for the employee to report the problem and to give the employer a chance to correct it.
Sexual harassment does not entitle a victim to a remedy unless the conduct is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable employee would regard the workplace as intolerable. Sometimes isolated instances of inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature may not meet that standard, unless the conduct is sufficiently severe. On the other hand, some forms of sexual harassment are so serious that one occurrence will allow the victim to pursue a sexual harassment claim.
The sexual harassment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets help employees in the San Francisco Bay Area understand the different forms of sexual harassment. This guide provides a brief overview, but it is not a substitute for legal advice. A sexual harassment attorney at our firm reviews the facts carefully before advising clients about their options, including whether to bring a legal claim or to take some other action to protect their rights.
California’s Broad Protection Against Sexual Harassment
California’s broad sexual harassment law prohibits harassment of an employee because of an employee’s sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The law protects straight, gay, lesbian, and transgender employees.
Federal law provides less explicit protection against harassment that is based on gender identity or sexual orientation, but federal courts are increasingly recognizing that harassment of an employee because the employee does not conform to stereotypes about how a man or woman should behave is a form of sexual harassment. A San Francisco sexual harassment attorney can review the facts of a particular case to determine whether state or federal law provides a remedy.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
When a manager, supervisor, or company owner threatens an employee’s job unless the employee submits to sexual demands, then this conduct clearly constitutes sexual harassment under both California and federal law. Conditioning advancement in the company (including raises, promotions, or better benefits) on another’s willingness to provide sexual favors is also sexual harassment. Both of those forms of sexual harassment are known as quid pro quo harassment.
Sexual Abuse Harassment
Physical touching of a sexual nature is a form of sexual harassment if it occurs without the employee’s consent. An employer is responsible for sexual harassment when the person who touches the employee in a sexual way is an owner, a manager, or a supervisor who has authority to affect the terms and conditions of an employee’s job.
When the employee is touched by a co-worker or by a non-employee who is given access to the employee’s work area, the employee should immediately report the incident to the employer. If the employer allows sexual abuse to occur, or fails to take steps to correct the situation, the employer may be liable for tolerating or failing to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
A hostile work environment can be a form of sexual harassment. A hostile work environment exists when harassment that is based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity is either severe or pervasive such that it interferes with an employee’s ability to work.
Examples of offensive conduct that can create a hostile work environment include:
- Unwanted touching, even if it is not overtly sexual in nature
- Other sexually offensive behavior, such as leering or staring at intimate areas of the employee’s body
- Insulting or crude language that refers to sexual acts or characteristics
- Insults that are directed only toward employees of a particular sex or gender identity
- Offensive jokes and remarks that reflect stereotypes about a particular sex or gender identity
- Offensive or sexually degrading cartoons or pornographic images
- Offensive gestures that have sexual connotations
An occasional remark by itself may not create a hostile work environment, but when the work environment becomes so offensive, intimidating, or oppressive that an employee fears going to work, sexual harassment laws have been violated.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an employee who complains about sexual harassment. The same is true when retaliation is directed against another employee who assists a victim of sexual harassment by cooperating with an investigation, testifying in a legal proceeding, or helping the victim file a claim.
Depending on the form that sexual harassment takes, an employee may be required to make a formal legal claim in order to protect his or her rights. In other cases, it is premature to bring a legal claim without giving the employer time to correct the problem. The employee should seek advice from an experienced sexual harassment attorney in San Francisco before deciding upon an appropriate course of action.
We have represented many employees who have been sexually harassed at work. If you have questions regarding sexual harassment at work call us at 1-415-551-0885 or submit our online contact form.