Practice Areas
Sexual Harassment

San Francisco Sexual Harassment Attorneys

The sexual harassment attorneys at Minnis & Smallets help employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Employees in San Francisco and elsewhere in California have a right to work in an environment that is not abusive or hostile to employees because of their sex or gender or sexual characteristics. Employees also have a right to be free from unwelcome sexual advances.

In addition to sex-based harassment, California law prohibits harassment in the workplace that is motivated by an employee’s sexual identity. California law specifically prohibits workplace harassment of employees because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, or because the employee does not conform to gender stereotypes.

What is sexual harassment?

How is sexual harassment defined? Sexual harassment can occur in many ways, but employment discrimination laws divide prohibited sexual harassment into two categories:

  • Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer conditions future employment or benefits on the employee’s participation in unwanted sexual conduct or acceptance of abusive or offensive conduct that is related to the employee’s gender. For example, threatening to fire an employee if she rejects or complains about unwelcome sexual advances is a form of sexual harassment. Offering a promotion in exchange for a sexual relationship is another example.
  • A hostile work environment involves unwelcome conduct that occurs because of the employee’s sex and creates a hostile, offensive, oppressive, or intimidating work environment. Such harassing conduct is unlawful when it sufficiently offends, humiliates, or distresses an employee, so as to disrupt their emotional tranquility in the workplace, affect their ability to perform the job as usual, or otherwise interfere with their personal sense of well-being.

What is a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment exists when a reasonable employee would feel offended or intimidated by severe or pervasive conduct that is based on the employee’s sex, gender, or gender identity. Examples of sexual harassment that might create a hostile work environment include repeated insults or vulgar language, lewd jokes, pornographic images in work areas, intimidating statements or threats, and interference with work. Harassment can also consist of hostile or abusive social interactions and other discriminatory behavior, such as shunning an employee during meetings, belittling an employee’s job, or reprimanding an employee in front of co-workers.

When is an employer responsible for sexual harassment?

In most cases, employers are automatically responsible for sexual harassment committed by a CEO, officer, or any other supervisory employee of the company who has the ability to hire, fire, promote, discipline, or direct other employees or effectively recommend such action.

Employers are responsible for a hostile work environment even if a supervisor did not participate in the harassment, if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to make serious efforts to protect the employee from it.

Employers are more likely to be held responsible for a hostile work environment if they fail to adopt a harassment policy that includes a complaint procedure, fail to communicate the policy to employees, fail to investigate sexual harassment complaints, or fail to take prompt and effective action to protect employees.

What can employees who are being sexually harassed do to protect their legal rights?

The first thing a person who is being sexually harassed should do is seek legal advice. Depending on the nature and frequency of the harassment, a sexual harassment lawyer in San Francisco may advise the employee to notify the employer and to follow the employer’s sexual harassment complaint procedure. If the complaint does not resolve the problem, the employee may be entitled to seek a legal remedy.

In some cases, however, particularly when there is no harassment reporting policy or when the harasser is the CEO or some other highly placed executive, the employee may not need to report the problem to the human resources department, although it is often still advisable to do so. The San Francisco sexual harassment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets can help you identify your options in this situation and guide your response.

Where can I get legal help?

The lawyers at Minnis & Smallets have represented many employees who have been sexually harassed at work. We can advise you of your rights and options. We can work to negotiate a resolution of the situation if you are still employed. If your employer fired you because you resisted or complained about harassment, or if you were forced to quit because you could no longer tolerate a hostile work environment, we may be able to help you obtain compensation. To tell us about your experience with sexual harassment in San Francisco or elsewhere in Northern California, call us at 1-415-551-0885 or submit our online contact form.


If you are looking for advice or representation, please contact us today using the form below and we will promptly respond to your inquiry.

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