The way you are treated in the workplace should be a matter of your work ethic and not a matter of your gender, sex, sexual orientation, or gender expression. Unfortunately, there are many workplace environments that don’t support an inclusive mindset. This can leave some employees feeling that their presence at work is more than just to help achieve the goal of the business. For those employees, however, there are options that could provide them with compensation for damages that they may be entitled to. Unfortunately, proving sexual harassment can be difficult.
There are two main laws that protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. They are the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both of these laws forbid employees from engaging in any type of behavior that could be considered sexual harassment. They also forbid employers from allowing the behavior to occur. Under these laws, sexual harassment is considered as being unwelcome and unwanted sex-based conduct through one of the following ways:
Both of these conditions qualify the victim to take legal action against their employer or the harasser. Those who can take legal action include any witnesses who may be subjected to the behavior. Because harassment hurts anyone that may be near it, those who experience it in any form should be provided the opportunity to find relief.
The easiest form of sexual harassment to prove is quid pro quo, as it only needs to have occurred once. On the other hand, proving a hostile environment is more challenging unless the occurrence creates a particularly extreme hostility, such as the use of a gender slur or non-consensual touching. Most often, sexual harassment claims are proven by establishing a pattern of behavior within the workplace.
To successfully prove your sexual harassment claim, you must prove:
Sexual harassment cases do not always involve employees. Anyone who conducts business or crosses paths with a company, and interacts with representatives of that company in any form, may be entitled to bring a sexual harassment claim against them.
In most sexual harassment claims, employers will have policies and procedures in place that allow you to speak to them first to give them a chance to reasonably address the situation. This often means speaking with a representative of human resources or a supervisor about what occurred. If this avenue fails, you should seek a Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer for legal counsel.
Sexual harassment can take on many forms, including:
While some may view these as innocent or misinterpreted, it is not up to the majority to decide what is and is not appropriate for you. Therefore, you should immediately start collecting evidence from the first experience you have of sexual harassment.
Helpful evidence includes:
While you may have access to the majority of the evidence listed, your attorney can help you gain access to other necessary information that may not be as readily available.
The first step in proving a hostile work environment is establishing that the sexual harassment an employee experiences, or is subjected to, is so severe that it distracts them from their ability to perform their job because it is so physically or mentally unrelenting. To prove this, the employee must show that they feel abused and threatened when they are at work. Proving this will require notes, witnesses, and proof of complaints.
Workplace harassment is clearly defined in California workplace laws. It states that any unwelcome or discriminatory conduct in the workplace, based on what are known as protected characteristics, is considered harassment. Protected characteristics include, among others:
If you experience or witness workplace harassment, it is important to keep a record of your experiences. That means that you should note down exactly what happened, even details you may feel uncomfortable with. Note the date, time, and the witnesses present if applicable. Be sure to document any follow-up complaints you may have filed and any responses you may have received.
The burden of proof is in the plaintiff’s hands. They must prove that they have experienced harassment by the creation of a hostile work environment or through a quid pro quo situation. Proving this requires more than just demonstrating the personal feelings about the situation that you as an individual may have. Rather, you must prove that a reasonable person in the same situation would have similar feelings.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can be complicated, particularly if the patterns of behavior have allowed it to perpetuate. However, no matter how long it may or may not have been in place, no one should experience an environment in which their gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression determines how they are treated at work. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, contact us at the Law Offices of Miguel S. Ramirez, and let our attorney help you understand your options.