Many people understand sexual harassment through the high-profile stories that they often hear about in the media. While these stories involve some truly awful conduct, the truth is that this illegal practice impacts far more people in their everyday lives. In other words, workplace sexual harassment is about more than you read about online. If you believe you might have experienced this type of prohibited conduct, speak with an Orange County sexual harassment attorney at The Eghbali Law Firm right away.
For victims, being sexually harassed could have a number of different effects. They include:
While the harasser is often operating from a position of power, the law gives you rights. Specifically, federal and California laws make sexual harassment illegal. You have the ability to file a complaint under federal or state law, and it could lead to financial compensation. The law gives power to those who may feel powerless. When you hire a sexual harassment attorney, you can explore your legal options for receiving justice for what was done to you.
One of the first things that clients do when they speak to us is explain what happened to them at work. They will always ask us whether we believe that their experience would meet the legal definition of sexual harassment. Allow us to explain what type of conduct is illegal.
The first thing to know is that federal law does not provide a definition. What we know about sexual harassment comes from guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), and prior court cases.
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and gender. Sexual harassment is considered to be a form of discrimination because the person is being treated this way because of their sex or gender.
The EEOC guidelines define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. From this, we get different types of sexual harassment that might occur:
Quid pro quo - Employment decisions are based on the employee’s submission to sexual harassment. This could mean that an employee is offered favorable work treatment or is threatened with or receives retaliation in connection with the conduct. The classic example is the supervisor who demands a sexual act from the employee and fires them when they do not comply. However, this category goes far beyond that.
Hostile work environment - While this category may not involve explicit or overt requests for a sexual favor, the overall environment that is created by the actions of one or more people is intimidating and offensive. This could include the following:
A hostile work environment does not necessarily mean that someone exhibited this behavior directly towards you. If it was within your earshot and you hear or see examples of this behavior, it could be considered harassment.
However, one incident of anything described above may not automatically be illegal harassment. A court would consider a number of factors in deciding whether you experienced a hostile work environment. These include:
In a hostile work environment claim, your employer may try to argue that they had extensive training and took steps to prevent the conduct. They are not automatically liable, but you would need to show that they did nothing to prevent the conduct or did not take any action when you filed a complaint.
This is why it is important to talk to an Orange County sexual harassment attorney as soon as you encounter anything that could be considered harassment. How you respond could determine whether you are able to receive compensation.
Retaliation - Regardless of whether you could win a sexual harassment lawsuit, the moment you file a complaint with your employer about alleged harassment, you have protection from any adverse employment action meant to retaliate against your complaint. Employers should know to be very careful once an employee has filed a complaint, but many do not follow the law.
What you do after the harassment could determine whether you are able to receive compensation. Here are the steps to take:
Speak to the harasser if you feel safe - Many people are hesitant or afraid to speak to a coworker who is engaging in the illegal conduct. However, the person may not know that what they are doing is wrong. In addition, making it clear to the person what behavior you consider offensive will also help if you later file a lawsuit. Speaking to the harasser might be possible in hostile work environment cases, but might not be appropriate in quid pro quo harassment cases.
File a complaint with the company- Your company should have policies in place for dealing with sexual harassment. Read these carefully. They likely have designated a person to receive complaints about sexual harassment. If the harassment does not stop or if you cannot speak to the person, you should file a complaint. This should also protect you from retaliation.
Document your case - Many sexual harassment cases come down to your word against the employer’s. Evidence is what persuades the court that you were harassed and should receive compensation. Make sure to document your case. This can include keeping a contemporaneous log or saving any emails or voicemails that could show what happened. Anything that you can save or preserve that would back up your side of the story increases your chances of success.
Speak to a lawyer - The time to talk to a lawyer is well before you consider filing a lawsuit. An attorney could give you legal advice on how to handle this matter with the company. They could help you when it comes to speaking with people at your company and documenting your case. Your lawyer would also advise you on the next steps that you can take.
File a complaint with the proper agency - The law generally only allows you to file a sexual harassment lawsuit after you have exhausted all of your remedies. Your lawyer can identify whether you will need to file a complaint with the EEOC or DFEH. They will investigate your claim and will either file a lawsuit in court on your behalf or tell you that you have the right to file one on your own. You do not need to wait for the EEOC. You can always ask for a letter giving you the right to sue. Your Orange County sexual harassment lawyer will navigate this process for you.
When it comes to finding the right lawyer to represent you in your case, you need an attorney with experience in handling difficult cases with compassion. At the same time, your lawyer may also be fighting on your behalf against a large company, so you should have a passionate advocate with the experience of going toe-to-toe with corporate counsel who are trying to protect the company at all costs.
First, you could always negotiate a settlement of your sexual harassment complaint without even filing a lawsuit. You could reach a confidential settlement agreement because your employer wants to make the issue go away or does not want the negative publicity of a lawsuit. In our experience, this is often the best outcome for the victim, sparing them from a grueling legal process. Your attorney could approach the company to negotiate.
Your lawsuit would begin by filing a complaint with the court and serving it on the other party. The defendant would file an answer to your complaint. They would then try to argue that the court should dismiss your case for various reasons.
Assuming that your case survives a motion to dismiss, your sexual harassment case would proceed to discovery. This is when both sides try to get information from the other that could be used as evidence at trial. Discovery can mean a number of things, including:
Before your case goes to trial, your employer may try to settle the case. If you have obtained damaging information in discovery, they may be more likely to try to settle.
If there is no settlement, your case would go to trial. Your lawyer would call witnesses, and you are called to testify. After that, the judge or jury would issue a verdict in your case.
Your employer would be legally required to pay you for everything that you lost or endured due to the harassment. While you may hear of multimillion-dollar sexual harassment verdicts and settlements, these are not the usual cases. Nonetheless, you could expect damages for the following:
One frequent question that people ask is whether they can get punitive damages in their sexual harassment lawsuit. They are always a possibility, but it requires very bad conduct that would make a jury want to send a strong message to the defendant. Oftentimes, the threat of punitive damages is what makes defendants want to settle their case.
Also, if you have been fired from your job, the court could order that you are reinstated. A judge could even order that you receive the promotion that you were denied by the harassment. Courts have the ability to order many different types of equitable remedies beyond money.
Most cases of sexual harassment are filed by women because they represent a majority of victims. However, sexual harassment does not have to be committed by a man against a woman. Same-sex harassment has been called a “silent epidemic.” Many LGBT workers report experiencing sexual harassment at work. In addition, men are sometimes the victim of sexual harassment. One in five workplace sexual harassment claims are filed by men.
Sexual harassment laws are gender-neutral. They just prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and men can be discriminated against too. Do not think that you have no case because you are a man.
The good news is that it costs you nothing to speak with a sexual harassment lawyer. If you have been the victim of illegal conduct, you do not need to let cost get in the way. Not only is your initial consultation free, but you do not need to pay hourly fees to get legal help.
When you hire us to be your attorney, you do not need to write us a check upfront, nor do you have to write us a check at all. We only receive compensation if you get a financial recovery in your case. Then, we are paid a percentage of your settlement or jury award.
The Eghbali Law Firm has Orange County employment law attorneys who fight for victims. We fight for you against companies that deny you your legal right to work on the job without being sexually harassed. Call us today at (714) 436-2333 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. It is better to seek legal advice earlier in your case to increase the chances of being able to file an effective claim. We can guide you through the process of dealing with your employer and filing a lawsuit. This process is one that you should not go through alone.