Recognizing Denim Day: A Stand Against Sexual Violence

The Origins of Denim Day

Denim Day has its roots in a troubling 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision, which overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. The judges concluded that the jeans were so tight that the victim must have helped remove them, implying consent. This decision sparked immediate and widespread outrage. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim and in protest against the court’s decision. This act of defiance launched the annual Denim Day, which has been recognized globally ever since.

Why Denim Day Matters

Denim Day serves as an annual reminder of the critical work still needed to combat victim-blaming and to support survivors of sexual assault. It highlights a pervasive culture that too often allows the clothes a person wears to be used as an excuse for sexual harassment and assault. By participating in Denim Day, individuals, organizations, and communities make a collective statement that there is no excuse and never an invitation to sexually harass or assault.

For law firms like ours, which represent survivors of sexual assault, Denim Day is particularly significant. It provides an opportunity to reinforce our commitment to supporting survivors, advocating for their rights, and working tirelessly to secure justice on their behalf. It’s a day to educate the public about the impact of sexual violence and to challenge the misconceptions that often surround these crimes.

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From a legal standpoint, Denim Day underscores the importance of understanding consent and the need to continually fight against the misconceptions that lead to victim-blaming in courtrooms. As attorneys, it is our duty to ensure that survivors feel heard, respected, and believed. We strive to create a legal environment where survivors can come forward without fear of judgment based on their appearance or any other superficial factors.

Supporting Survivors

Beyond legal advocacy, recognizing Denim Day is about standing with survivors. It’s about creating spaces where their stories are heard and validated. It’s also an opportunity to provide resources and support for those affected by sexual violence. We encourage everyone to educate themselves and others about these issues, to volunteer their time and resources to local support groups and crisis centers, and to advocate for policies that protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.


Denim Day is not just about remembering a misguided court ruling; it’s about continuously pushing for changes in how society views and handles cases of sexual assault. As we mark this day, let us renew our commitment to fight for a world where no individual ever has to fear that their words, their actions, or their clothing could be used against them in their most vulnerable moments. Let us wear denim, not just as a symbol, but as a promise to support and believe survivors, challenge harmful stereotypes, and work

Is It Discrimination If My Employer Doesn’t Use My Preferred Pronouns?

towards true justice.

For anyone affected by sexual violence seeking help, please reach out to us. We, at Haeggquist & Eck,

are here to fight for you, to advocate for your rights, and to support you through every step of your journey towards healing and justice.

Haeggquist & Eck Attorneys voted Best Lawyers in America 2024 and Alreen Haeggquist is voted Lawyer of the Year for 2024. 

We’re honored to announce that Haeggquist & Eck attorneys Alreen Haeggquist, Amber Eck, and Aaron Olsen have been voted Best Lawyers in America for 2024. Alreen Haeggquist was additionally voted Lawyer of the Year for 2024. This award is particularly impressive, as it is presented to a single lawyer in each practice area and geographic region. 

At Haeggquist & Eck, we strive for excellence in all that we do to provide our clients with the best legal representation possible. These awards are meaningful to Haeggquist & Eck because they are the result of multiple peer review surveys. To be recognized by other lawyers as one of the Best Lawyers and Lawyer of the Year is truly gratifying and says a lot about our team.  

“Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication company in the legal profession. 

Recognition by Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by their peers. For more than four decades, our publications have earned the respect of the profession, the media and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere. 

Our lists of outstanding lawyers are compiled by conducting exhaustive peer review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. If the votes for a lawyer are positive enough for recognition by Best Lawyers, that lawyer must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain in each edition. Lawyers are not permitted to pay any fee to participate in or be recognized by Best Lawyers.” Source: 

What Does The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Do For Employees?

In the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, that abortion is not a protected right and all the anti-abortion laws being passed, there is bound to be a surge in pregnancy accommodation requests, as workers will be forced to carry through with high-risk pregnancies.  

No one should be forced to choose between a healthy pregnancy and their job. Forty years ago, Congress outlawed pregnancy discrimination when it passed the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Despite the law, employers still routinely deny pregnant workers’ accommodation requests.  

How Common Is Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace? 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data shows that from 2010-2021 roughly 39,000 pregnancy discrimination charges were filed with the EEOC. That number doubles when combined with charges filed by the state and local Fair Employment Practice Agencies.1 Those numbers only reflect when a pregnant worker actually files a complaint. Unfortunately, not all pregnant people know their rights as a pregnant worker or fear retaliation if they speak up. 

The Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult conducted a survey on the prevalence of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The key results of the survey showed:2 

  • Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) mothers have considered leaving their jobs due to a lack of reasonable accommodations or fear of discrimination during a pregnancy. 
  • 1 in 5 mothers (20%) say they have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. 

Research Shows Pregnancy Discrimination Has A Negative Impact On The Mother’s and Baby’s Health
The Journal of Applied Psychology published a landmark study from Baylor University where researchers surveyed 252 pregnant employees. The results showed that pregnancy discrimination has a negative impact on the mother’s and baby’s health. Pregnancy discrimination was linked to increased levels of postpartum depressive symptoms for mothers and lower birth weights, lower gestational ages, and increased numbers of doctor visits for babies.3  

Pregnancy Discrimination And The Motherhood Penalty Create A Lasting Economic Disadvantage  

Pregnancy discrimination and the motherhood penalty leads to an economic disadvantage and gender wage gap for women. Studies show the discriminatory treatment women face while pregnant and following birth includes lower starting salaries, lower likelihood of hiring and promotion, and lower perceived competence and commitment. Known as the “motherhood penalty” because men do not face the same discrimination when they become fathers.4   

Real Pregnancy Discrimination Examples 

A sad case that gained national attention was when Kristie Small, acting chief of staff to Congressman Cuellar, filed a federal lawsuit against Cuellar after being terminated during her third trimester after requesting leave. Kristie delivered her baby at 30 weeks; it was a stillbirth. The lawsuit, which settled out of court, argued Cuellar’s firing of Small constituted both sex and pregnancy discrimination.5  

In August 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a devastating decision holding that Walmart’s policy of refusing to accommodate pregnant workers in need of light duty does not violate current law. In the case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) argued that Walmart’s temporary light duty policy, which provided light duty to workers injured on the job but not to pregnant workers, violated the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Walmart’s policy forced pregnant workers to lift heavy objects, at risk to their health, or go on unpaid leave, at risk to their ability to put food on the table. One employee, who had kept working after being denied light duty because she needed her paycheck, began to bleed, as the fetal heart rate dropped.6  

Pregnancy discrimination is not just about the loss of income. Pregnancy discrimination is about the loss of dignity and the burden of shame pregnant women are forced to carry. An Applebee’s employee was left in tears after her manager allegedly made fat shaming comments on her pregnant belly. TikToker Maria Pantoja shared the interaction in a video that now has over 500,000 views. “When you are 36 weeks pregnant and your manager tells you, ‘What are you having, three kids?’” she filmed herself saying in the video.  

Transgendered People Can Also Experience Pregnancy Discrimination   

Unfortunately, transgendered pregnant people can also experience pregnancy discrimination on many levels. In 2020, a transgender man filed a lawsuit against Amazon claiming he was harassed based on gender and pregnancy. He claims he was denied a promotion after he told his boss he was pregnant. The lawsuit alleged pregnancy discrimination, failure to accommodate and workplace retaliation. In 2019, Amazon settled out of court with a transgender woman and her husband, who claimed they suffered “cruel and persistent” harassment and threats of violence while working at an Amazon facility in Kentucky. Amazon has at least seven other cases of pregnancy discrimination.7  

What Does The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Do For Employees?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) bill, H.R. 1065 prohibits; employers for discriminating against pregnant employees or failure to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It strengthens existing federal protections against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Specifically, the PWFA declares that it is an unlawful employment practice to: 

  • Fail to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on an employer’s business operation; 
  • Require a qualified employee to accept an accommodation other than a reasonable accommodation arrived at through an interactive process; 
  • Deny employment opportunities based on the employer’s need to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified employee; 
  • Require employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided; or 
  • Take adverse actions against a qualified employee requesting or using reasonable accommodations. 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Also Hopes to Close Loopholes Surrounding Breastfeeding  

The PUMP Act for Nursing Mothers would have built on an existing law that requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for breastfeeding employees to pump breastmilk by clarifying employers’ obligations under the law. However, the bill, which would have expanded breastfeeding protections for nine million nursing moms, was not passed by the Senate. 

Fortunately, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also hopes to clarify the law and close loopholes surrounding breastfeeding. This includes time and space for people to pump at work.9  

In California, pregnant women are protected by provisions in several statutes: 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) 

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) 

California Family Rights Act (CFRA) 

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for their own serious health condition or a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. Recent legislation, effective January 1, 2021, expands CFRA in several major respects. In addition, California law requires covered employers to provide employees disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition with unpaid, job-protected leave (PDL) and/or accommodations.10  

At Haeggquist and Eck, LLP we believe pregnant people should be treated fairly and respectfully. If you have been denied accommodations, experienced discrimination or retaliation, we will fight for you. If you are not sure, we are happy to answer your questions. Call Haeggquist & Eck, LLP for free and confidential consultation with no obligation.  


  1. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 
  1. Bipartisan Policy Center 
  1. Forbes* 
  1. Gender Action Portal – Harvard Kennedy School* 
  1. AP News 
  1. A Better Balance (ABB) 
  1. NBC News 
  1. Market Watch 
  1. Civil Rights Department of California 


3) Hackney, K. J. et, al (2020). Examining the effects of perceived pregnancy discrimination on mother and baby health. Journal of Applied Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/apl0000788 

4) Correll, S. J., Benard, S., & Paik, I. (2007). Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? 1. American journal of sociology, 112(5), 1297-1339. 


What Is The PUMP Act?

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. It was passed to close some of the loopholes in the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act effective in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. The PUMP Act expands the rights and protections of lactating employees in the workplace and will further promote women’s economic security by affording nearly millions of workers the break time and private space they need to pump during the workday. The PUMP Act expanded to include nearly 9 million more workers, including teachers, registered nurses, farmworkers, and many others who were not previously included.

What Employee Rights Were Expanded By The PUMP Act?

Under the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, as updated by the PUMP Act, employers of all sizes are required to provide:

  • Break time – Employees must be provided with sufficient break time to pump for up to a year after childbirth. The act states that the frequency and duration of breaks will vary depending on factors related to the nursing employee and child.
  • Private space – Employees must be provided with a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public to express breast milk. The space must have a lock or sign on the door to establish privacy.
  • Functional space – Employees must have a place to sit while pumping and a flat surface on which to place their pump.
  • Compensation – While pumping, employees must either be completely relieved of work duties or paid for their break time.

What If My Employer Harasses Me For Pumping At Work?

The PUMP Act prohibits retaliation, harassment, intimidation, or taking adverse action against any employee who inquires about their rights. 

What Can I Do If My Employer Doesn’t Allow Me To Pump At Work?

The PUMP Act makes it possible for an employee to file a lawsuit against an employer that violates the law. 

Does The Pump Act Cover Employees Who Work From Home?

Employees who work from home, or “telework,” are covered under the Pump Act. Their benefits are the same as if they were working on-site.

Are All Employers Required To Comply With The PUMP Act?

The PUMP Act protects workers nationwide with some exceptions. Employers with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from providing accommodations ONLY if they can prove complying with the law would cause an “undue hardship” to their business. That standard is difficult to meet and extremely rare so employees should consult with an employment attorney for help determining their rights. 

Special rules apply to certain rail carriers, motorcoach, and airline flight crew. It is always best to consult with an attorney specializing in representing employees to determine your rights. 

Employees may have additional rights based on state and local laws that provide additional protections which remain in effect and are not changed by the PUMP Act.

Under California law, every employer is required to provide a reasonable amount of time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child. 

California law prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of breastfeeding. 

California Law Also Requires Employers To Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Employers in California are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a condition related to pregnancy or childbirth including lactation accommodation.  

How Do I Request An Accommodation For Expressing Breast Milk?

Employers in California must have a stated lactation policy that includes:

  • A statement affirming the employee’s right to request accommodation for lactation.
  • Information about how the employee can request an accommodation.
  • The employer’s obligation to respond to the request for lactation accommodation.
  • A statement that affirms the employee’s right to file a complaint about any violation of the law. 

Examples of reasonable and flexible accommodations for the nursing mother include but are not limited to: 

  • Flexible scheduling.
  • Temporary job restructuring.
  • Reducing physical demands of job duties.
  • Ability to temporarily transfer position.
  • A modified work schedule.

Do Employers Have To Provide A Space To Pump Even If They Don’t Have Any Nursing Employees?

The statute requires employers to provide a space for a nursing employee “each time such employee has a need to express the milk.” If there is no employee with a need to express breast milk, then the employer would not have an obligation to provide a space. It is a best practice for employers to consider where they will make space available when it is needed.

Can Employers Require Employees To Pump In A Bathroom If It Is The Only Space Available At Work?

No. The statute specifically states that the space provided for employees to express breast milk cannot be a bathroom.

Haeggquist & Eck stands up for pregnant and breastfeeding employees who have been discriminated against, harassed in the workplace, or denied reasonable accommodations. 

If you feel you have been discriminated against or harassed based on your pregnancy or lactation status or if your employer has failed to provide accommodations for you to pump at work, give us a call for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. 


U.S. Department of Labor

Sex Discrimination Case Against SDSU Moving Forward on All Counts: Equal Athletic Financial Aid, Retaliation, and Equal Treatment

SDSU Women Win Nation’s First Ruling that Female Student-Athletes Denied Equal Athletic Financial Aid Can Sue Their Schools for Damages

Haeggquist & Eck, LLP are Co-Counsel on this landmark case with Bailey & Glasser, LLP and CaseyGerry.

Justice marches forward: U.S. District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson held on April 12, 2023 that the female student-athletes suing San Diego State University (SDSU) for violating Title IX can pursue all three of their claims – for equal athletic financial aid, equal treatment, and retaliation. The decision is the first in the nation to hold that female student-athletes deprived of equal athletic financial aid can sue their schools for damages.

“This is a major step forward for women and against sex discrimination at SDSU and nationwide,” said Arthur H. Bryant of Bailey & Glasser, LLP, in Oakland, CA, lead counsel for the women. “When we filed these claims, I said SDSU seemed to be aiming for the Title IX sex discrimination trifecta. It has been cheating its female student-athletes out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in equal athletic financial aid each year. It is giving its male student-athletes far better treatment than its female student-athletes. And it blatantly retaliated against its female student-athletes for standing up for their rights. Now, it can be held accountable.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits all educational institutions that receive federal funds, including SDSU, from discriminating on the basis of sex. It requires schools to provide male and female student-athletes with equal opportunities, athletic financial aid, and treatment, and prohibits them from retaliating against anyone for challenging sex discrimination at the school.

On November 1, 2022, the Court denied SDSU’s motion to dismiss the women’s equal treatment claims, but entered an order dismissing the equal athletic financial aid and retaliation claims unless the women provided more details to support them. The Court’s April 12, 2023, ruling allows all three claims to proceed, although it limits the ability of some of the women to pursue some of the claims.

In regard to the athletic financial aid claims, the Court noted: “Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint provides data going back to 2010 showing that SDSU has provided female student-athletes as a group between 4.17% and 8.98% less financial aid than the proportional amount for the eleven years for which data is available.” It said: “the Court finds that collegiate female student-athletes bringing a Title IX disproportionate financial aid claim can allege an injury-in-fact by providing sufficient facts to show that: (1) a barrier deprived them of the opportunity to compete on an equal basis as the male student-athletes for a proportional pool of money; and (2) that they were able and ready to compete for that money.” And it added: “The Court has the power to award compensatory damages by awarding damages that put Plaintiffs in as good of a position as they would have been had SDSU provided proportional pools of athletic financial aid to men and women, thereby affording the female student-athletes the opportunity to compete for a proportional pool of money.”

Plaintiff Greta Viss said, “We are delighted that all three claims in our case are going forward. SDSU’s male athletes got their one shining moment on the basketball court. We aren’t being given the same treatment or support, so we are fighting for our shining moment in federal court.”

In addition to Viss, the lawsuit was filed by past and current SDSU student-athletes Madison Fisk, Raquel Castro, Clare Botterill, Maya Brosch, Olivia Petrine, Aisha Watt, Helen Bauer, Carina Clark, Natalie Figueroa, Erica Grotegeer, Kaitlin Heri, Kamryn Whitworth, Sara Absten, Eleanor Davies, Alexa Dietz, and Larisa Sulcs.

In addition to Bryant, the women are represented by Bailey Glasser’s Lori Bullock in Des Moines, IA, and Cary Joshi and Joshua Hammack in Washington, DC, along with co-counsel Amber Eck and Jenna Rangel of Haeggquist & Eck, LLP, and David S. Casey, Jr., and Gayle Blatt of Casey Gerry in San Diego. Hammack took the lead in briefing and arguing the issues.

“This ruling represents an important milestone for this remarkable group of female athletes as they fight to hold SDSU accountable for intentional sex discrimination,” said Jenna Rangel of San Diego law firm Haeggquist & Eck. “The significance of Judge Robinson’s decision truly cannot be overstated. We look forward to advancing this case both on behalf of these incredible plaintiffs and for female athletes throughout the country.”

Bryant has successfully represented more female (and male) athletes and potential athletes in Title IX litigation against schools and universities than any lawyer in the country. He leads the Bailey Glasser Title IX team that has recently won groundbreaking settlements for female student-athletes at eight universities that announced they were eliminating women’s varsity intercollegiate athletic teams: Brown University, the College of William & Mary, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, East Carolina University, Dartmouth College, the University of St. Thomas, La Salle University, and Dickinson College. The team also won a historic settlement – the first Title IX victory ever for male student-athletes – with Clemson University after the school became the first facing class actions suits by both its male and female student-athletes for violating Title IX by discriminating against them in different ways.

Can I Be Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

California and federal employment laws both prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have the right to be free from harassment, certainly you have the right to report concerning conduct to your employer, right? If you complain of improper conduct at work, you should expect your employer to take the necessary action to stop the harassment. You might expect the harasser to face discipline or even termination – but what happens when your employer instead fires you for reporting the issue?

Under the law, employers cannot terminate or otherwise retaliate against employees for raising concerns about possible sexual harassment. However, many employers engage in wrongful termination of employees who experienced harassment in these situations. If this happens to you, your employer has violated your rights, and you have legal options.

Always seek a no-cost case evaluation with an employment attorney who handles sexual harassment cases in California. The right lawyer can assess your best options to seek legal relief and hold your employer liable for their unlawful conduct.

Unlawful retaliation for reporting sexual harassment

The law not only gives employees the right to be free from sexual harassment, but it also gives them the right to be free from unlawful retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employee rightfully raises concerns about or otherwise reports possible sexual harassment or other wrongful conduct at work.

In addition to having the right to report sexual harassment, employees also have the right to do any of the following without fear of retaliation:

  • Refuse sexual advances by a boss or someone else with authority over your job
  • Intervene to try to protect someone else at work from sexual harassment
  • Complain to your employer that someone else is experiencing sexual harassment
  • Provide honest answers during an internal investigation into possible sexual harassment
  • Participate as an honest witness in a sexual harassment investigation or lawsuit
  • Discuss concerns about sexual harassment with a supervisor or another individual with authority in the workplace
  • Taking qualified time off due to sexual harassment or an investigation

Reporting sexual harassment is a protected activity under the law, and you should have the ability to do so without worrying about your employer’s reaction. In fact, the law requires employers to fully investigate complaints of sexual harassment and take them seriously. When an employer fires the complainant, it violates the law and the employee’s rights.

Identifying unlawful retaliation

Retaliation can involve any adverse action against an employee for exercising a legal right.

While wrongful termination is the most drastic form of unlawful retaliation, it can also involve:

  • Additional harassment or abuse at work due to the complaint
  • Reprimands or disciplinary action against you
  • Giving poor performance reviews without justification
  • Demotions or pay reduction
  • Reduction of hours or shifts
  • Denial of a deserved promotion or pay increase
  • Transfer to a less desirable position, location, or work assignment
  • Spreading false rumors about you to tarnish your reputation
  • Stating you will receive unfavorable references for future employment
  • Subjecting you to higher standards and scrutiny than others
  • Otherwise creating a hostile or uncomfortable work environment for you
  • Denying you work benefits that others receive

Of course, having an employer fire you is a dramatic form of retaliation, but it is far from the only type of retaliation that employees experience. While your employer should protect you and your rights, employers might instead make your life difficult and protect the accused harasser. This might be due to camaraderie with the accused, to prevent reputational damage for the company, or other reasons.

No matter why your employer retaliates against you, it is unlawful, and they should be responsible for violating your employment law rights.

You have the right to report sexual harassment

Can I Be Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment at work on the federal level, while the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits such harassment for employees in the state. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and FEHA applies to California companies with five or more employees.

Both laws also legally entitle employees to report suspected sexual harassment they experience or witness. Even if your employer finds that there was no harassment, you have protections as long as your complaint was in good faith.

When you report sexual harassment concerns, you should provide as much concrete information and evidence as possible.

This can include:

  • The identity of the harasser
  • Where and when the harassment has happened
  • A description of what the harassment entailed
  • Whether the harassment has affected your performance at work (to avoid performance-based retaliation)

When you give your employer such information, they must investigate whether the harassment occurred. Suppose the human resources department or another internal investigation agrees that there was sexual harassment. In that case, the employer must act to correct the situation and prevent a hostile work environment from persisting.

Most importantly, your employer may not fire you for your complaint of sexual harassment. Some companies believe that employees who raise such issues create difficulty in the workplace, but it is the harasser who is causing the problems. An employer might also want to protect someone if they are an integral employee of the company, though this is no excuse to cover up sexual harassment and retaliate against employees.

If you reported sexual harassment and got fired or experienced other adverse action at work, you need to speak with an employment attorney right away. Navigating the legal system can be difficult, and you are already under the stress of sexual harassment and losing your job. You need a legal professional to evaluate the best course of action and guide you through the process of standing up for your rights under the law.

There are many different reasons for the wrongful termination of California employees, including termination in retaliation for lawfully complaining of possible sexual harassment. If this happens, you might file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer, alleging unlawful retaliation in violation of the law.

You should have an employment attorney review your situation and determine the best way to proceed. If you file a lawsuit under Title VII, you will have to follow federal law and court procedures. Lawsuits under FEHA will follow California state laws and procedures. Some cases require getting permission from a state or federal agency before you can file a lawsuit, such as the California Civil Rights Department or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

There are also time limits to consider, which are called statutes of limitations. The applicable time limit in a wrongful termination case depends on the basis of the claim. Usually, employees have three years to file claims arising from FEHA in California.

Determining whether you have a case

When you meet with an employment lawyer, they will review all the information and evidence you can provide to determine whether you have a claim for wrongful termination.

You can provide as much evidence as possible, including:

  • Emails, texts, or other messages
  • Performance reviews and your employment file
  • Notes from verbal communications you had with your employer or HR
  • The notice of your firing (if your termination happened in person, immediately write down as many details as possible about what your employer said)
  • Contact information of anyone who witnessed the sexual harassment, your complaints, or your termination
  • Your employer’s handbook for employees
  • Any offer letters, employment contracts, or other documentation regarding your employment relationship
  • Pay statements and records showing hours you worked
  • Communications with past coworkers about your termination

After your termination, you likely cannot access your work email or computer, so always keep all of this information in a personal account or cloud storage.

Your lawyer can evaluate all of the information you provide and advise whether your employer engaged in unlawful retaliation. They will discuss how representation will work, including the fees for the legal services and how you will pay them. Often, plaintiffs in employment matters pay nothing out of pocket, and they might have all their attorney’s fees covered as part of the settlement or court judgment.

Negotiations or Litigation

Your employment attorney can try to negotiate with your employer to avoid the need for formal legal action. Often, employers do not realize the consequences of retaliation and wrongful termination, and they might be willing to resolve the matter without going to court.

Your lawyer can determine whether your employer will admit the unlawful retaliation and offer to make it right. This should include compensation for your losses, possible reinstatement to your job (if you wish), and other relief that is available through litigation. Your attorney will know what a favorable settlement looks like and can advise you whether to accept your former employer’s offer or not.

If negotiation is a dead end, your attorney can get any necessary authority to file a lawsuit and prepare the paperwork. They will file your formal complaint in the proper court and begin the litigation process.

Proving unlawful retaliation

Proving that your employer engaged in unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination can be more challenging than you think. You might assume it is obvious that your employer violated the law, but the court will require sufficient evidence to prove your claims. Judges and juries will not simply accept your version of the story.

A skilled employment lawyer will know how to build as persuasive a case as possible.

They can gather evidence to prove:

  • You engaged in a protected activity, which is complaining of sexual harassment
  • Your employer took adverse action against you, which is your termination
  • The termination was due to your protected activity

You can expect your former employer to try to avoid liability. They might assert that there were other reasons for your termination that had nothing to do with your sexual harassment complaint. Attorneys see such pretextual reasons often, as they are a common defense in retaliation cases. Your lawyer can work on challenging your employer’s pretextual reason and demonstrating the true reason for your firing – your sexual harassment complaint.

You can only obtain legal relief for unlawful retaliation by proving your claim, and this is more challenging than most people imagine. You must follow court procedures for discovery and meet your burden of proof, all of which require the skill of an experienced employment litigator.

Seeking damages

The objective of a lawsuit is to seek legal relief, which involves seeking damages. Damages refer to the compensation you deserve for the losses your employer’s conduct caused you.

Damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit might include:

  • Lost wages you should have earned if not for your untimely firing
  • Lost benefits that depend on your employment
  • Costs of your search for new suitable employment, including job search sites, headhunters, or resume services
  • Any bills you have for psychological treatment you needed due to the sexual harassment and subsequent firing
  • Emotional distress, including anxiety or other mental struggles due to your experiences at work
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Punitive or exemplary damages if your employer engaged in intentional and particularly egregious conduct

Some damages are easier to calculate than others, but your lawyer will ensure you seek all of the compensation you deserve for sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation, and wrongful termination.

When should you contact a sexual harassment lawyer?

Many people do not know when it is time to get a lawyer involved in their employment law matters.

There are different times you might want to contact an attorney, including:

  • When you first believe you are experiencing sexual harassment
  • If you need guidance on how to report the matter to your employer
  • After your employer ignores or fails to respond to your harassment report
  • As soon as your employer fires you or takes other adverse action

Legal representation can benefit you at any of these times. The earlier you consult with an attorney, the sooner they can begin work on protecting your employment rights. You deserve the proper legal relief for the violation of your rights by your former employer. Reach out to a San Diego sexual harassment lawyer.

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