Many workers who experience sexual harassment do not understand their legal rights and do not know what to do when they are harassed at work.
Sexual harassment is a common form of sex-based discrimination that is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, this type of harassment is widespread in workplaces across California.
According to a study by the Center for Gender Equity and Health (GEH), an estimated over 86 percent of women in California said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. By contrast, 53 percent of men in California reported experiencing sexual harassment.
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work, do not wait to discuss what happened with an experienced sexual harassment attorney.
8 Steps to Take if Someone Sexually Harassed You
If you experience any form of sexual harassment at work, it can be difficult to speak up. Many people who have been sexually harassed in the workplace feel isolated, while others are afraid to tell anyone about what happened.
Read on to learn what steps you need to take if you have become a victim of sexual harassment in San Diego or other parts of California. Before taking any action, however, call a sexual harassment lawyer who can advise you throughout the process.
1. Know Your Rights
Under California law, employers must provide a safe work environment free of harassment. If your employer fails to do this, you may hold them vicariously liable for failing to prevent harassment in the workplace.
Under certain circumstances, you can hold an employer liable for sexual harassment by clients or customers.
2. Read Your Employer’s Sexual Harassment Policy
California Code of Regulations § 11023 requires employers to have a sexual harassment policy in place. Employers also must make their employees aware of the policy, which outlines the formal complaint procedure for employees to report workplace sexual harassment at work.
3. Tell the Harasser to Stop
Unless doing so could trigger an aggressive or violent response, it may be a good idea to tell the harasser to stop. By telling the harasser to stop, you put them on notice that you are offended by their conduct or unacceptable behavior.
It might resolve the problem because:
- The harasser might not realize that their behavior is harassing or offensive; and
- The harasser might fear that your next step will be filing a formal complaint if they do not stop.
However, do not confront the harasser if you do not feel comfortable or safe doing so.
4. Document Sexual Harassment at Work
If you experience workplace sexual harassment, you should document everything, including:
- Each incident involving harassing behavior
- The date and time harassment occurred
- What the harasser said or did
- What your response was to the harasser’s behavior
- Whether anyone has witnessed the incident
- Whether you have complained about sexual harassment to your employer
- Whether your employer has taken any reasonable steps to stop harassment
The best way to document sexual harassment is by keeping a journal and writing everything down. Written evidence is critical because memories may fade over time.
5. Report Sexual Harassment to Your Employer
If telling the harasser to stop did not resolve the problem, your next step should be reporting sexual harassment to your employer. Many companies in California implement their own procedures for making internal complaints. If you cannot find the internal complaint procedure in your company’s sexual harassment policy or handbook, report sexual harassment to the company’s human resources (HR) department, your supervisor, or directly to your employer.
Making a complaint to your company will put your employer on notice and allow your employer to correct the situation. If your employer fails to take the necessary steps to stop harassment, you could hold your employer liable.
Remember: Human resources work for your employer, not you. The personnel there may try to protect the company, not you. You will want a sexual harassment lawyer to help you report to H.R.
6. File a Complaint with the DFEH or EEOC
If your employer fails to respond to your complaint or you are not satisfied with the way your employer handled your complaint, you may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If a government agency fails to help you settle your sexual harassment case, you can proceed with filing a civil lawsuit to recover damages.
7. Consult a San Diego Sexual Harassment Lawyer
It is advisable to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer who can review your particular situation and determine the best course of action in your case. Receive a consultation with a sexual harassment lawyer to determine what you should do if you have been sexually harassed at work. An attorney can conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation to help you understand how to best proceed with your case.
8. Do Not Wait Too Long to Take Action
There is a limited amount of time to take legal action if you experience sexual harassment at work. Under California law, you have only one year from the date of the most recent incident of harassment to file a complaint with the DFEH.
If you pursue a claim through the EEOC, you have 300 days to file a complaint with the federal agency. If you fail to bring a complaint before the applicable deadline expires, the DFEH or EEOC will not investigate your claim.
For this reason, you have no time to waste if you have been sexually harassed in the workplace. Contact an experienced lawyer to help you document sexual harassment and report harassment to the appropriate agency.
Contact Sexual Harassment Lawyers for Help
The right sexual harassment lawyers will have decades of experience representing victims of various forms of workplace harassment. They will understand the urgency and seriousness of your case, which is why most lawyers are prepared to seek justice on your behalf and, if necessary, aggressively litigate your case.
You never have to simply accept a work environment that involves harassment. Take action to protect yourself today.