Sexual Harassment

What to Do if You Experienced Sexual Harassment at Work?

You should enjoy a safe workplace, free from harassment. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is extremely common and can hurt your work performance and mental and physical health.

If this happens to you, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities. If anyone sexual harasses you in the workplace, do not hesitate to speak with a sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to inappropriate and unsolicited sexual behaviors. This type of behavior can happen anywhere but often tends to happen in the workplace.

One of the most common misconceptions regarding sexual harassment is that it only happens to certain people. This is just one of the reasons the signs of sexual harassment often go unnoticed.

In reality, sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, and race. Both men and women can be the perpetrators, making their victims feel awkward, uneasy, and sometimes unsafe.

Recognizing the Signs of Sexual Harassment

Often, individuals are unaware of the behaviors that entail sexual harassment. It’s critical to look for these specific signs, as it can happen to you or someone you know.

Sexual harassment can take many forms and be verbal, non-verbal, and physical.

Verbally, sexual harassment can look like:

  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Sexual comments, especially those concerning your appearance
  • Sharing sexual encounters and fantasies
  • Asking personal and inappropriate questions
  • Excessive flirting

Non-verbal sexual harassment often includes:

  • Winking and blowing kisses
  • Inappropriate gestures and body movements
  • Cat-calling
  • Looking at you up and down
  • Following or stalking

While harassers often start with verbal and non-verbal harassment, it’s common for them to eventually transition to physical contact.

This can include:

  • Unwelcome hugs and kisses
  • Giving a massage around the neck and back
  • Rubbing against you
  • Finding any excuse to touch you, like putting hands on the small of your back to move past you
  • Touching you in inappropriate areas

When you experience sexual harassment, you’ll likely feel particularly uncomfortable and tense. Most times, harassers know what they’re doing is wrong and aim to make you feel some type of negative way.

The Two Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is particularly common. There are two main categories of sexual harassment at work, depending on the circumstances: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Experiencing a hostile work environment typically means your harasser engages in repeated sexual harassment, enough to create a negative work environment. Under California law, a hostile work environment involves inappropriate behavior in the workplace that is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment for the victim.

When you’re facing a hostile work environment, the sexual harassment can be enough to severely interfere with your work and ability to earn a living. It can also have a significant impact on your mental and physical health.

The other common kind of workplace sexual harassment is quid pro quo. In Latin, quid pro quo stands for “something for something.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment means a person at work, typically one in a position of power, has offered a work benefit in exchange for a sexual favor.

In a quid pro quo situation, the harasser regularly offers any of the following in exchange for something sexual:

  • A job
  • A promotion
  • A raise
  • A transfer to another desirable location
  • Protection from termination or layoff
  • Better work hours

Often, when a victim denies the harasser’s request, they may threaten the victim with a demotion, fewer work hours, a reduction in pay, or even termination.

If you’ve fallen victim to either a hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment, it’s important to take action. Taking action can not only help your situation, but it can also stop the harasser and protect others from experiencing the same.

What to Do if You Experience Sexual Harassment at Work

Facing sexual harassment can be one of the most stressful and overwhelming experiences of a person’s life. You may be unsure of what to do, where to turn, or who to talk to for direction.

When someone sexually harasses you, protect your rights and future case. These steps can help you do just that.

Get to Know Your Rights Under California and Federal Law

Under both California law and federal law, you have rights, especially in the workplace. Among these rights, you have the right to work in an environment free of harassment. Should your employer fail to take action and prevent harassment within your workplace, you can hold them liable.

You may have the opportunity to take action against your employer and/or the harasser, which can include coworkers and supervisors. Additionally, under certain circumstances, you might hold your employer liable for sexual harassment by customers and clients of the business.

If you’re unsure of what your legal rights may be, an employment attorney can provide all of the information you may need to feel better about moving forward.

Understand Your Employer’s Policy on Sexual Harassment

Most places of employment have certain established policies, including a policy regarding harassment in the workplace. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with how your employer handles sexual harassment.

California law requires employers to create a policy addressing sexual harassment at work and make their employees aware of it.

Within the sexual harassment policy, employers must clearly outline the appropriate procedure employees must follow should they experience harassment within the workplace.

Document Your Experiences of Sexual Harassment at Work

As soon as you begin experiencing sexual harassment, you should start documenting your experiences and gathering pertinent evidence.

Keeping a detailed account of every inappropriate encounter with your harasser can significantly help you prove the harassment is occurring.

Document as much information as possible, including:

  • What exactly happened/what was said
  • Who was involved
  • Where the incident took place
  • The date and time of the incident
  • Whether anyone witnessed the incident, and if so, who

Writing things down can help for several reasons, but primarily because, over time, memories become hazy or fade altogether. Your experiences are much more believable when you can provide exact details.

Also, be sure to keep any concrete evidence of harassment, including text messages, emails, voicemails, or hand-written notes. While it may seem tempting to throw these things away to help you ignore or forget the harassment, these pieces of evidence can substantially help strengthen your case.

Should I Confront My Harasser?

You need not confront your harasser to proceed with your sexual harassment complaint. However, if you feel comfortable enough doing so, a lawyer can talk to you about how to discuss the situation with the individual to get them to stop on their own.

Sometimes, a sit-down conversation with the harasser will stop the harassment.

Not everyone understands the impact of their words and actions. Your harasser may not realize how their behavior affects you. Helping them understand your perspective might open their eyes and cause the harassment to stop altogether.

Additionally, having a conversation with your harasser can make them aware of your intentions to proceed with a formal complaint against them. This might help them rethink their behavior, as they can fear the repercussions of their actions.

Confronting a harasser might be a viable option for you. However, if you truly fear for your safety, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. You can skip this step altogether and proceed with your formal complaint.

Report the Sexual Harassment to Your Employer

Whether the conversation with your harasser doesn’t yield favorable results or you choose to forgo a confrontation, you can proceed with filing a complaint with your employer.

Every company has different procedures for reporting incidents, like harassment, at work. If you’re unsure of your employer’s policies, consult with your employee handbook or ask someone in Human Resources.

Typically, you’ll make a formal, written complaint detailing the sexual harassment. You can include specific information and copies of your evidence.

Once you’ve made your complaint, this allows your employer to investigate your allegations and take corrective action against the harasser.

However, your employer may not take action to fix the issue. This is especially true when the harasser holds a position of power. Therefore, if your employer does nothing to protect you and stop the harassment, you can hold your employer liable.

File a Formal Complaint With a Governmental Agency

If your employer fails to take any action or you’re dissatisfied with how they handled your situation, you can file a complaint with a governmental agency. The two agencies in charge of sexual harassment complaints are the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

You do not have to file a complaint with both agencies, as your complaint is cross-filed between the two. Once you’ve filed your complaint, the agency can conduct its investigation. Depending on the results of their investigation, they may take action against your employer.

If the agency does not help you settle the issue with your employer, you may have the opportunity to file a lawsuit against your employer to hold them liable.

You may resolve your issues without filing a lawsuit. However, filing a lawsuit might be the best option if you cannot resolve your problem through CRD or EEOC.

To file a lawsuit for a sexual harassment case, the governmental agency must give you a right-to-sue notice, giving you the right to file your lawsuit in court.

A sexual harassment lawsuit can be overwhelming to handle on your own. Therefore, it’s highly advisable to have a knowledgeable sexual harassment attorney on your side to provide high-quality legal representation throughout the process.

When to Consult a Sexual Harassment Attorney

You can feel free to consult with a sexual harassment attorney at any point. Still, the sooner you meet with a lawyer and discuss your situation, the better.

An experienced attorney can listen to your problems to provide the best possible legal advice. They can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and guide you from beginning to end. A lawyer can also represent your best interests and fight for justice on your behalf.

Experiencing sexual harassment can feel isolating and stressful. Fortunately, you don’t have to go at it alone. A sexual harassment attorney can provide the kindness, patience, and compassion you need during a trying time.

Time Is Limited – Do Not Wait to Take Action

If you’re interested in taking action against your harasser or employer, it’s crucial to note that time is limited to do so. Failing to take action within the time allotted can result in your inability to pursue justice and compensation for your case.

The sooner you file your complaint with your employer, the better. It may take some time for them to investigate and make their decision regarding your situation and any potential action they’ll take.

When filing a complaint with the CRD, you have 180 to 300 days from the date of the latest incident of sexual harassment. On the other hand, you have one year to file a complaint with the EEOC.

If you receive a right-to-sue notice, CRD gives you three years to file your lawsuit, while EEOC gives you only 90 days to sue.

Keeping track of dates can be tedious and confusing. Fortunately, your sexual harassment lawyer can handle your claim timely.

Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today

If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment, you’re not alone in your struggles. A sexual harassment attorney can provide the lending hand you need to proceed with a claim and pursue the justice you deserve. Never wait to begin standing up for your rights as an employee. Reach out to a San Diego employment lawyer.

What Are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?

With the long hours spent in the workplace, you should always feel safe and comfortable. However, when you experience sexual harassment at work, this calm, peaceful environment can cease to exist. Reach out to a sexual harassment lawyer.

When it comes to the workplace, you may experience two main types of sexual harassment. If you experience either, do not wait to consult an attorney to familiarize yourself with your legal rights and discuss options.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment involves inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment, your harasser may intentionally make you feel awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes, even unsafe.

There are many misconceptions surrounding sexual harassment, including believing that sexual harassment only occurs under certain circumstances or to specific people. In reality, sexual harassment can happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Along with being morally wrong, sexual harassment is against the law. Several laws exist to protect victims of sexual harassment. Therefore, if you experience sexual harassment, discuss your situation with a qualified lawyer to better understand your rights and options.

Sexual Harassment Can Be Verbal, Non-Verbal, and Physical

Sexual harassment comes in many forms that you will want to look out for.

Commonly, harassers may begin their harassment verbally.\

Examples of verbal sexual harassment include:

  • Offensive jokes of a sexual nature
  • Sexual remarks
  • Unwelcome flirting
  • Suggestive comments
  • Name-calling

Sexual harassment can also be non-verbal, which can include winking, making sexual gestures, or looking at a person up and down sexually.

Often, harassers get comfortable enough to get physical.

Common examples of physical sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome hugs, kisses, patting, or touching of any kind
  • Rubbing oneself against the other person
  • Giving someone an unsolicited massage
  • Getting close enough to make a person uncomfortable, like whispering in their ear

Knowing when to spot the signs of sexual harassment is critical for yourself and others around you. If a person seems to intentionally make you feel uneasy with their inappropriate words, actions, or gestures, there’s a chance it can be sexual harassment. Do not hesitate to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable attorney for guidance on the matter.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Two Types of Sexual Harassment

While sexual harassment can take place almost anywhere, it occurs quite frequently in the workplace. It is so common that there are two primary types of sexual harassment in the workplace: hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Experiencing sexual harassment is always uncomfortable, especially when it happens at work. Individuals spend a large portion of their lives at work. More specifically, on average, Americans spend about 90,000 hours of their lives in the workplace.

When you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, it can be difficult to do your job, feel relaxed and at peace, and even advance your career. It can truly impact your physical and mental health and your ability to provide for yourself and your family.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Many have heard of hostile work environments in the past, but it is not widely understood. Simply put, a harasser can create a hostile work environment for the victim, making it nearly impossible to spend their days at work. Some people might also describe a hostile work environment as abusive or offensive.

Usually, in a hostile work environment, the harasser’s behavior is severe or pervasive enough to create such hostility.

Many individuals in the workplace can create such an environment, including:

  • Coworkers
  • Supervisors
  • Vendors
  • Customers
  • Clients

A hostile work environment typically refers to sexual conduct that is particularly offensive to a reasonable person and occurs on multiple occasions. Sexual harassment in a hostile environment can be physical, verbal, and non-verbal.

When a victim is subject to a hostile work environment, it can severely affect their work performance. Many instances of sexual harassment in a hostile work environment go unreported for multiple reasons, often because victims want to avoid losing their jobs and incomes, and some fear retaliation.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is the second most common type of sexual harassment at work.

Quid pro quo is Latin for “something for something.” Essentially, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves asking a person for a sexual favor in exchange for a work benefit.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment most often involves individuals in a higher position with power over the victim.

In most cases, the harasser may offer any of the following in exchange for sexual favors:

  • A job
  • A raise
  • Better hours at work
  • A desired relocation
  • A promotion 
  • Protection during a layoff

Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment are commonly put in awkward positions, feeling as though they can’t say no. This is because many harassers threaten their victims if they refuse their requests. For example, a harasser may offer their victim the promotion they want, but if they refuse to comply with their request, the harasser might threaten to fire the victim instead.

Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment may avoid reporting the harassment for many of the same reasons as hostile work environment harassment. Along with these reasons, many victims are also embarrassed and ashamed to report the harassment if they complied with the sexual request.

It does not matter whether you went through with your harasser’s request or not. What matters most is that the harassment happened in the first place. Regardless of the outcome, you still have a right to report your harasser’s misconduct.

What to Do if You Experience Sexual Harassment

If you’re a victim of sexual harassment, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. What you shouldn’t do is stand by and avoid taking any sort of action. Sexual harassment is uncomfortable enough as it is, and you don’t want your harasser to get away with it and continue harassing other people.

The following steps can protect your rights and allow you to take action against your harasser.

Document Your Experiences

When you begin to recognize the signs, document any instances of sexual harassment. Save emails, phone messages, and text messages. Write down the specifics of your run-ins with your harasser, and even ask witnesses for written statements.

Gathering evidence of the harassment can help you, later on, should you file a formal report or a lawsuit.

Confront Your Harasser

Confronting the person sexually harassing you is not an option for everyone. However, under some circumstances, you may feel comfortable enough to confront your harasser and discuss what’s been happening. Many victims take this step, frequently with a witness present or available nearby, before taking more serious action. A lawyer can provide advice about how, or whether, to do this.

If speaking with your harasser isn’t an option for you or does not go how you might have liked, you can report the harassment to your employer.

Follow Your Employer’s Policies for Sexual Harassment

Employers often have protocols for handling sexual harassment within the workplace. If you’re unsure of your company’s rules regarding sexual harassment, consult with your employee handbook or ask your Human Resources department.

Usually, you must provide your supervisor or HR department with a written complaint detailing the sexual harassment. Then, the party in charge can investigate your claims.

Depending on the findings, your employer may take action against the responsible party. Still, your employer may take no action against your harasser, leaving room for the harassment to continue.

When reporting your harassment does not yield favorable results, you may have the opportunity to proceed and file a more formal complaint with a governmental agency.

File a Formal Complaint with a Governmental Agency

Regarding sexual harassment matters, you can file a complaint with two agencies: the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The California Civil Rights Department protects California residents from unlawful conduct in the workplace, including sexual harassment, on the state level. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency enforcing anti-discrimination laws on the federal level.

You only need to file a complaint with one agency, as complaints are cross-filed with the agencies. Once you file your complaint, the agency should thoroughly evaluate it. If they accept your claim for investigation, the agency will begin looking into the issue.

The opposing party must respond to your complaint. Depending on the results of the investigation and the party’s response, the agency may determine there has been a violation of California or federal law.

To pursue legal action for a sexual harassment case, the CRD or EEOC must give you a right-to-sue notice. You can file your lawsuit once you get the green light to take legal action against the responsible party.

For best results, have an experienced attorney handle your case and pursue justice and compensation for you.

If I’m Sexually Harassed at Work, Should I Speak With an Attorney?


If you experience sexual harassment at work, you may feel alone in your struggles.

You are never alone. A skilled lawyer can help lead you on your journey to justice.

The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the better. Discussing your situation with an attorney can help you feel a little less alone and give you a better idea of what you can expect moving forward.

Employment attorneys have extensive experience handling workplace sexual harassment cases. They are in the best position to give you sound legal advice and determine how best to proceed with your case.

What Happens if Sexual Harassment Results in a Sexual Assault?

Unfortunately, in some cases, sexual harassment gives way to sexual assault.

Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or forced sexual interaction with a victim. Examples of sexual assault include fondling, forcing a victim to engage in sexual acts, and rape.

While sexual assault can happen in the workplace, it often occurs outside of work. The perpetrator may corner out outside the office or follow you home or to another location.

Sexual assault is much more severe than sexual harassment. If you’re the victim of sexual assault, call 911 or report the incident to local police, as sexual assault is a crime. Additionally, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible to receive a thorough examination and appropriate medical treatment.

Time Constraints on Sexual Harassment Cases

Unfortunately, you do not have forever to take action in your sexual harassment case. Therefore, if you’re the victim of sexual harassment, it’s crucial to begin taking steps as soon as possible to protect your rights and future claim.

Sometimes, failing to report your sexual harassment to your employer in a timely manner can result in a negative impact on your ability to pursue justice. Start by reporting your harassment as quickly as you can.

The time you have to file a claim with a governmental agency depends on the agency itself. For example, the EEOC gives victims 180 to 300 days after the latest incident of sexual harassment. The CRD, on the other hand, typically gives victims one year to file their complaints. 

Additionally, when you receive a right-to-sue notice, you have 90 days to file your lawsuit in court.

You must always know the legal time constraints. When you have a lawyer on your side, your attorney can ensure they handle your case promptly to help avoid any negative repercussions.

Consult With a California Sexual Harassment Attorney Right Away

Sexual harassment can affect your life in many ways. Not only can it make you feel upset and anxious, but it can also affect you psychologically and physically.

If you experienced sexual harassment at work, you have rights and options. As soon as you can, speak to a sexual harassment lawyer to begin working on your case.

 ​What Is Verbal Sexual Harassment?

Many types of sexual behavior can be the basis for a harassment case. This behavior can include verbal remarks and comments. In fact, some of the most extreme examples of sexual harassment that have led to harsh consequences were verbal in nature, even when no sexual favors were demanded or requested.

If you have been the victim of verbal sexual harassment, you should see an sexual harassment lawyer to learn about your legal rights and a possible lawsuit against your employer.

Verbal Harassment Can Fall Into Both Categories of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment involves unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature. Certainly, this includes actual physical contact. It also includes retaliating against a subordinate because they reject sexual advances. Many different things can be “of a sexual nature.” Words and other non-physical behavior can fall under the umbrella of sexual harassment.

There are two primary types of sexual harassment, and verbal sexual harassment can fall under each category:

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment literally means “this for that.” Here, sexual favors are requested or demanded in exchange for a particular job benefit. Quid pro quo sexual harassment cases can include verbal sexual advances and direct sexual remarks to an employee. These acts of harassment often include direct vulgar remarks made to the employee about things like their body or sexual suggestions.
  • A hostile work environment is when employees create an abusive work environment because of pervasive conduct. This conduct can include remarks that happened in the employee’s presence or objectifying women in the workplace because of their gender.

The Victim Must Have Personally Suffered From the Conduct

Verbal harassment is not something only in the eyes of the victim. It is possible that one can be overly sensitive, and a reasonable person would not consider the verbal conduct to be abusive.

When it comes to a hostile work environment, the victim must show that they suffered personally from the conduct, and that it disturbed their tranquility and ability to perform their job. Usually, this suffering will be repeated and pervasive, and it will occur on more than one occasion. An employee cannot seek financial compensation if they were in the presence of a dirty joke but it did not bother them.

Whether It Is Harassment Depends on the Facts and Circumstances

Whether something is sexual harassment depends on the facts and circumstances of the situation. Usually, courts are looking for a pattern of conduct, but one remark or occurrence can be enough to constitute sexual harassment if it is severe enough.

Everything depends on what a reasonable person might consider to be hostile or abusive and whether the employee suffered personally from the remarks.

For example, if one employee tells another, “You look nice today,” on one occasion, and the employee who received the remark suffers severe emotional distress, it may not be sexual harassment because distress will be an unusually sensitive and unusual reaction to have.

A Famous Example of Verbal Sexual Harassment on Wall Street

In the 1990s, the public learned of one notorious case of verbal sexual harassment that brought attention to this illegal pattern of conduct in the workplace. One branch of the Wall Street brokerage Smith Barney had an area they called the Boom Boom Room where male employees gathered to drink alcohol and make lewd remarks. This conduct occurred throughout the office, where male employees directly referred to female employees using vulgar terms.

Even with no overt sexual advances, the environment was a hostile one towards women. Smith Barney settled a lawsuit filed by 26 female plaintiffs for a total of $150 million. The liability from the case was supposed to change the way that many workplaces operated, but many things never changed.

Examples of Verbal Sexual Harassment

Here are some examples of things that can constitute verbal sexual harassment:

  • Jokes and innuendo of a sexual nature made to a co-worker or around them
  • Asking a co-worker out to date or have sex
  • Unwanted questions about an employee’s sex life
  • Comments about one’s sex life directly to or in the presence of another employee

One does not even have to make remarks about sex to verbally sexually harass someone. In the Boom Boom Room case, the women were called derogatory names that referred to their sex. For example, addressing women as a “b” can be verbal sexual harassment. Of course, the case discussed above also had numerous other derogatory and sexual remarks that made the situation far worse.

Verbal Sexual Harassment Does Not Require Intent or Actual Sexual Remarks

Verbal sexual harassment also does not have to be derogatory remarks aimed at a particular employee or group of employees. For example, excessive complimenting can be sexual harassment when it is unwelcome. Making remarks complimenting an employee’s body or clothing can be harassment, depending on the atmosphere it creates for the employee.

Verbal sexual harassment does not have to come from a supervisor to be illegal. Any employee can sexually harass another, even if they do not talk to them directly. Telling sexual jokes to an employee in one’s cubicle can be harassment when it happens where others can hear the joke. Sexual harassment can be every bit as much about the atmosphere in the office.

These remarks also do not need to be made with the intent to be sexual harassment. One can commit an illegal act without even knowing exactly what they are doing.

A co-worker may think they were trying to be nice to the other employee without knowing they were making their co-workers uncomfortable. They may have made a statement to someone else without knowing that there was another employee in the vicinity who can hear what they said. It is best to be careful and not make any remarks that can be construed as verbal sexual harassment.

A $168 Million Jury Award for Verbal Sexual Harassment

One of the largest sexual harassment lawsuit payouts of all time was for conduct that was predominantly verbal. Hospital staff had explicit conversations about their sex lives in her presence and made jokes laden with sexual innuendo. One of the surgeons greeted co-workers with inappropriate sexual comments and often detailed his frustrations about his own sex life in front of his colleagues. The nurse had made 18 written complaints about sexual harassment to human resources. Instead of taking action to stop the sexual harassment, the hospital retaliated against the nurse by firing her.

The nurse won her case at trial. At the conclusion of an 11-day trial, the jury awarded her a stunning $168 million in damages. Included in this total was $39 million for mental anguish. In addition, the jury slapped the hospital with $125 million in punitive damages for their egregious conduct.

Damages in Your Sexual Harassment Case

Although not every case may be worth that staggering amount of money, it gives you an idea of what may happen when your employment attorney can prove horrible employer conduct to a jury. In a sexual harassment case, a jury of 12 human beings with their own emotions and sensitivities decide the case. Thus, you do not have to be a continuous victim and live with the awful conduct you experienced at work.

In a sexual harassment case, you might seek:

  • Payment for the mental anguish that you experienced from the conduct
  • Lost income if your employer terminated you from your job or did not promote you or increase your pay because of retaliation
  • Any harm to your reputation as a result of the harassment
  • The costs to treat any physical or emotional issues that you experienced because of the harassment
  • Job-search costs if you need to look for a new job

The court may even award you attorney’s fees and costs if you win a lawsuit, meaning that you can keep your entire award.

Your Employer Has Every Reason to Worry

As you have seen, punitive damages are also possible for examples of egregious conduct. This fear is very real for employers. The prospect of punitive damages may make your employer more willing to settle the case before it ever comes close to the inside of a courtroom. This can make the process less stressful for you.

In addition, your employer may also be afraid of bad publicity. In the #MeToo era, companies have been subjected to withering criticism when examples of sexual harassment have gone public. It can be bad for the employer’s reputation and business. You may have some leverage when you are either trying to put a stop to bad behavior or seek compensation for the harassment that you have endured.

What you may have been experiencing at work may not just simply be off-color jokes and normal humor. Instead, it can be illegal. You have the right to take legal action when the behavior crosses the line.

You should not act alone. If you have been the victim of verbal sexual harassment, you need to contact an experienced employment attorney today. Your lawyer will work with you on your response and how to address the situation. It is difficult enough to endure sexual harassment. You do not have to go through it alone, feeling helpless and powerless.

Many people do not come forward when they are victims of sexual harassment. Whether they are afraid or they do not think that they can do anything about it, people may not know about their full legal rights. Speaking with an attorney can let you know that you have legal rights of sexual harassment victims and the potential for financial compensation. An attorney will explain the law to you and let you know how best to handle the harassment.

What to Do When You Have Been Verbally Sexually Harassed?

Here is what you should do after verbal sexual harassment or any other kind of illegal harassment on the job:

  • Try to document everything that you can about the conduct, including when it occurred and other details that can be helpful in proving your case
  • Keep a contemporary log of the offensive sexual remarks
  • Speak to your supervisor or human resources and raise your concerns about the conduct (making a written request whenever possible)

You generally should have evidence that you raised your concerns to management to let them know that you felt you were experiencing harassment, and they should take steps to end the illegal conduct. You are protected when you come forward because your employer can pay a severe price if they fire you to retaliate for making a complaint.

To be clear, there is no right way to address sexual harassment. Everything depends on the facts and circumstances of the situation. An employment attorney in San Diego can assist you with the best response in your own particular situation.

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​Is It Sexual Harassment if I See the Boss Sexually Harassing Someone Else?

Just because you are not the direct victim of sexual harassment does not mean you have not experienced harassment. What you see and hear on the job can impact you directly, even if the conduct itself is indirect. The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad enough to encompass instances of indirect sexual harassment.

Seeing someone else experiencing sexual harassment can affect you personally, and it can be grounds for your own sexual harassment lawsuit. First, you should consult with an experienced sexual harassment attorney to determine whether you have the ability and right to file a lawsuit. Much depends on how you personally have been affected and whether your reaction was that of a reasonable person.

The Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

There are two primary types of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when a manager or someone else with power over you demands sexual favors in exchange for something else. The “something else” can be a promotion or simply keeping your job. Quid pro quo harassment can be a physical action or a verbal request.
  • A hostile work environment happens when there is harassment so severe and pervasive that it impacts your ability to do your job. The harassment can be remarks directed at you or things that generally happen in the workplace. A culture of vulgar jokes and “locker room talk” can be enough to create a hostile work environment.

Witnessing Harassment of Others Is Part of a Hostile Work Environment

Seeing sexual harassment of others can fall into the hostile work environment category. In fact, witnessing sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of hostile work environment claims. When you see that others are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you might begin to wonder whether it can happen to you.

There is a certain amount of helplessness and distress that you may feel when you see someone else who is powerless and suffering mistreatment. When you witness what happens to others, it becomes part of your own environment.

Seeing Harassment Can Distress You and Make You Fear for Your Own Safety

This conduct is the textbook definition of a hostile work environment. You may be concerned for your own safety based on what you see happening to other people on the job. Your ability to perform your duties may suffer because of your fear. Your job performance depends in part on the corporate culture. If you know that sexual harassment is part and parcel of the job experience, you may feel distressed.

Examples of Indirect Sexual Harassment

If you feel uncomfortable about what you have witnessed to the point of being distressed, you may be a victim of indirect sexual harassment. Not only can the direct victim of the harassment file a lawsuit against the employer, but you might also take action as well.

Indirect sexual harassment can involve hearing or seeing certain comments. If you hear a co-worker being the victim of degrading remarks about their gender, it can offend you, too, because you heard them. The same thing goes for sexual remarks and innuendo. Even if the boss did not directly address the comment to you, they still made it within your earshot, and they may as well have aimed the harassment at you.

Other forms of indirect sexual harassment include:

  • Seeing or being copied on an offensive email
  • Seeing someone else make a sexually offensive gesture
  • Viewing an inappropriate poster in someone else’s workspace

Anything that contributes to a hostile work environment or toxic culture can potentially be sexual harassment. Not only is the employer liable for the harassment, but they can also be held responsible for doing nothing about it and allowing it to continue.

The employer cannot allow a hostile work environment to persist. If the employer knows about a hostile work environment and does nothing about it, they should compensate victims as a legal remedy for the violation of their employment rights.

Indirect Sexual Harassment Must Personally Affect You

To obtain financial compensation for sexual harassment, you must have personally suffered from it. The conduct that you have endured must have impeded your ability to do your job and created a hostile work environment for you personally.

If you see something and think to yourself, “It is a shame, and it is awful,” it may not be enough for you to be in a position to receive compensation. Only when you begin to experience your own personal consequences of the behavior will you suffer the damages that can lead to a settlement or an award.

Your Reaction Depends on the Reasonable Person Standard

In addition, whether you actually suffered harassment depends on what a reasonable person would have perceived and felt from a situation. 

While there is always a subjective component to a sexual harassment case, there is also an objective element to it. Not every derogatory remark or instance of harassment in your presence can be harassment. Everything depends on the specific situation.

You should be ready for your employer to raise the defense that you did not actually suffer any personal harm from witnessing the conduct or that you had an unreasonable or oversensitive reaction to it. Accordingly, you should maintain your own contemporaneous documentation that shows what happened and how the behavior impacted you.

Keep a log of what you have seen and heard, including sufficient details showing how and why you felt distressed. In addition, you should also seek mental health assistance. Not only will it help you deal with the consequences of the sexual harassment, but the treatment notes will also help document how you have personally suffered.

Reporting Indirect Sexual Harassment Can Present its Own Challenges for You

There is some question about how you should handle indirect sexual harassment. The victim of the direct sexual harassment may not want to come forward themselves. The question is whether you need to report the sexually harassing conduct to management or human resources.

That is always a delicate consideration in each case. You do not want to subject the victim of direct harassment to retaliation if they do not come forward themselves. Although you are feeling distressed and harassed, you are also thinking about what can happen to someone else. The feeling of confusion and powerlessness is part of what you may experience that causes your own injury.

There Is No One Right Answer

Generally, you should come forward when you have felt harassed in any way, although you should handle the situation delicately. There are additional considerations when the harassment is indirect because what you do can have an impact on your co-workers.

What you do will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer that works for every case. Much depends on the dynamics of your workplace and whether the direct victim has come forward. You should consult an employment attorney to help you determine the right course of action. The employment lawyer will advise you on whether you should speak to management or human resources and how you should handle the situation.

You Might Face Retaliation on Your Own Account

In some cases, you may have said something to your boss, telling them that their conduct was wrong. The boss may retaliate against you by taking an adverse employment action.

For example, your employer may outright fire you from your job or act in a manner that pressures you into leaving. Or, your employer may give you a negative performance evaluation that impacts your career and job security. If so, you can take legal action against your employer for retaliation. Even though your complaint did not pertain to you personally, you still came forward, and your employer retaliated.

How Much Can You Receive in a Sexual Harassment Case?

Sexual harassment settlements and jury awards can be considerable. Discussing average amounts of awards is not helpful because each case is different and stands on its own merits. Some cases have resulted in awards of millions or tens of millions of dollars. Other cases have settled for tens of thousands of dollars. Again, everything depends on the facts and circumstances of your own case. Your attorney can give you a better idea of your potential financial recovery.

In a sexual harassment lawsuit, you may seek compensation for:

  • The distress that you suffered from the wrongful conduct
  • Lost income if your employer fired you, denied you a promotion, or you missed time from work because of the harassment
  • The cost of any mental health of medical treatment that you received to treat the effects of the harassment
  • Embarrassment and humiliation
  • Damage to your reputation from the harassment

Depending on the scope of the sexual harassment, a jury can also decide to punish your employer. When you hear of extremely large sexual harassment verdicts, such as the $168 million a California hospital employee received a decade ago, much of the verdict consists of punitive damages.

The jury may try to send a message to your employer and punish them for what they did by awarding you extra money. Often, there is a pervasive culture of harassment that the employer either fosters or completely ignores.

You should contact an attorney today to discuss your potential sexual harassment claim. It does not cost you anything to get legal advice from an employment lawyer in San Diego about a possible harassment lawsuit. You will also not pay anything unless you win your case.

If you win a sexual harassment lawsuit, your employer will need to pay your legal costs and attorney’s fees for your case. In the meantime, you can get the feeling that you are righting a wrong and pursuing justice from your employer. You might prevent future employees from suffering sexual harassment by taking action.

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How to Report Sexual Harassment?

If you  have experienced sexual harassment at work, what should you do? How should you report the issue? What are your rights and options?

The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report potential sexual harassment – in theory. In practice, too many employees experience adverse effects after complaining of harassment.

Never risk additional devastating experiences at work because you reported sexual harassment to HR, and they did not respond appropriately. Instead, begin by speaking with an employment lawyer. The right sexual harassment lawyer can review your situation and help determine the best course of action for reporting the harassment and seeking legal relief.

Employer policies

Employers with five or more employees in California should have clear policies regarding sexual harassment. This includes prohibitions on harassing conduct and procedures for employees to report harassment to the company.

For larger employers, the procedures usually involve reporting harassment to your human resources representative. With small businesses, you might not have an HR department, and you may need to report the harassment to your supervisor, the owner of the company, or some other person, if these people are engaging in the harassment.

Your employer’s policy for reporting sexual harassment may be contained in your Employee Handbook, or other internal policies or procedures. 

Consult a sexual harassment lawyer

If you were sexually harassed at work, you should consult with a  sexual harassment lawyer who can explain your rights and options.

Consulting with a lawyer might seem daunting, but it is a crucial step toward obtaining justice and compensation for the harm you have suffered. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal process and provide you with a clear understanding of the law and your rights.

During the initial consultation, the lawyer will listen to your story and ask you questions about the harassment you have experienced. They will assess the strength of your case and provide you with an honest evaluation of your chances of success in pursuing legal action. They will also explain the different types of legal claims you can make.

If you decide to move forward with legal action, your lawyer will guide you through each step of the process, from filing a claim to attending court hearings and negotiating a settlement, or representing you at trial. They will also help you collect evidence and prepare for trial if the case does not settle.

Remember, sexual harassment is strictly against the law and violates your rights. You have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. A sexual harassment lawyer can help you fight for your rights and obtain the justice and compensation you deserve.

Evaluating whether you experienced sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that takes many forms. Many people are unsure whether their experience qualifies as unlawful sexual harassment.

If you believe you have experienced inappropriate sexual behavior at work, you want a lawyer to evaluate your sexual harassment claim.

Your attorney will consider whether:

  • The behavior was unwanted: Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. If the behavior was unwelcome, unwanted, or made you uncomfortable, it may constitute sexual harassment.
  • The behavior was severe or pervasive: To be sexual harassment, the behavior must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. This means that the behavior must be frequent or severe enough to interfere with your ability to do your job.

If you believe you have experienced sexual harassment, you should contact an employment attorney to learn about your options.

What happens if you report sexual harassment to HR?

Reporting sexual harassment to HR can be a difficult and daunting task, and speaking with an attorney first is advisable. However, some people trust their HR departments enough to report the harassment immediately to an employer representative. What happens, then?

If you have already reported the conduct to your employer, it is never too late to speak with a lawyer as well.

If you complain of sexual harassment, the HR department may:

  • Hold an initial meeting: When you report sexual harassment to HR, you will typically need to schedule an initial meeting with an HR representative. During this meeting, you will need to provide details about the harassment you have experienced, including the names of the individuals involved and any relevant dates or incidents.
  • Investigate: After you report sexual harassment, the HR department should typically investigate the matter. This may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents and emails, and gathering other evidence relating to the harassment. The investigation aims to determine whether the harassment occurred and, if so, to take appropriate action to address the situation.
  • Follow up: Once the investigation is complete, you might have a follow-up meeting with the HR representative. During this meeting, they can inform you of the findings of the investigation and any action they plan to take in response to the harassment.
  • Take disciplinary action: If the investigation finds that harassment occurred, the HR department may take disciplinary action against the perpetrator, including termination. The purpose of disciplinary action is to deter future instances of harassment and protect the employee from further harm.
  • Provide ongoing support: Reporting sexual harassment to HR can be a traumatic experience, and you should receive ongoing support during and after the process. HR departments may offer counseling services or refer you to outside resources for support.

Remember that human resources departments do not always handle cases of sexual harassment appropriately. If you feel that your HR department failed to take your report seriously or did not take steps to address the harassment, immediately seek legal advice from an experienced sexual harassment attorney.

If you have not already reported the matter to HR, reach out to an employment attorney first.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue that can leave long-lasting negative effects on employees. It violates your human rights and creates a hostile work environment. You may experience feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. You can obtain justice and regain control over their lives with help from a sexual harassment lawyer.

Legal relief for sexual harassment survivors can come in different forms, depending on the nature and severity of the harassment. One of the most common forms of legal relief is a civil lawsuit. Employees can file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or their employer, seeking damages for the harm caused by the harassment. Damages may include compensation for lost income, emotional distress, medical expenses, attorneys’ fees and punitive damages.

To succeed in a civil lawsuit, the survivor must prove that they experienced sexual harassment severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. This can present many challenges. An experienced attorney can gather evidence, such as witness testimony, emails, text messages, and other documents, to support their case.

Seeking legal relief for sexual harassment can be a complex and time-consuming process. Employees who report sexual harassment may face unlawful retaliation from their employer or the perpetrator. However, by seeking legal relief, employees can hold their perpetrators accountable for their actions and send a message to others that no one should have to tolerate sexual harassment at work.

While the legal process can be challenging, an experienced employment attorney can help you regain control over your life and obtain the compensation and protection you deserve. 

To know that you have someone on your side, consult an employment lawyer in San Diego who handles sexual harassment claims. This is the best way to proceed with your case and protect your rights.

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Employees Who Have Been Sexually Harassed At Work Can Speak Out And Not Be Forced Into Arbitration

The Speak Out Act and the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, both written into law in 2022, give employees more workers’ rights when they have been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed in the workplace. Both laws had bipartisan support and are the most significant legislative developments to come out of the #MeToo movement, paving the way for a more just workplace. 

Sexual harassment and assault remain pervasive in the workplace. One in three women has faced sexual harassment in the workplace during her career, and an estimated 87 to 94 percent of those who experience sexual harassment never file a formal complaint. Sexual harassment in the workplace forces many women to leave their occupations or industry or pass up opportunities for advancement. In order to combat sexual harassment and assault, it is essential that victims and survivors have the freedom to report their abuse and publicly disclose it, if they choose to.1  For more information, reach out to a sexual harassment lawyer.

How Can The Speak Out Act Protect Employees?

Employees Who Have Been Sexually Harassed At Work Can Speak Out And Not Be Forced Into Arbitration

The Speak Out Act makes non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-disparagement agreements unenforceable in sexual harassment and assault cases. This law applies only to agreements signed before the harassment or assault occurred. It also invalidates existing agreements in cases that have not yet been filed.

NDAs are often included as part of the new hire forms and employment contracts new employees are required to sign and often do not understand what they are signing. NDAs were originally created to protect proprietary information and intellectual property. However, employers have used NDAs to silence victims of workplace sexual harassment and keep misconduct from being exposed to coworkers and the public. 

Non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions in agreements between employers and current, former, and prospective employees, and independent contractors, can perpetuate illegal conduct by silencing those who are survivors of illegal sexual harassment and assault or illegal retaliation, or have knowledge of such conduct, while shielding perpetrators and enabling them to continue their abuse. Prohibiting nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses will empower survivors to come forward, hold perpetrators accountable for abuse, improve transparency around illegal conduct, enable the pursuit of justice, and make workplaces safer and more productive for everyone.1

How Does Ending Forced Arbitration Help Employees?

Ending forced arbitration allows employees who are victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault to seek justice in civil court when they had previously been bound to a closed, often-secretive legal proceeding called arbitration. Employers forced workers into arbitration to keep matters out of the public eye and keep companies free from public scrutiny and accountability. Now, employees can expose if they want to file a lawsuit and expose the company publicly or not. It can also provide more leverage in settlement agreements. 

For more information and frequently asked questions regarding sexual harassment:

What is Sexual Harassment?

What is Quid Pro Quo?

Harassment based on gender, gender identity, or gender stereotyping, not related to sexual interest

What is Inappropriate Touching At Work?


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