In California, Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) section 12940 protects you against acts of sexual harassment in the workplace. Similarly, Federal law Civil Rights Act Title VII contains prohibition on discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, marital status, and sexual harassment cases.
FEHA describes sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advance or sexually offensive physical and verbal behavior. It includes sexually suggestive conduct from the same gender.
Examples of sexual harassment are:
1. Physical or verbal assault on an employee's gender
2. Request for sexual favor in exchange for employment security, promotion, or benefits
3. Mistreatment on the basis of the employee's gender, pregnancy, gender preference, and childbirth.
4. Making threat for refusing to grant sexual request
5. Displaying nude photos or sexually suggestive pictures
6. Hurling derogatory remarks, ridicule, and slurs concerning one's gender
7. Indiscreet touching or blocking
8. Hostile work environment caused by repetitive verbal and physical sexual assault
California implements strict liability law for sexual harassment acts committed by executives and supervisory employees. The employer will face penalties once the sexual harassment case is substantiated.
However, the employer can use these defenses:
1. Reasonable measures are implemented to prevent or resolve sexual harassment complaints
2. The employee failed to avail of the employer's available corrective procedure
If the employer can prove such action to prevent or correct sexual harassment in the workplace, the amount of damages can be reduced.
California employers can also be held liable for the sexual harassment charges of non-supervisory employees.
Examples of situations are:
1. The employer is aware or knowledgeable of the harassment behavior
2. The employer failed to implement immediate corrective measure
California requires employers with at least 50 employees to instruct supervisory employees on unlawful harassment. The minimum time for training must be two hours for every two years.
The instructor must be qualified and knowledgeable on discrimination and harassment laws in California and the training should comply with FEDA requirements.
You can do the following to substantiate your sexual harassment complaint:
1. Check the company policy on sexual harassment
2. Take notes or maintain a journal of every event
3. Write a letter stating the facts and supporting evidence for your complaint
4. Address it to the harasser's supervisor or the human resource manager
Employers are prohibited to terminate, demote, or suspend an employee who files a harassment or discrimination complaint.
If the internal procedure fails, the employee can file the complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
You can also file a formal lawsuit. Consult an Employment Law Attorney in Los Angeles to help you assert your rights.