California Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims Guide

California Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims Guide

The sexual harassment lawyers at the Whistleblower Law Group understand the devastating effect that sexual harassment can have on victims and their futures. We have years of experience fighting for the rights of employees. We aren’t afraid of big corporations or complex cases. Our nationally recognized legal team works aggressively to help victims of sexual harassment to stop the conduct, protect their careers, and recover potentially substantial damages.

If you or a family member is employed by a company in the state of California, it is important to be able to (1) identify cases of sexual harassment and (2) understand your rights and options under the law.

With workers in mind, we developed this quick and easy reference for:

  • Legal rights of California employees
  • How to identify workplace sexual harassment
  • Steps to take if exposed to workplace sexual harassment
  • How to collect financial compensation for workplace sexual harassment

About this Guide

In the sections below we address:

  1. The Workplace Sexual Harassment Epidemic
  2. California Industries with the Highest Sexual Harassment Claims
    • Retail Industry
    • Restaurant / Service Industry
    • Entertainment Industry
  3. Federal & California Sexual Harassment Laws
  4. How Does the Law Define Sexual Harassment?
  5. California Laws on Employment Training
  6. Third Party Harassment
  7. Off-Site Sexual Harassment
  8. Anti-Retaliation Protections for Victims and Others Affected by Sexual Harassment
  9. Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
  10. Damages (Financial Compensation for Sexual Harassment)
  11. How to Win a Sexual Harassment Claim
  12. What to Do If You Suspect Sexual Harassment
    • Consult a Sexual Harassment Attorney
    • Document All Incidents of Harassment
    • File a Claim for Compensation
Appendix
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 1.

The Workplace Sexual Harassment Epidemic

Workplace Sexual harassment affects the lives of thousands of California workers. Victims often find their work environment a terrifying and unbearable place to be with the threat of further harassment looming without notice.

Sexual harassment disrupts promising careers, complicates family life, leads to retaliation for refusing sexual advances, and can even escalate to sexual assault. Whether a co-worker simply won’t stop flirting, a supervisor continues to make derogatory jokes, or an employer bases a promotion on whether an employee will go on a date – these actions are all highly illegal. Victims have a right to financial compensation.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), U.S. workers filed 12,860 charges alleging sexual harassment in 2016, resulting in $40.7 million in damages. And as of 2017, sexual harassment claims continue to account for nearly 17% of all claims the EEOC receives.

A recent Cosmopolitan magazine survey found that one in three women has experienced workplace sexual harassment at some point, and out of these women, only 29% tried to address the problem, while a staggering 71% keep silent.

A Washington Post / ABC News poll found that 40% of women experiencing sexual harassment, sadly, did not report sexual harassment because they either feared the consequences or didn’t feel reporting would have any effect. Interestingly, 16% of survey respondents said they had never been sexually harassed in the workplace. Still, they had been exposed to lewd or sexist remarks

pointing out the frequent misconceptions behind exactly what constitutes sexual harassment.

Women aren’t the only ones experiencing workplace sexual harassment. Poll results compiled by the WashingtonPostand ABCNewssuggest that as many as one in 10 men has experienced workplace sexual harassment, and the number of sexual harassment complaints filed by men has actually increased from 11.6% to 18% in the past 20 years.

In 2016 alone, sexual harassment charges filed by males accounted for nearly 17% of the total charges filed by all workers. Most charges filed by men involve either comments made about sexual orientation and sexual activity, or unwanted touching.

Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

According to UC San Diego study, 81% of women will experience sexual harassment at some point in their life. 38% say they were harassed at work.

  • 2019 sexual harassment charges: 12,739
  • 2019 sexual harassment damages paid (EEOC only): $68.2 million
  • Number of women experiencing sexual harassment: 1 in 3
  • Number of men experiencing sexual harassment*: 1 in 10
  • Percent of women filing sexual harassment claims in 2019: 83.2%
  • Percent of men filing sexual harassment claims in 2019: 16.8%
  • Percent of women who report workplace sexual harassment: 29%

SOURCE: EEOC and Langer Research: http://www.langerresearch.com/uploads/1130a2WorkplaceHarassment.pdf

Finding a qualified, aggressive lawyer willing to take on sexual harassment cases against large and powerful California companies can be difficult. Our leading California sexual harassment lawyers at Whistleblower Law Group have a razor-sharp understanding of California employment law, and represent sexual harassment clients working in business, retail, restaurant, hotel, entertainment, and other industries.

If you or your loved one is a victim of workplace sexual harassment, our California sexual harassment lawyers can help explain your rights and assist you in collecting any due compensation.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 2.

California Industries with the Highest Rates of Sexual Harassment Claims

The highest incidents of sexual harassment occur in the retail, restaurant, hotel, and entertainment industries. These industries tend to attract younger, and as a result, more vulnerable talent who are just entering the workforce and are more susceptible to various forms of manipulation and harassment. Those working in business and corporate environments are not immune.

People also tend to incorrectly think that the workplace is a perfect spot to find a date, or a fling, and so inappropriate flirting and “hitting” on co-workers tends to be all too common in these industries.

Many complaints of sexual harassment in the state of California come from:

  • Actors/actresses
  • Apparel retail workers
  • Drug store employees
  • Electronics supply salespeople
  • Fashion models
  • Film and production crew
  • Fitness industry workers
  • Grocery workers
  • Hardware store employees
  • Health and beauty supply employees
  • Hotel staff
  • Office workers
  • Sales and marketing personnel
  • Waiters/waitresses

Retail Industry

While America’s powerful companies and retail chains continue to flourish, they also generate the most complaints of employee sexual harassment. Several recent cases demonstrate that even the largest retail chains are subject to hefty fines for failing to protect their employees from sexual harassment, and for retaliating against employees who try to fight back or report such conduct.

(To learn more, visit our sexual harassment retail services post, Do You Want Financial Compensation for Sexual Harassment in your Retail Job?

James Stevens v. Vons Supermarket

When we think about sexual harassment, we often think that females are the victim. In most cases they are but that isn’t always the case.

James Stevens worked in receiving for Vons Supermarkets for most of his life. Things began to get bad when a woman became his boss. He says he was repeatedly sexually harassed by her.

When he finally complained, James was transferred to a less desirable position and subjected to a two year campaign of retaliation. Finally, he was terminated.

James sued. Although Vons denied that he was the victim of sexual harassment, the jury saw otherwise. He was awarded $18.4 million, $16 million of which represented punitive damages.

Jane Doe v. Vons Supermarkets

“Jane” was just 16 years old when she got her first job at Vons. (We do not print the names of minors.) Here boss was a 23 year old male.

Things soon became creepy. Her boss began asking her personal questions about whether she had a boyfriend. Because it was her first job, Jane didn’t want to complain and didn’t where to complain.

Soon the supervisor was having her meet in her car during breaks and offering her marijuana. Ultimately, they met outside work where she says she was drugged. When she woke up was naked. She remembers that at one point he was on top of her.

When Jane’s parents learned of the incident, they called police. He was arrested.

Jane also filed a sexual harassment suit against Vons. According to her, the company failed to properly screen their management hires, failed to train them and when problems arose, failed to take action. She said that the company typically transferred managers accused of sexual misconduct instead of terminating them. Instead of addressing the problem, they just shuffled employees to other stores.

Vons has denied the allegations and says the company has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

Restaurant – Service Industry

Sexual harassment is rampant in the service industry. More claims are filed in the restaurant industry than in any other sector of our economy. As many as 90% of women and 70% of men working in restaurants report being harassed.

Why are things so bad? Typically, in most restaurants, the servers are young females and the managers male. There is a high turnover too. For many people who live check to check, there is a fear of reporting harassment. Many servers we spoke with tell us that they just sexual harassment was normal.

Often restaurant workers are subject to harassment by the customers. Studies show that management is even less likely to take action when an employee reports being harassed by a customer.

Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry Females Males
Experienced monthly harassment by management 66% 58%
Experienced weekly harassment by management 52% 40%
Experienced monthly harassment by co-workers 74% 58%
Experienced weekly harassment by co-workers 64% 52%

Typical cases involve inappropriate touching, indecent exposure, lewd remarks, hugging, groping, repeated requests for dates, and unwanted advances by coworkers, chefs, managers, and customers. Sexual assaults are disturbingly frequent as well.

In some cases, employers and co-workers repeatedly forced employees into simulated rapes, made them view pornographic images, or forced them into a refrigerator where they made sexually-charged advances. Major restaurant chains, including Cheesecake Factory, Cracker Barrel, Dunkin’ Donuts, Popeye’s, Applebee’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Panda Express, Outback, Sonic, and many others have all had sexual harassment cases filed against them.

(To learn more, visit our Service Industry – Restaurant Sexual Harassment post.)

Chipotle

Teen Chipotle Worker Wins $7.65M in Sexual Harassment Suit: A 16-year old former employee alleged sexual abuse from her adult supervisor. She said she was encouraged to have unprotected sex while at work, or even on breaks. The restaurant where the assault took place was described as a “brothel that just served food.”

In San Jose, a 22 year old male employee says his female manager harassed him. Austin Melton says Chipotle was his first job after graduation. Like other restaurant workers, he needed the job and was reluctant to make waves. Despite being grabbed in his crotch and propositioned by his boss, he continued working. When he did complain, he was punished by being locked in a walk in freezer.

Austin filed a claim with the EEOC and settled for $95,000. He says he brought the case so that other workers wouldn’t have to suffer like him. Chipotle has 73,000 employees.

McDonalds

McDonald’s Sued over ‘Systemic Sexual Harassment’ of Female Workers: Jenna Ries, a former McDonalds restaurant worker filed suit against the chain and is seeking $5 million in damages. She says a coworker touched her inappropriately and propositioned her for sex.

According to her lawsuit, her boss called her a “bitch, slut, and whore in front of other workers and the general manager.” The harassment was also physical, as he “took every opportunity to grab me in the crotch, breast, and butt,” she said, and would also pull her hair and push her into other coworkers. In one instance, she says, he forcibly put his genitals in her hand. In another, he cornered her in a walk-in freezer, pinning her against the wall. “I was so scared,” she recalled.

Jenna said she was scared to go to work each day but also needed the money. If she’s granted class-action status, many other women could join the suit.

In another McDonalds sexual harassment case, a female restaurant worker says she was propositioned by a male manager. When she reported the incident, her hours were drastically cut.

Entertainment Industry

A substantial proportion of California employees work in the $500 billion entertainment industry – an industry that is particularly preoccupied with physical appearance and sexual exploitation. Jobs in print, music, film, and television are highly competitive. Unfortunately, most actors, actresses, and models fail to report cases of sexual harassment for fear it will limit their opportunities or even destroy their careers.

Many accept sexual harassment in Hollywood as “part of the business” as many jobs in entertainment actually revolve around sexuality. Fashion photography, film scripts, and music videos want sexuality to help sell the product, and working in an environment that is focused on sex can quickly become difficult or uncomfortable.

(We have much more information about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry on her website.)

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein’s abhorrent behavior helped launch the #MeToo movement. In February 2020, Weinstein was convicted of two counts of sexual misconduct charges including a third-degree rape charge. As of this writing, he is still awaiting trial in Los Angeles on rape charges.

Although Weinstein has appealed his New York convictions and jurors haven’t yet heard the California charges, his case is hugely important. Although Weinstein’s case involves sexual assault and not sexual harassment, the New York convictions show that victims are believed.

Just five years ago, prosecutors in New York declined to prosecute Weinstein. After many, many women came forward, he was finally indicted. The rich and powerful no longer have the same power they once had. We hope more victims of both harassment and assault will now feel empowered to step forward.

Weinstein is likely to face a significant prison sentence for his criminal behavior but he also faces a wide range of civil lawsuits for his behavior as well. Actress Paz De La Huerta filed a $60 million lawsuit against Weinstein as well as the Four Seasons Hotel for turning a blind eye towards Weinstein’s indiscretions.

Alki David

Alki David isn’t a household name but folks in the entertainment industry know of this billionaire. He founded an internet based TV company called FilmOn. (He also operates a holographic imaging company, Hologram USA.)

At least two women who worked for Alki filed suit for sexual harassment. And their stories are wild. Unfortunately, wild behavior in the entertainment industry is often the norm.

Chastity Jones and Elizabeth Taylor alleged various incidents of sexual harassment and battery against David. For Jones, it includes David’s reaching up her dress, grabbing her buttocks, making her dance and grasping her ankles and attempting to make her walk on her hands like a wheelbarrow. She said he forced her to watch a pornographic video on a computer.

Jones said David fired her in 2016 because she refused to have sex with him. When David brought a male stripper into the workplace to celebrate an executive’s birthday, Jones found the incident offensive and thought of it as sexual harassment. Taylor’s allegations against David are similar. According to her attorney, David’s behavior has caused Jones, a single mother, to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

Two other employees, Lauren Reeves and Mahim Khan, also filed a sexual harassment suit.

A Los Angeles County jury awarded Ms. Reeves $5 million, $4.3 of which are punitive damages. Ms. Jones was awarded $3.1 million. In one of the largest sexual harassment verdicts in California history, Khan was awarded $58.25 million!


When conditions meet the requirements for a hostile work environment at your place of work, you may have the right to file a claim for financial compensation. And while filing a claim for sexual harassment can be a daunting task in any industry, our California sexual harassment lawyers at Whistleblower Law Group have decades of experience protecting the rights, privacy, and careers of our clients. We can help ensure that your future is not jeopardized by your decision to report a case of sexual harassment.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 3.

Federal and California Sexual Harassment Laws

If you work in the office, restaurant, sales, hotel, or entertainment industries, you’ve probably experienced some form of sexual harassment, whether directed at you or someone else. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature can be considered sexual harassment.

Ask yourself: Does the conduct make you feel uncomfortable? If so, it is likely sexual harassment, but many employees simply don’t realize that annoying flirting, sexual text messages, and company jokes are, in fact, sexual harassment under the law. Many employees also don’t realize that same-sex sexual harassment is a thing or that an employee can, in some cases, even file a claim against a customer who harasses them.

One would think that successful, multi-million-dollar companies would provide effective training programs and policies designed to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Still, we receive calls every day from California employees who want to know whether their situation at work is, in fact, sexual harassment. And in a vast number of cases, it is.

Part 4.

How Does the Law Define Sexual Harassment?

We mentioned earlier that an act can legally be considered sexual harassment if it makes an employee uncomfortable. Of course, the legal definitions are a bit more involved than that. So what exactly makes an act “sexual harassment” that allows an employee to sue for financial compensation?

Under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 considers sexual harassment a form of discrimination based on gender (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.). Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct based on gender that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The EEOC is the federal enforcement agency for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under California state law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits sexual harassment (Govt. Code, § 12940 (j)(4)(C)). The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) is the enforcement agency for FEHA.

Under the law, sexual harassment can fall under one of two categories: (1) quid pro quo or (2) hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo

In Latin, “quid pro quo” means “something for something.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace is, therefore, conditioning a term of employment on submission to unwelcome sexual advances. This can come as either (1) a threat or (2) an offer. In other words, “I will fire you unless you kiss me,” (a threat), or “I will give you a promotion if you kiss me,” (an offer).

Even a single act of quid pro quo sexual harassment is enough to violate the law.

Hostile Work Environment

The most common form of sexual harassment is the “hostile work environment” which may include a wide range of acts that together create an environment that is difficult to work in – causing levels of anxiety or fear that result in low productivity. This type of harassment includes unwelcome behavior that is frequent enough or severe enough to produce a “hostile” work environment for one or more employees.

An employee can sue anyone in the work environment for hostile environment sexual harassment, including customers and third-party contractors. Under Govt. Code, § 12940(i), anyone assisting a person in harassing an employee can also be sued.

Unlike quid pro quo, a hostile work environment usually requires a pattern of offensive behavior. To prove a hostile work environment, you must be able to show that the conduct was:

  • Unwelcome
  • Based on gender, or other protected class, such as race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation
  • Sufficient to create a work environment that a reasonable person under the circumstances would find hostile, intimidating or abusive
  • The conduct was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff ’s harm

Recently enacted California Senate Bill 1300 states that even “[a] single incident of harassing conduct is sufficient to create a triable issue regarding the existence of a hostile work environment.” This new standard, set by SB 1300, explicitly rejects the old rule that the harassment must have been severe and pervasive. Interestingly, the 9th Circuit Judge who created the prior rule was, ironically, forced into abrupt retirement when details of his own decades-long sexual harassment came to light.

Senate Bill 292 amended the definition of sexual harassment in the Fair Employment & Housing Act in 2013 to state that “Sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.” This means both same-sex harassment and opposite-sex harassment are prohibited, and no sexual interest in the victim is required for the act to be considered sexual harassment under the law.

Cal. Civ. Code § 51.9 prohibits sexual harassment in the context of certain business, service, or professional relationships outside the workplace.

When determining whether the conduct is enough to constitute sexual harassment, courts consider the frequency of the behavior, severity, offensiveness, effect on the victim’s psyche, the harasser’s position in the workplace, and interference with work performance. Keep in mind, however, that while courts consider the frequency of misconduct, just one single event may also be severe enough to constitute a hostile work environment for sexual harassment purposes.

Part 5.

California Laws on Employment Training

California employers are required by law to offer sexual harassment training to supervisors, managers, and employees. California law previously only required that California companies with over 50 employees or contractors (including full time, part-time and temporary) train their supervisors on sexual harassment for at least two hours within their first six months, and once every two years thereafter. However, in 2018, California passed several bills that expanded workplace sexual harassment prevention training requirements.

California Senate Bill 1343, amending California Government Code Section 12950.1, requires that employers with five or more employees provide sexual harassment prevention training to all their employees, regardless of their position or title, once every two years within six months of the start of their employment.

Non-supervisory employees, including seasonal and temporary employees, are required to complete at least one hour of training and supervisory employees are required to complete at least two hours. SB 1300 further authorizes employers, at their election, to provide “bystander intervention” training to educate employees to better detect and identify various forms of workplace harassment.

Similarly, in 2019, California amended the definition of “employer” to mean” any “person or individual engaged in any business or enterprise regularly employing five or more individuals, including individuals to perform any service under any appointment, contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written.”

As of January 2020, employers must extend training to seasonal and temporary workers.

FEHA requires all California employers with five or more employees to take “reasonable” steps to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. The new regulations require employers to:

  • Create detailed written policies to prevent harassment and retaliation
  • Distribute harassment policies to all employees
  • Translate policies into alternative languages (if over 10% of employees in a location speak a language other than English)
  • Ensure that the people providing the training are properly certified

If your California employer or other company has failed to comply with California sexual harassment training laws and you experience workplace sexual harassment, you may be eligible for financial compensation. An employer that knowingly fails to provide training may be liable for punitive damages if an employer later reports they were harassed.

Part 6.

Third Party Harassment

Coworkers, subordinates, supervisors, and managers are not the only ones liable for sexual harassment under California law. California employers are also responsible for taking reasonable steps to protect their employees from sexual harassment by clients, customers, independent contractors, vendors, and other outsiders who are not company employees.

Under California Government Code § 12940, as amended by SB 1300 employers are responsible for sexual harassment committed by non-employees as long as the employer “knows or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”

Third-party sexual harassment is subject to the same legal requirements for sexual harassment. It must be unwelcome conduct based on gender that is severe and pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. As long as the employer is aware – or should have been aware- of the sexual harassment by the third-party and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action, that employer can be held liable for the sexual harassing misconduct.

Part 7.

Off-Site Sexual Harassment

You do not have to be at work during the sexual harassment to file a claim for damages. Under FEHA, workplace sexual harassment can also occur outside of work - as long as you are at that location for work-related reasons. If you experience sexual harassment at a work-sponsored holiday party, a fund- raising event, or other work-associated events, the law still protects you.

Part 8.

Anti-Retaliation Laws in Sexual Harassment Cases

The government knows that filing a sexual harassment claim can be scary and that employer retaliation is common. In fact, fear of retaliation is perhaps the most common reason why victims don’t come forward. Any employer who penalizes an employee for complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace is guilty of illegal retaliation. As such, victims of employer retaliation may also sue for financial compensation.

Under FEHA (California Government Code § 12940(h)), it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against anyone for voicing their concerns about sexual harassment, filing a sexual harassment claim, or helping another person voice concerns or file a claim. Retaliation includes firing, demoting, expelling, denying a promotion, assigning different work shifts, or otherwise discriminating against an employee.

Employees can sue for retaliation damages even when they did not experience sexual harassment themselves. For example, if an employee complains about behavior that is not severe and pervasive enough to constitute legal sexual harassment, and the employer retaliates, the reporting employee can file a claim for retaliation damages. The rule also applies if an employee is retaliated against for reporting concerns about the sexual harassment of another employee.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in a California workplace, or have been retaliated against for voicing your concerns about sexual harassment, contact us immediately. We will answer your questions and explain your eligibility for financial compensation in a free, fully confidential case evaluation.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 9.

Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Most California employees know that inappropriate touching or an employer basing a promotion on sexual favors is sexual harassment. But there are a number of acts that take place at work every day that are also legally considered sexual harassment. Employees who experience these acts may be able to file a claim for financial compensation.

Which of these acts are legally considered sexual harassment?

  • Asking a coworker if they are a virgin
  • Asking a coworker out for coffee
  • Asking how often a coworker has sex with their wife or husband
  • Asking if you have ever had a same-sex experience
  • Asking if you like guys or girls
  • Calling a coworker cutie, hun or babe
  • Calling a coworker “it” or saying, “I really like her, he, whatever it is.”
  • Commenting on a new haircut
  • Doing an office rating on hotness
  • Giving a friendly hug to congratulate an employee
  • Giving a quick shoulder massage to your coworker while they are on the phone
  • Pulling on a man’s tie
  • Referring to an employee as a “girl” or “boy”
  • Saying men only think with their penises
  • Saying women are always so indecisive
  • Saying “You look good today.”
  • Staring at a coworker or employee
  • Telling “that’s what he / she said” jokes
  • Touching someone on the knee or elbow

All of the above may qualify as sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can also include repeated flirting, staring, joking, stalking, unwanted emails, sexual texting, unwelcome compliments, unwanted touching, showing sexual photos, making an employee wear immodest clothing. It can be same-sex harassment, opposite-sex harassment, coworker harassment, supervisor harassment, or even harassment by a customer.

Remember, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, it is probably sexual harassment - and you can sue for financial compensation. The law defines three categories of workplace sexual harassment: verbal, physical, and visual. Sexual harassment also includes stalking and harassment between members of the same sex.

Verbal Sexual Harassment

(Cal. Code of Regs, Title 2, § 11019(b)(1)(A))

Verbal sexual harassment includes speaking or sending epithets, derogatory comments, and slurs. Using curse words that refer to gender (the “B-word”) or sex (the “F-word”), sending sexual texts, notes or emails, or speaking unwelcome comments are all forms of verbal sexual harassment. Threats, offers, requests, catcalls, telling sexual jokes, complimenting a coworker’s outfit, commenting on someone’s looks, or boasting about last night’s sexual activities can also all be verbal sexual harassment if they make someone uncomfortable.

Physical Sexual Harassment

(Cal. Code of Regs, Title 2, § 11019(b)(1)(B))

Physical sexual harassment consists of unwelcome touching. The harasser does not have to know the act was unwelcome for it to be sexual harassment. The activity just has to be unwelcomed according to the victim. If you do not appreciate the hugging, grabbing, groping, or shoulder massages, they are unwelcome.

Visual Sexual Harassment

(Cal. Code of Regs, Title 2, § 11019(b)(1)(C))

Visual sexual harassment includes derogatory posters, sex- or gender-based cartoons, photographs, and drawings. Any sexual image or image based on gender that is hostile in nature, unwelcome and pervasive or severe can constitute sexual harassment.

Stalking

(Penal Code § 646.9)

Stalking is also a form of sexual harassment. California’s anti-stalking laws prohibit willfully and maliciously following or harassing another person and threatening that person with the intent of causing fear for their safety or the safety of their family.

Stalking can include a person showing up frequently, spying, making repeated phone calls, sending repeated texts, sending frequent gifts, and cyberstalking (seeking someone’s personal information online). If a coworker is stalking you, you can sue for damages in civil court, and even pursue criminal penalties.

Same-Sex Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment cases filed on members of the same sex are common. This can include heterosexuals and members of the LGBT community - lesbians, transgender employees, gay men, and bisexuals. Any behavior based on sex that is unwelcome and results in a hostile work environment can qualify as sexual harassment, and victims may file a claim for financial compensation regardless of the gender of the harasser.

California is on the forefront of LGBT rights. Although the state is in the 10th position as far as the percent of the population that identifies as LGBT, because of its huge population well over 1 million Californians identify as non-heterosexual. The state’s anti-discrimination and harassment laws specifically include and protect members of the LGBT community.

Use your instincts when deciding whether or not you are being sexually harassed in your workplace. If a manager, coworker, customer, or other person is continuing to make you feel uncomfortable with their actions, you may be eligible to file a claim for financial compensation. Our experienced sexual harassment lawyers at can help answer your questions in a free, fully confidential case consultation.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 10.

Financial Compensation in California Sexual Harassment Cases

Exposure to sexual harassment in the workplace can be devastating. Whether you are trying to support yourself, perhaps a family, and build your career, sexual harassment can make you uncomfortable, unsafe and unable to do your job. This is why Federal and California law penalize sexual harassers and companies that allow sexual harassment to occur and offer financial compensation to the victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Though sexual harassment is not a criminal offense in itself, it is a violation of federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from harassing employees based on their sex, gender, color, religion, or national origin. Courts generally refer to EEOC guidelines, which state that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made (explicitly or implicitly) a term or condition of an individual’s employment,
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual, or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

When the behavior meets any of these criteria, the victim can file a civil lawsuit for monetary damages, including job reinstatement, lost wages, compensation for emotional harm, mental anguish or inconvenience, and other financial losses that resulted from the harassment.

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has a statutory maximum placed on the amount of damages a victim can claim*, FEHA has no limit on the amount of punitive or compensatory damages. Because FEHA often offers stronger protections and larger financial compensations for employees, most California retail employees file for sexual harassment damages under FEHA.

(*The federal law, Title VII, caps damages at $300,000. For companies with less than 500 employees the limits drop to as low as $50,000! Those figures were set in 1991 and have not been indexed to inflation. )

Under FEHA, victims of sexual harassment can sue for:

  • Attorney’s fees
  • Back lost wages
  • Back pay for lost benefits
  • Court costs
  • Emotional distress
  • Expert witness fees
  • Future lost wages
  • Future pay for lost benefits
  • Injunctive relief
  • Litigation costs
  • Medical costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

Victims of employer retaliation may be eligible to file a claim for similar damages. In general, courts hold only the employing company (not individuals) liable in employer retaliation claims.

While nothing can repair the distress caused by sexual harassment, successful claims can pay off in a big way. The court calculates the amount of damages awarded based on a number of factors, including:

  • Harasser’s position relative to the victim
  • Level of hostility
  • Number of company employees
  • Type and frequency of sexual harassment
  • Whether the company took action to correct the problem
  • Whether the conduct singled out one victim

Keeping a careful and detailed record of your complaints to your supervisor, management, or other personnel is critical to maximizing the damages you may collect should you choose to file a sexual harassment claim against your employer.

Our network of California sexual harassment lawyers knows how to aggressively prosecute claims against the most powerful companies and maximize financial compensation for our clients. We can point you in the right direction.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 11.

How to Win a Sexual Harassment Claim

A successful sexual harassment claim in the state of California can be difficult, especially against high-power retail chains or multi-million-dollar companies with deep pockets and access to the best legal counsel.

This is why our number one recommendation for a winning sexual harassment claim is to call an experienced California sexual harassment lawyer immediately - before you talk about it with the harasser, co-workers, a supervisor, or any other source. Even if you don’t plan to file a claim, or are unsure whether you want to file a lawsuit, a free consultation with a lawyer can supply priceless advice.

An experienced California sexual harassment lawyer is the single most important tool that employees have to win a sexual harassment claim. From the moment you first become uncomfortable in the workplace due to sexual harassment, to the moment you cash your check for financial compensation – and beyond - the sexual harassment lawyer is there to guide your every move.

Our experienced professionals understand and help you with:

  • How to maximize the financial compensation amount
  • How to protect your identity and career
  • How to protect your rights as an employee
  • How to pursue an anti-retaliation claim if necessary
  • How you should address the sexual harasser
  • The best means for approaching your specific sexual harassment claim
  • The complexities of California employment laws
  • The detailed procedures and statutes of limitations involved in reporting misconduct
  • What documents or evidence are helpful for your case
  • When and if you should voice your concerns to your employer
  • Whether you can legally obtain certain forms of evidence from the workplace

Without this level of guidance, it can be difficult to navigate a California sexual harassment claim on your own.

Evidence to Help Prove Your Sexual Harassment Claim

There are two sides to every story. In sexual harassment cases, it’s usually your word against theirs. In many sexual harassment cases, the employer will try to deny your allegations by claiming:

  • The activity is not illegal
  • The harassment never occurred
  • They didn’t know the conduct was occurring
  • They themselves are not legally responsible for the activity
  • They took every step to prevent sexually harassing behavior in the workplace
  • You failed to take your employer’s advice on protecting yourself from sexual harassment

How does a person prove that sexual harassment actually occurred? What if it only happened behind closed doors, with no one else around? What if the people who did witness the sexual harassment aren’t willing to talk?

To succeed in a sexual harassment claim, you need evidence, and an experienced California sexual harassment lawyer can guide you on how to collect it in a way that will protect your rights and help you build a successful case to maximize your financial compensation.

Because evidence of sexual harassment can be difficult to come by, the courts allow two types of evidence to prove your claim: direct and circumstantial.

Direct Evidence of Sexual Harassment

Direct evidence is the most powerful sort of evidence. This may include phone records of text messages, audio or video recordings of the harassment, emails containing sexual jokes or stating that you will be fired if you do not agree to go on a date with your boss, and eyewitness accounts of the harassment.

Circumstantial Evidence of Sexual Harassment

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on circumstances to infer a conclusion of sexual harassment. While circumstantial evidence is weaker than direct evidence, it is the most common type of evidence used in sexual harassment cases.

Personal notes on incidents of harassment, past complaints by other employees, a sudden demotion after rejecting your boss’ sexual propositions, the credibility of the victim and harasser, and testimony from a therapist, co-worker, friend, or family member can all help to prove a case of sexual harassment.

To prove a case of quid pro quo sexual harassment, you must show that you experienced unwelcome harassment based on sex, that your response to the harassment adversely affected your compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, and that your employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to correct the problem.

Job performance evaluations, pay stubs, work shift schedules, and other such documents can be helpful in creating a timeline to show how the sexual harassment affected your employment.

To prove a hostile work environment, you need to show that the work environment was severe enough to affect your job performance. The court will want you to show that you experienced unwelcome, regular, pervasive harassment based on sex that affected you adversely, would adversely affect someone else in the same position of the same sex, and that your employer did not take adequate steps to prevent the harassment.

Record keeping is key for hostile work environment cases. Keep a written diary of the times, dates, places, and details of the events each time something happens. Be sure to note the names of anyone present at the time. Make these diaries and notes as soon as the events happen, not hours or days after the events.

Save all text messages, emails, notes, or other correspondence that may suggest sexual harassment. If possible and if done within the confines of the law, take photos, video or audio recordings of the incidents. Record any missed work and any counseling sessions you may have had to deal with the harassment.

Testimony from coworkers, customers, and any other eyewitnesses can be extremely helpful in sexual harassment cases. Your California sexual harassment lawyer can help you obtain this evidence.

Proving Your Employer Retaliation Claim

Courts require employees in retaliation cases to prove that (1) the employer engaged conduct that materially and adversely affected the terms and conditions of your employment, (2) that your voicing concerns about sexual harassment (or refusal to participate in sexual harassment) provided the motivation behind the adverse employment action and (3) you experienced harm from the employer’s adverse action.

Any adverse, discriminatory treatment that is reasonably likely to hinder job performance or prospects for promotion or advancement can be considered retaliation. Because acts of employer retaliation can be very subtle and might include discriminatory behavior that grows worse over time, California courts apply the “materiality test” to many employer retaliation cases, examining the totality of unique circumstances in the context of each particular claim.

Federal courts use the “deterrence test” to determine whether the retaliatory behavior would have discouraged a reasonable employee from reporting or supporting a claim of sexual harassment.

Evidence that can be used to help you prove your claim of employer retaliation is similar to the evidence used to prove a case of sexual harassment. In addition to the records of the harassment, keep a detailed record of your performance evaluations, demotions, work shift changes, and other documentation that may help prove a change in your employer’s behavior toward you.

Because the courts take each sexual harassment case in context, evaluating the frequency and severity of the harassment, level of physical and psychological harm, the employer’s actions in trying to prevent the activity and other factors, it is imperative to keep a detailed written log of events surrounding your case.

Our experienced California sexual harassment lawyers at Whistleblower Law Group can help you determine what evidence is important to your case, how to legally collect that evidence, and how to proceed with your claim.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment

Part 12.

I Am a Victim of Sexual Harassment, What Should I Do?

The steps you take from the moment you first experience sexual harassment in the workplace can determine whether you may eventually be able to collect financial compensation. Whether or not you plan to file a claim for damages, your reputation, employment, career, and safety may be at stake. The following steps can help ensure your rights as a California employee are protected and can safeguard the potential for future financial compensation should you choose to seek it.

Step 1: Consult A California Sexual Harassment Attorney

Your initial consultation with a California sexual harassment lawyer will involve a confidential discussion about the harassment and whether or not your information qualifies you for financial compensation. Your lawyer will then explain how to proceed in collecting further evidence and how to craft language should you choose to speak with the harasser or your company about the harassment.

It is important to tell a harasser (hopefully in writing) to stop the unwanted activity, and to express your concerns about sexual harassment to your employer. An attorney’s guidance through these steps can be incredibly helpful to both your well-being and your case. Your attorney can guide you on when and how to confront the harasser, your supervisor, Human Resources, and others in a way that protects your privacy, your rights as an employee, and your potential case for financial compensation.

Having a California sexual harassment lawyer who is there from the start is an invaluable resource in helping to explain the complexities of California employment laws, making sure you follow the correct reporting procedures and statutes of limitations, protecting your rights, and helping you gather evidence to support your case. Our sexual harassment lawyers are available to assist you with any questions you may have in a free and fully confidential case consultation.

Step 2: Document All Incidents of Harassment

Again, it is important to keep a written diary of the times, dates, places, and details of the events each time something happens. It is also important that these notes are made immediately after the harassment occurs. Note the names of anyone present at the time who may be able to serve as eyewitnesses. Save all text messages, emails, notes, or other correspondence that may suggest sexual harassment. If possible and legal, take photos, video or audio recordings of the incidents. Record any missed work and any counseling sessions you may have had to deal with the harassment.

In addition to the records of the harassment, keep a detailed record of your performance evaluations, demotions, work shift changes, and other documentation that may help prove a change in your employer’s behavior toward you to help prove a case of employer retaliation if needed.

Step 3: File A Lawsuit For Financial Compensation

California employees have legal rights under federal and state law. When a company violates those laws, the employee has the right to file a claim for damages. An experienced California sexual harassment lawyer can help you determine whether you have a claim for financial compensation. Our team of medical experts and investigators is ready to look into your case and compile the necessary evidence to prove sexual harassment liability. Your experienced sexual harassment lawyer will lead you through the legal proceedings from start to finish and will fight to obtain the maximum compensation you deserve.

You may not have to go to trial to collect financial compensation for sexual harassment. Most often, companies being sued for sexual harassment are willing to settle and pay a substantial sum of money to end the case without going to trial. Settlements can be less time-intensive than trial and offer more privacy to the victim. In other cases, the victim may opt to continue to trial for a judge’s or jury’s decision.

Your ability to file a claim for financial compensation from sexual harassment in the workplace can expire fast.

Under California Government Code, § 12960(d), employees must file a sexual harassment claim within one year of the misconduct. Under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1), employees have only 300 days to file a claim. Victims of sexual assault in California must file a claim within 10 years or the misconduct.

There are exceptions to these deadlines. Your lawyer will be able to determine how long you have to file a claim depending on your specific circumstances.

Our experienced Whistleblower Law Group California sexual harassment lawyers can guide you through the complex process of filing a claim to collect the financial compensation you deserve. Our investigative team and legal staff are fully versed in the nuances of California employment law. We have prevailed in legal matters against numerous multi-million dollar companies and will battle to maximize your financial compensation.

More Questions About Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Do not hesitate to contact us with questions about your case. If you have further questions about what qualifies as workplace sexual harassment, California employee rights, employer retaliation or other concerns, please call the Whistleblower Law Group Team at 877.858.8018 or contact us online. We are happy to help and will work diligently to protect your privacy.

We also invite you to visit our FAQ section below and our specific industry subpages on our website.

APPENDIX

Sexual Harassment FAQ’s (frequently Asked Questions)

What type of conduct is considered sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is any unwelcome conduct based on gender that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Employees may file a claim for sexual harassment whether it is physical, verbal, or visual. Repeated flirting, staring, joking, stalking, unwanted emails, sexual texting, unwelcome compliments, unwanted touching, showing sexual photos, and making an employee wear immodest clothing can all be considered sexual harassment.

It can be same-sex harassment, opposite-sex harassment, coworker harassment, supervisor harassment, and even harassment by a customer or third-party contractor. [See Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment]

What is the difference between asking someone for a date and sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is conduct that is unwanted on the part of the victim. Asking someone on a date would not be sexual harassment if the receiver doesn’t mind the offer. However, if the offer offends the receiver, the action can be deemed sexual harassment.

Even if a person accepts the offer for a date, the offer can still be considered sexual harassment. Ongoing requests for dates may be required to prove hostile work environment sexual harassment, however, only one request for a date is required for quid pro quo sexual harassment, as long as the receiver’s job or other terms of employment are based on their response to the harasser’s request.

Can a man file a claim for sexual harassment against a woman?

Yes, and many do. While women make up the majority of our sexual harassment clients, we receive more and more calls from men coming forward to report workplace sexual harassment.

Can a woman file a claim for sexual harassment against a woman?

Anyone can file a claim for sexual harassment against anyone of any gender. We receive claims of sexual harassment between lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. All are protected under federal and California law. Sexual harassment claims can be filed against a member of the same sex even when neither party is homosexual or bisexual.

Does the sexual harassment have to be directed toward me to file a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim?

No. Under California law, sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment may affect more persons than just the intended victim. In these cases, the courts will consider the frequency, severity, and pervasiveness of the conduct, how harmful the conduct is to the affected employees, and whether the conduct reasonably interfered with work performance.

Can I file a sexual harassment claim even if I consented to sex with the harasser?

Yes. If you can demonstrate that the harasser placed undue pressure on you to participate in sexual activity (repeated requests for dates, threats regarding your employment or reputation) the employer may still be held liable for sexual harassment.

What financial compensation is available for workplace sexual harassment?

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has a statutory maximum placed on the amount of damages a victim can claim, California’s FEHA has no limit on the amount of punitive or compensatory damages. Because FEHA often offers stronger protections and larger financial compensations for employees, most California employees working in the retail, entertainment, and restaurant industries file for sexual harassment damages under FEHA.

Under FEHA, victims of sexual harassment can sue for past and future lost wages, back and future pay for lost benefits, medical costs, punitive damages, emotional distress, pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, litigation costs, court costs, expert witness fees, and injunctive relief. Your attorney can help ensure that you receive the maximum available financial compensation.

Who can file a claim to collect financial compensation for workplace sexual harassment?

Under federal and California state law, any employee of any company can file a claim for workplace sexual harassment.

What if my employer fires me for filing a sexual harassment claim?

If your employer is smart, they will not fire you for voicing any concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace. Under FEHA at California Government Code § 12940(h), it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against anyone for voicing their concerns about sexual harassment, filing a sexual harassment claim, or helping another person voice concerns or file a claim. Retaliation includes firing, demoting, expelling, denying a promotion, assigning different work shifts, or otherwise discriminating against an employee.

If an employer retaliates against an employee, the employee can sue for retaliation damages - even when they did not experience sexual harassment themselves. In fact, employees may collect an even larger sum of money for an employer retaliation case than for the original sexual harassment claim.

Do sexual harassment cases have to go to trial?

You may not have to go to trial to collect financial compensation for sexual harassment. Often, companies being sued for sexual harassment are willing to settle and pay a substantial sum of money to end the case without going to trial. Settlements can be less time-intensive than trial and offer more privacy to the victim. In other cases, the victim may opt to continue to trial for a decision.

Do I need proof of sexual harassment to file a claim?

No evidence is required to contact a sexual harassment lawyer about filing a claim. Your word is all that is necessary. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, your lawyer can help you gather the right evidence to support your case.

Various types of evidence are helpful in building a strong case of workplace sexual harassment, including your personal notes on the dates and times of events, names of any potential witnesses, phone records, text messages, audio or video recordings, emails, past complaints by other employees, sudden demotions or undesirable shift changes, sudden poor performance evaluations, and testimony from a therapist, co-worker, friend or family member. Your California sexual harassment lawyer can help you obtain this evidence.

What if there are no witnesses to support my claims of sexual harassment?

Many of our clients win financial compensation for workplace sexual harassment with no witnesses to the conduct. While witnesses are helpful as evidence, our investigative resources and legal team are able to construct a powerful, solid case for each client based on all the evidence available, including the credibility of the victim, history of the harasser, and other evidence.

When should I contact a sexual harassment lawyer?

You should call an experienced sexual harassment lawyer the moment you feel you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace - before you talk about it with the harasser, co-workers, a supervisor, or any other source. Your attorney can guide you on when and how to confront the harasser, your supervisor, Human Resources, and others in a way that protects your privacy, your rights as an employee, and your case for financial compensation.

Having a California sexual harassment lawyer who is there from the start is an invaluable resource in helping to explain the complexities of California employment laws, making sure you follow the correct reporting procedures and statutes of limitations, protecting your rights, and helping you gather evidence to support your case. Even if you don’t plan to file a claim, or are unsure whether you want to file a lawsuit, a free consultation with a lawyer can supply priceless advice.

What does a sexual harassment lawyer do?

An experienced California sexual harassment lawyer is the single most important tool that employees have to win a sexual harassment claim. From the moment you first become uncomfortable in the workplace due to sexual harassment, to the moment you cash your check for financial compensation – and beyond - the sexual harassment lawyer is helping guide your every move.

These experienced professionals understand and help their clients with:

  • How to maximize the financial compensation amount

  • How to protect your identity and career

  • How to protect your rights as an employee

  • How to pursue an anti-retaliation claim if necessary

  • How you should address the sexual harasser

  • The best means for approaching your specific sexual harassment claim

  • The complexities of California employment laws

  • The detailed procedures and statutes of limitations involved in reporting misconduct

  • What documents or evidence are helpful for your case

  • When and if you should voice your concerns to your employer

  • Whether you can legally obtain certain forms of evidence from the workplace

What happens once I contact a sexual harassment lawyer?

Your first consultation with a sexual harassment lawyer often involves a confidential discussion around your case and whether or not your information makes you eligible for financial compensation. Based on your specific information, your lawyer will discuss how best to proceed in a way that will protect your rights as an employee, how to collect further evidence, how to keep notes on employer activities, and how to craft language should you want to give your employer a chance to fix the problem before filing a claim. Should you choose to file a claim, your lawyer will then assist you in preparing your case, meeting required deadlines, maximizing your financial compensation, and safeguarding your rights.

Are there time limits on filing a sexual harassment lawsuit?

Yes! Your ability to file a claim for financial compensation from sexual harassment in the workplace can expire fast. Under California Government Code, § 12960(d), employees must file a sexual harassment claim within one year of the misconduct. Under the federal EEOC laws (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)), employees have only 300 days to file a claim. There are exceptions to these deadlines. Your lawyer will be able to determine how long you have to file a claim depending on your specific circumstances.

Learn More About California Workplace Sexual Harassment