The following story is an example of what employees go through on a regular basis and something you might be going through in this moment:

“John, Kristen’s manager, asks her to join him in his office so they may go over the schedule and other items on a frequent basis. But after some time, he starts making comments about her outfits, her appearance, and even starts asking Kristen private questions about her dating history and sexual preferences.

Have you ever heard something like this before? You may have even lived it and very few people know that this is considered sexual harassment. But, why do many people not consider this to be inappropriate or even call it out? What can you do if you are seen in a similar situation?

At the workplace, Kristen sees John looking at her for lengthy periods of time throughout the day. He sends her late-night texts claiming that he liked what she wore to work that day or that he can’t get his mind off her. He also stops by her office after everyone else has gone to gripe about his nonexistent sex life with his wife.

John’s unwanted attention and sexual conduct continues over many months, with Kristen feeling uncomfortable and unsure of what to do, how to stop it, or if her job is in jeopardy. Finally, she demands that he stop his behavior.  John stops meeting with Kristen and begins a campaign of discrediting her work ethic and performance.”

What is Sexual Harassment?

In legal terms, sexual harassment occurs when an unwelcome sexual advance or behavior at work creates an intimidating, hostile, or negative working environment. In real life, workplace sexual harassment ranges from inappropriate touching of breasts or genitals, butt smacking, rape, other types of sexual assault, demands for sexual favors, sexually explicit remarks, uninvited massages, and/or sexually suggestive gestures.

In today’s workplace, subtle forms of sexual harassment are on the rise in comparison to overt types. Any of the following behaviors can be sexual harassment if they occur frequently or are severe enough to make an employee uncomfortable, frightened, or preoccupied enough to impair their job performance:

  • Employee’s looks are constantly complimented by a superior.
  • Discussing one’s sex life in front of an employee
  • Asking an employee about their sex life
  • At work, people are circulating nude photos or images of women in bikinis or shirtless men.
  • Making sexual anecdotes
  • Sending sexually suggestive texts and emails.
  • Giving unwanted gifts of a sexual or romantic nature
  • Spreading sexual rumors about an employee
  • Repeatedly hugging or touching an employee against their will
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Types of Sexual Harassment

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Fair Employment and Housing Act specifically prohibits Sexual Harassment in the workplace and can even find the conduct a form of discrimination under FEHA’s Government Code section 12940(j). Generally, there are two types of sexual harassment.

First, the form of “quid pro quo” sexual harassment which is the granting or denial of employment related benefits in exchange for or expectation of a sexual relationship.  This not only includes the condition of giving a job, promotion, or benefit for sex, but also the threat of denying a job, promotion, or benefit if the sexual favor is not granted. In essence, it is a sexual advance on the condition of a sexual favor.

Second, is a hostile work environment in which the workplace conduct or atmosphere unreasonably interferes with the employee’s ability to perform or creates an atmosphere of intimidation or offensive working environment. Therefore, even if there are no sexual favors requested or conditioned for your employment benefits, a highly sexualized and offensive work environment is still a form of sexual harassment. Generally, this means that sexual favors (not conditioned on employment benefits) will qualify as sexual harassment under a hostile work environment theory.

However, even sexual favoritism may be actionable as a form of sexual harassment if there is widespread sexual favoritism or other conduct that would reasonably lead you to believe that you can only benefit by engaging in inappropriate conduct or become sexually involved with superiors.

Who May be Held Responsible for Sexual Harassment? 

The prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace protects all employees, including salaried employees, part time employees, employees through a temp agency, and even unpaid volunteers or interns. Moreover, the law applies to corporations, government entities, and small businesses.

Generally, the individual who commits the sexual harassment may be named as a defendant and may be held responsible in his individual capacity.  However, many individuals do not have the funds to compensate you for the sexual harassment.  The  most likely way to be compensated for the sexual harassment is to hold the employer responsible for their employee’s wrongful conduct.

If the perpetrator of the sexual harassment is your supervisor, manager, or a higher-up, the business entity will likely be held responsible for the conduct, even if the entity was not aware of the conduct.  However, if the perpetrator is of the same or similar position (i.e. not a supervisor), the employer may only be held responsible if they were negligent. In other words, you would have to prove that the employer (managers, supervisors, human resources, etc.) knew about the sexual harassment or should have known of the harassment and failed to stop the conduct, correct the conduct, and failed to protect you from any further sexual harassment.

Few people know that an employer may also be held responsible for sexual harassment if the conduct is perpetrated even by a non-employee, like a customer or client.  However, the same negligence standard applies and you would need to prove that the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take action to correct and prevent further sexual harassment.

Can Any Inappropriate Conduct Be Considered “Sexual Harassment”?

While a quid pro quo form of sexual harassment need not be severe, to bring an action under a hostile work environment, the law requires that the harassment be “so severe or pervasive” as to change the conditions of the employment or create an abusive environment. In other words, in some instances, a single isolated incident of inappropriate conduct may not always qualify. The conduct must be severe or even less severe conduct that is repeated or routine.

Whether the harassment qualifies as “severe or pervasive” will be judged from the perspective of a “reasonable person” in the Plaintiff’s circumstances.  Therefore, the claim depends on both what was said, how improper the conduct was, and how often it occurs.  Even a single instance of inappropriate conduct may qualify if the conduct is severe enough and seemingly slightly inappropriate conduct may qualify if it is pervasive and repeated.

To be considered a hostile work environment, the conduct must be offensive not only to the victim but also to a reasonable person in the same circumstances. A woman might be really upset that a male colleague complimented her haircut and opened the door for her on his way into work. The average person, however, would likely consider this behavior alone insufficient to meet the criteria of sexual harassment.

Are Both Women and Men Allowed to Call Out Someone For Sexual Harassment?

It is prohibited to treat a person (an applicant or employee) differently because of their sex. Harassment does not have to be sexual in order to be considered illegal; it may also include insults regarding a person’s gender. For example, it is against the law to harass a lady by making insulting statements about women in general.’

It’s possible for a woman to be the victim and a man the offender, as well as vice versa.

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What Can You Do If You Are Suffering from Sexual Harassment?

It’s best to start by telling the harasser to stop. Although this conflict might be tough for you, it is frequently the most effective approach to dealing with harassment. If you’re concerned for your personal safety or are afraid the assaulter will become more violent if confronted, talk to a higher-level boss instead.

If you can’t get the behavior to stop, you should escalate your complaint within the company. Check your company’s employee handbook, personnel rules, or manual for sexual harassment or complaint policy.

Is there a sexual harassment or grievance procedure in place? If your employer does not have a specific policy on this issue, it is more likely that they don’t. If you think you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment at work for the first time, follow the steps outlined in our article on what to do if you’re sexually harassed at work.

Even if your firm doesn’t have a formal complaint procedure, you should notify the organization of the harassment. You might do so by making a complaint to the human resources department, telling your supervisor (or his or her supervisor), or informing a company executive.

It’s critical to keep a diary of your experiences and actions if you ever have to present evidence in court, before a company investigator, a government agency, or a jury.

Begin by gathering as much detailed proof as possible of the abuse. Keep any offensive letters, photographs, cards, or notes you receive. If you were made to feel uncomfortable as a result of jokes, pin-ups, or cartoons posted on the company’s intranet, remove them — or at least make copies. Because an evil photo or joke posted on a bulletin board is not anybody else’s personal property, you are legally entitled to take it down and keep it as proof.

Take pictures of the workplace walls if that’s not an option. Keep track of when the defamatory material was published and whether there were any hostile reactions when you took it down or asked someone else to do so.

What Can I Recover if I’m Sexually Harassed at Work?

If you are able to prove the sexual harassment, you may be compensated for

(1)  Backpay: the amount of compensation you would have earned had the discrimination and harassment not resulted in the loss of employment;

(2)  Emotional Distress: both past and future emotional distress that arises from the conduct.

(3)  Punitive Damages: an award to punish the defendant if the conduct was significantly oppressive or with malice.

(4)  Attorney’s Fees: all reasonable attorney’s fees in bringing an action arising form the sexual harassment.

What Should I Do If I Want to File a Lawsuit?

Even if you plan on filing a lawsuit from the start, you may have to file a claim with a government agency at some point. For example, in order to bring an employment-related lawsuit under federal law, you must first submit a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC or a state agency may choose to pursue your case on your behalf, but it is unlikely. More often, the agency will give you a “right-to-sue” letter, allowing you to proceed with your own counsel and file a lawsuit against the employer.

Should you feel like you have been harmed by sexual or non-sexual harassment in the workplace, there are steps you can take to file a harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

To pursue such a claim, you must be able to show that your employer attempted to address the harassing behavior and that the harasser refused to stop.

It’s critical that you first notify your employer’s human resources department, as well as take detailed notes of the dates, times, and specifics of the events. You must file a claim with the EEOC within 180 days by mail, in person, or by calling 800-669-4000 if attempts to correct the problem fail.

Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Los Angeles

Employees are the backbone of the country’s foundation. An employee may be the target of treatments that are both unethical and illegal at times. These are precisely the situations when an employee might feel intimidated by their employer or believe they have no option.

As a result, we at Kirakosian Law APC have committed ourselves to ensure that all personnel rights are safeguarded. Our firm is dedicated to defending the rights of workers who have been harassed, paid unfairly, treated unjustly, or wronged by their employers.

An attorney who understands the law and what to do when a company or employer has harmed your rights is an important benefit. Many employees allow themselves to be exploited by large firms, thinking they have no legal options. Mr. Kirakosian, on the other hand, has the experience and knowledge to give high-quality legal representation in any “David vs. Goliath” scenario.

Kirakosian Law APC has represented companies and organizations that have violated workers’ rights to ensure that their rights are protected.

If mediation fails to result in an acceptable agreement, we are prepared to go to trial in a civil case.