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Dating Apps and Consent

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Dating Apps and Consent

Written by John Winer September 27, 2019 A current criminal trial against a former University of Delaware baseball player who… read more

Is Law Enforcement the Next Industry to Face #MeToo?

By John D. Winer August 16, 2018 With the arrival of the #MeToo movement, one of the last industries to… read more

Sexual Misconduct and Airlines: When Flying the Friendly Skies Becomes Too Friendly

Written by John D. Winer Air travel is a strange proposition. Between the time doors on the plane close and… read more

California Sexual Harassment Attorneys

Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination in the workplace that violates California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. California’s Department of Justice states that sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances or actions of a sexual nature that create a hostile or offensive work environment. California law does not require that sexual desire motivate harassment; instead, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical conditions could motivate harassment. This broad definition includes a wide variety of offensive behaviors and same sex harassment based on gender that subjects colleagues to a hostile work environment. If you were sexually harassed at your workplace in California, you do not have to endure continued harassment.

Don’t fight alone.Let an experienced California sexual harassment attorney advocate for you and seek the justice you deserve. Contact Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, at (800) 652-6137 for a confidential, free consultation to discuss the details of your case and the ways in which we can help you.

Our Sexual Harassment Practice Areas

The team at Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, has extensive experience negotiating, settling, and litigating sexual harassment lawsuits. We aggressively pursue justice and seek the best possible outcome for your situation. We have recovered more than $100,000,000 in damages for past clients in the following types of sexual harassment cases.

  • Employee-employee harassment
  • Manager-employee harassment
  • Gender discrimination
  • Male victims of sexual harassment
  • Hostile work environment
  • Obscene or offensive gestures harassment
  • Physical harassment
  • Demands for sexual favors
  • Same-sex sexual harassment
  • Stalking harassment at work
  • Unwanted attention harassment
  • Unwelcome touching or grabbing harassment
  • Verbal abuse at work

These areas are not always mutually exclusive, so if your situation doesn’t fit neatly into one of these boxes, call us. Our vast experience will help you through whatever sexual harassment you have dealt with at your place of employment.

  • How Does California Define Sexual Harassment?

    California law defines sexual harassment as “unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lists the following prohibited behaviors as examples of sexual harassment in California.

    • Visual actions include leering, sexual gestures, and displaying suggestive objects or media in the workplace.
    • Verbal actions include derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, and jokes. Sexually suggestive verbal abuse, graphic commentary about a person’s body, and sexually degrading words aimed at an individual also constitute verbal harassment.
    • Physical actions include unwanted touching, sexual assault, and impeding or blocking a person’s movement
    • Offering employment benefits such as a raise, vacation time, or any kind of special treatment in exchange for sexual favors is a form of harassment.
    • Acting or threatening to act in a retaliatory manner after a negative response to sexual advances is another example of sexual harassment in the workplace.
    Changes in Sexual Harassment Laws in California

    California recognizes two broad types of sexual harassment – quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment takes place when an employer makes an employment decision based upon an employee’s acceptance or rejection of sexual advances or requests for favors. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when the unwelcome actions of management, colleagues, customers, or anyone else with whom an employee professionally interacts creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive atmosphere.

    California’s laws have historically been more progressive than other states’ and more specific than federal laws and mandates that concern sexual harassment. In response to the #MeToo movement and subsequent sexual harassment claims, Gov. Jerry Brown signed four bills into law in September 2018 that increase the state’s enforcement of sexual harassment laws and streamline the process for victims to take legal action. Each of the following bills are now part of the California Civil Code:

    California Senate Bill 820. Some settlement agreements in California include confidentiality clauses that prevent a victim from suing employers and harassers for civil damages. Senate Bill 820 makes these agreements illegal, so victims can hold employers and harassers accountable to the full extent of the law. If claimants are part of a government agency or public officials, the bill allows the claimants to shield their identities at their own request.

    California Senate Bill 1300. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it illegal for an employer or colleague to harass and employee. FEHA also makes employers liable for sexual harassment by non-employees, including applicants, interns, volunteers, and contract employees. Senate Bill 1300 expands an employer’s liability by including the acts of non-employees in regards to other harassment activity. In addition, employers cannot force employees to sign a waiver or any kind of contract that prevents them from disclosing information about sexual harassment and other illegal workplace activity.

    Other additions to California’s sexual harassment law from Senate Bill 1300 include an authorization to include bystander intervention training for employees as part of the state requirement to provide sexual harassment training. Finally, after a court finds a verdict in a civil action, it typically awards fees and costs to the prevailing party. Defendants in sexual harassment lawsuits are now prohibited from collecting fees and costs unless the court finds the suit was frivolous.

    California Senate Bill 1343. Under California law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees within six months of stepping into their positions, with recurring training every two years. Senate Bill 1343 expanded the training requirement to include employers with five or more employees, including temporary or seasonal employees. In addition, all non-supervisory employees must have one hour of sexual harassment training. California employers have until January 1, 2020, to comply.

    California Senate Bill 826. Across the nation and in California women remain absent or scarce as members of the boards of public companies. Based on the theory that the presence of women at the highest levels of decision making will change how companies handle sexual harassment and discrimination, Senate Bill 826 requires California’s public companies to have at least one woman on the board of directors by the end of 2019 and two women by the end of 2021.

    When Do Bad Manners and Poor Behavior Become Sexual Harassment?

    A fine line exists between a person with bad manners and poor behavior and a person who is sexually harassing another. Not all behaviors that you might find offensive constitute unlawful harassing behavior. Previous sexual harassment cases in California demonstrate the threshold for unlawful conduct in regards to the following harassing behaviors.

    • Unwelcome physical touching. Unwelcome physical touch is the clearest form of sexual harassment when that touch is sexually charges. Yet, different circumstances might yield different responses from a California court. In Mokler v. County of Orange, Californi’s Fourth District Court found the defendant’s behavior was out of line, but did not qualify as sexual harassment. The claimant’s employer gave her a hug and touched her breast while doing so. In other cases, outright touching such as touching thighs or genitals and repeatedly touching breasts or buttocks meet the court’s threshold for sexual harassment.
    • Verbal remarks. Simple name-calling doesn’t typically give justification for a sexual harassment claims, unless the remarks are sever and persistent. In most cases, verbal remarks must target a specific protected group. In Miller v. Department of Corrections, Californ’s Fourth District Court found that sexist comments that use demeaning and gender-specific terms constitute sexual harassment. If someone continues to verbally harass you and does so in a severe manner, you might have grounds for a complaint.
    • Workplace propositions. It’s not illegal to ask a colleague on a date, but if the colleague says no, continued pursuit of a romantic relationship can easily cross the line into unlawful conduct. If someone makes repeated advances, punishes an employee for refusal, or begins stalking an employee, for example, that person has acted unlawfully. Implied as well as explicit verbal workplace propositions could constitute harassment.
    • Sexual affairs at the workplace. When coworkers have an affair, especially if one of them holds a supervisory position over another, it blurs the line between consensual behavior and a quid pro quo relationship. When a supervisor or manager has an affair with an employee and plays favorites or gives unequal treatment to employees because of that relationship, it creates an atmosphere of sexual favoritism in the workplace that very easily might cross over into unlawful sexual conduct. Widespread favoritism creates a hostile work environment for other employees who might feel they need to sleep with their superiors to get ahead in their job.
    Steps to Take if You Are a Victim of Sexual Harassment

    Sexual harassment might take the form of a one-time behavior, but many times it manifests as a pattern of ongoing conduct. If you are dealing with harassing behavior, you might feel frustrated, concerned about retaliation if you take action, or generally confused about the best way to proceed. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can help answer your questions and, if appropriate, guide you through the legal and regulatory processes of reporting and seeking compensation for sexual harassment. You can take other steps before you consult a lawyer (although, we believe the sooner a victim speaks with an attorney about the harassment, the better):

    • If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and report the incident to your local police department.
    • If you were sexually assaulted, visit your local emergency department for a health exam and treatment as soon as possible.
    • Research your company’s sexual harassment policy. Beware: Workplace sexual harassment policies exist to protect your employer more than to protect you. Consult and attorney before pursuing a workplace complaint.
    • Write down any communication with a harasser, or any communication with a supervisor or other person about the harassment you’ve experienced. Keep detailed records of harassment that include the name of the harasser, witnesses, times, and places. Make sure to keep your records on a personal computer or in a personal diary, so that your employer cannot claim they belong t the employer and not you.
    • Keep copies of employment-related documents such as job evaluations, memos, letters, or anything that speaks to the quality of your work. This will prevent your employer from claiming that your job performance is poor if your employer tries to retaliate against you after you file an internal or external complaint.
    Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim in California

    California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is tasked with protecting Californians from unlawful employment practices such as discrimination and sexual harassment. You can file a complaint with DFEH online, by mail, or over the phone. DFEH requires you to fill out an intake form for you to have an interview with a representative to evaluate your complaint. If the representative accepts your complaint, the agency will begin a formal investigation into your sexual harassment claims.

    The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws about discrimination and sexual harassment. You do not have to file a complaint with both agencies. Once you file a complaint with DFEH, they will cross-file your complaint with the EEOC. If you are a federal employee, DEFH does not have jurisdiction over your sexual harassment claim – you will need to file a complaint with the EEOC.

    At Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, we generally encourage victims of sexual harassment to consult an attorney before filing a DFEH complaint if possible. Because of time limits to filing such a complaint, we also encourage victims of sexual harassment to speak with an experienced workplace discrimination attorney as soon as possible after the harassment occurs.

    Contact Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, TOday for a Free Consultation

    Sexual harassment in the workplace is a traumatic experience that seeps into all aspects of your life. You might have trouble concentrating, sleeping, or working. You might feel worried about taking action because of potential retaliation and carry feelings of guilt and embarrassment. You might even second-guess yourself about whether the problem is on your end, no the harasser’s. Trust us, it’s not.

    The sooner you consult a seasoned California sexual harassment attorney, the sooner you can protect yourself (and others) against further harassment and begin the process of recovering the compensation due to you. If you were sexually harassed at your California workplace, contact Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, online today or call (800) 652-6137 for a confidential and free consultation to discuss how we may help.

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