Can You Sue for Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in California. Despite having laws in place to protect workers, hundreds of victims experience sexual harassment at work on a daily basis. Many of these employees believe what they hear from their employers or others: that they cannot do anything about a hostile work environment and must tolerate it to keep the job. In reality, you can take many actions to stop sexual harassment, including filing a lawsuit.

Steps to Take Before Filing a Lawsuit

In most cases, you cannot jump straight into litigation for workplace sexual harassment. The law in California requires you to take other steps to stop the issue before filing a claim with the civil courts. You have a few options available to you to stop sexual harassment at work before needing to litigate. First, take up the issue directly with your place of employment. If you do not feel comfortable confronting the harasser, go to your company’s human resources office to file a complaint instead. Most workplaces in California offer anonymous reporting methods.

Human resources should have a protocol in place for sexual harassment complaints. It should take your claim seriously, investigate and respond appropriately to resolve the issue. If the company does not treat you fairly or take your claim seriously, proceed to the next step – filing an official complaint with an agency. You may seek a resolution through either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (CFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They cross-reference each other, so you do not have to file with both.

The agency you file a complaint with will investigate the situation. It may ask you for more details, such as the date, times and location of harassment behaviors. Keep a record of the harassment you experienced and your attempts to resolve the issue internally to show the CFEH or EEOC. The agency will then take steps to resolve your issue, such as hosting a mediation with your employer. If these attempts fail, you will receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the agency. This document confirms the validity of your allegations and gives you the right to proceed with litigation.

When Can You Sue for Sexual Harassment?

Multiple laws give you the right to file a lawsuit for sexual harassment in California. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Housing and Employment Act both protect you from sexual advances at work. If an employer or coworker violates these laws, you have the legal right to seek a remedy through a civil lawsuit. If you have attempted to resolve the issue through other methods first, you can proceed to court for sexual assault or unwanted advances.

In general, you will not have grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit after a single isolated event, unless the incident was severe in nature. Typically, sexual harassment must be persistent enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment. You must also have suffered compensable losses because of sexual harassment, such as job termination or a demotion. If you have all the correct elements of a sexual harassment lawsuit in California and have received your Right to Sue notice from a state or federal agency, you may proceed to court.

Hire an Orange County sexual harassment lawyer at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for your best odds of bringing a successful lawsuit. It will be up to your side of the case to prove the existence of sexual harassment and your related damages. A sexual harassment lawsuit in California could reimburse you for several losses if you can fulfill your burden of proof. As the victim of sexual harassment or assault, you could receive financial compensation for your economic and noneconomic damages, including lost wages, job reinstatement, legal fees, and pain and suffering. Work closely with a sexual harassment attorney to optimize your odds of a successful lawsuit.