Sexual Harassment Lawyers


Sexual Harassment Attorney in California

The California sexual harassment lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm believe employees deserve a safe and respectful working environment. If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or elsewhere, we’ll stand up and fight for the justice you deserve. Start a free and confidential case review with an experienced California employment attorney today.

Call us 24/7 at (800) 501-3011.

Justice with a California Sexual Harassment Law Firm

When sexual harassment occurs, you need an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to step in and hold individuals responsible for their inappropriate, harmful behaviors. It’s also crucial to hold companies liable for the harm that was allowed to occur in the workplace. The experienced sexual harassment lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm can help.

Nearly 40% of women and 14% of men experience sexual harassment in the workplace each year [1]. The problem is likely much worse since people rarely label their experience with sexually harassing behaviors as actual sexual harassment.

Over 70% of people don’t report sexual harassment to their bosses despite their right to work in a safe and respectful environment [2]. Often, the fear of retaliation stops them from making the report, or perhaps they don’t know about their rights.

No matter the situation, our California sexual harassment lawyers can fight for you. With strong legal support, holding all responsible parties accountable for the harm caused is possible. Learn more below and call us 24/7 to begin your free case review.

When sexual harassment occurs, promptly reporting the incident to your employer is important. In California, companies are required to take measures to ensure a harassment-free workplace, including promptly handling all claims.

If your employer does not adequately resolve the problem, seek legal help. Wilshire Law Firm’s experienced California sexual harassment lawyers have a track record of fighting for your right to work in a safe, respectful environment and hold the responsible parties accountable for causing you harm.

By taking legal action, you can find a suitable resolution and potentially recoup your losses due to the harassment. The court may consider awarding you an amount equal to your past and future lost wages, attorneys fees, and compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory and punitive damages can sometimes total between $50,000 and $300,000, depending on the company’s size [3].

Every case is unique, so to determine how much your case might be worth, start with a free case evaluation today.

How Filing a California Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Works

A sexual harassment lawsuit allows you to present your case in court and seek damages for the harm you endured. You should first to record information about each incident, including the date, time, who was involved, and what happened. Then, follow your employer’s sexual harassment policy on how to report the incident.

After that, report the incident to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [4]. These entities will investigate your claims and decide whether to pursue additional charges. Whether they go that route or not, you can proceed with your civil sexual harassment lawsuit.

For the best results, work closely with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer at Wilshire Law Firm to build and present your case in court. Our goal is to fight for your right to receive compensation from the responsible parties, including your employer.

If the judge rules in your favor, you may collect compensation that helps recoup your losses from unrealized wages, emotional distress, and harm to your reputation. Depending on the situation, the judge may apply punitive damages that financially punish the perpetrator for their actions.

Statute of Limitations on Sexual Harassment in California

Under the current law, you have three years to file your sexual harassment lawsuit in California courts. If you wait any longer than that, the court may not hear your case, leaving you without a way to recover your damages.

Before 2020, the statute of limitations was just one year. The AB-9 bill on employment discrimination increased the limit to three years to give people more time to pursue damages after getting sexually harassed at work [5].

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is inappropriate behavior in a professional or social setting that centers around unwelcome physical advances and sexual remarks. This form of sex discrimination can occur directly or through implicit sexual overtones, like sharing sexual fantasies or touching without consent.

The sexual harassment definition also covers sexual jokes, compliments, and other comments toward you or other people in the vicinity. Showing other people pornographic images or other sexually explicit content is sexual harassment as well. 

In 2017, the #MeToo movement revealed the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. More than 80% of women will experience sexual harassment or assault at work at least once in their careers [6]. A growing number of men have also started sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault, showing that it’s a widespread problem across all genders. The risk of sexual harassment goes up even more for LGBTQ people.

California Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment

In California, all unwanted verbal, physical, or visual sexual conduct falls under the legal definition of sexual harassment. The actions must create a hostile or otherwise intimidating work environment to move from inappropriate to outright harassment.

Sexual desire does not need to be the motivating factor, either. The actions just need to target someone’s sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, whether real or perceived. Targeting someone who’s pregnant, just went through childbirth, or has similar medical conditions is also deemed sexual harassment.

California recognizes how sexual harassment affects co-workers as well. When the harassment causes a hostile work environment, all individuals subject to those behaviors may have the right to file a claim against the responsible parties.

Sexual Harassment Statistics

  • One in five women experience sexual harassment or assault in their lifetimes
  • Over 40% of men have been sexually harassed at least once in their lives
  • Nearly 70% of LGBT people have experienced sexual harassment at work [7]
  • Well over 70% of people do not report sexual harassment that happens at work
  • California has a 5% to 10% higher rate of sexual harassment than the national average [8]
  • Over 400,000 women and one million men admitted to sexually harassing someone in 2022 [9]

The EEOC saw over 27,900 sexual harassment charges come through from 2018 to 2021 [10]

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Does someone in your workplace make you a target of inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances? If so, you’re not alone. Sexual harassment happens to people of all ages and genders, and it’s especially problematic in the workplace.

Sexual harassment in the workplace has always been a problem, but the #MeToo movement shined a light on just how bad it is. The risk is higher in male-dominated industries, isolated work environments, and where power imbalances fester [11]. There’s no workplace that’s truly invulnerable, though, making it essential for all employers to stay diligent in preventing harassment at all levels of their companies.

Companies and Required Sexual Harassment Training in California

Sexual harassment training is critical for employers to help protect all their employees and create a safe, respectful work environment. This type of training is required for all companies with five or more employees in California. This rule was enacted in 2019 when Senate Bill No. 1343 amended the government code requiring training for companies with 50 or more employees [12].

Even smaller companies must now have their employees in both supervisory and non-supervisory roles complete the one to two-hour training every two years. The training covers identifying, preventing, and handling sexual harassment. It includes an abusive conduct prevention module that further improves workplace safety. Instructors use written materials, verbal instruction, and practical examples to inform all employees how to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation effectively.

What to Do if Sexually Harassed at Work?

If you were sexually harassed at work, speaking up right away is the best thing to do. You have rights and protections under state and federal law, so don’t let fear of retaliation keep you from reporting the harassment.

Review your Company’s Sexual Harassment Policy

Before reporting the incident, check your employer’s sexual harassment policy. This policy can help you move through the reporting steps without repeating your story more than necessary.

If you are in a union, you may also want to review the union’s policy on reporting sexual harassment. You can always ask your union rep for support if you cannot find any policy info or don’t know how to proceed.

If you cannot find a sexual harassment policy, talk to your supervisor, human resources specialist, or another trusted management professional. They will direct you on how to best report the incident to the company.

How to Report Sexual Harassment

Once you know how to proceed, follow these steps in reporting sexual harassment in your workplace.

  1. Tell the person who’s making you uncomfortable that they’re behaving inappropriately if you feel safe doing so
  2. Record all details of each sexual harassment incident, including names, dates, times, and precisely what occurred
  3. Write down any witnesses that may have seen or heard the harassment taking place nearby
  4. Report the incident to your employer by following their policy or moving forward as instructed by your supervisor, human resources specialist, or union rep.
  5. Make an external report with the EEOC or DFEH within 180 days of the sexual harassment incident

After you finish the reporting process, contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer for additional support. Wilshire Law Firm will take time to learn about the incident and help you decide if you want to move forward in filing a lawsuit.

About Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when comments, imagery, or physical advances interfere with your ability to complete your job duties. Your work performance may suffer due to feeling unsafe, disruptions in the work environment, or as an effect of the sex discrimination you face.

No matter the cause, the decline in your work performance can put your job at risk and impact your bottom line. This could result in lost wages and affect your future ability to make a living. In some cases, the performance decline could even harm your professional reputation and have a lasting impact on your career.

The Problem of Retaliation for Sexual Harassment

The EEOC prohibits people from retaliating against someone for filing sexual harassment claims [13]. Even if the claims are untrue, retaliating is illegal if the person reporting the incident did so in good faith.

Reporting sexual harassment is protected under the law, giving the reporting party protection after filing their claims. These protections extend to people who resisted sexual advances, witnessed a sexual harassment incident, or refused to participate in sex discrimination against another person.

Although asserting your rights is a protected activity, the fear of retaliation may make it difficult to feel comfortable reporting the incident. You can contact the EEOC for support before speaking with your employer.

When to Call the Sexual Harassment Hotline

The Rape, Abuse, & Incent National Network, or RAINN organization, supports those who’ve experienced sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence [14]. They’re the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country and provide access to supportive resources to people in every U.S. city.

You should call the RAINN hotline whenever you don’t know how to report or handle sexual harassment or assault. They’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long at 800-656-4673. Their phone system will route your call to a local organization prepared to help you move through the necessary steps to protect yourself or others.

You can call RAINN if you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or witnessed an incident. They will direct you on how best to proceed through the appropriate steps to handle the situation.

Sexual Harassment Laws in California

In California, sexual harassment is illegal under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. It’s also illegal under federal law since it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both of these laws effectively prohibit discrimination in the workplace and all other social settings. They help people who’ve experienced sexual harassment find a way forward and recoup their losses through the local court system.

Title VII Sexual Harassment

Any harassment that occurs due to the sex of another person violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [15]. This act protects people from being treated differently due to their sex and other protected classes.

Under this act, sexual harassment occurs when accepting sexually charged comments, physical conduct, or imagery is a condition of remaining gainfully employed by the company. The behavior also falls under harassment when it creates an offensive, intimidating, or otherwise hostile work environment.

Title IX Sexual Harassment

Title IX helps prevent sexual harassment in schools by requiring educational institutions to implement grievance procedures [16]. That way, people within the educational system can file complaints against the responsible parties when sex discrimination occurs.

This civil rights law applies to all schools that receive federal funding. The rules apply to scholars and staff, helping create a safe, educational environment. When sexual harassment occurs, schools must promptly stop the inappropriate behaviors, investigate the claims, and provide equitable resolutions.

Types of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace usually falls under two main categories, quid pro quo, and hostile work environment. Both situations violate state and federal civil rights laws and should be reported as soon as they occur.

Quid pro quo occurs when someone in a position of power requests sexual favors or requires acceptance of the harassment in exchange for something or to avoid a bad situation. For example, a manager may either promise a promotion or threaten to fire the employee if they refuse to commit a sexual act with them.

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the sexual remarks or behaviors impact your ability to complete your job duties. Work performance usually suffers, potentially making it impossible to keep your job and earn money. Sexual harassment does not have to occur daily to create a hostile work environment. Occasional remarks and advances are all it takes to make the workplace feel unsafe. 

Sexual Harassment Examples

Sexual harassment can be challenging to identify, especially if it only happens occasionally or in a joking manner. Knowing what to look for can help you notice when it occurs and see the situation for what it is. Here are some examples to help you understand what qualifies as sexual harassment.

Verbal sexual harassment occurs when someone shares sexual fantasies, jokes, or other inappropriate commentary at work or in other social settings.

Non-verbal sexual harassment includes inappropriate touching, sexual gestures, facial expressions, and other potentially demeaning physical acts in a professional environment.

Online sexual harassment may involve using imagery or the written word to share sexual content with someone without consent.

Ride share sexual harassment is an example of sexual harassment outside your workplace. In recent years, drivers have come under fire for sexually harassing their passengers or committing acts of sexual violence against them [17]. The company was also held responsible because it didn’t try to prevent or handle the situation appropriately upon receiving the complaints.

Sexual Harassment vs Sexual Assault

Sexual harassment is discrimination based on sex that prevents you from doing your job or properly fulfilling your role at the company. Sexual assault is intentional physical contact without consent due to force, threats, intimidation, or coercion. Both situations are types of sexual violence.

Sexual harassment can quickly lead to a sexual assault occurring. By reporting the harassment at the first sign of a problem, you do all you can to prevent the situation from escalating. If you feel at risk of retaliation, let someone know immediately and remove yourself from the situation.

If you’re a victim of sexual assault, you should call the authorities right away. If you’re not comfortable calling 9-1-1, reach out to the RAINN hotline at 800-656-4673. Sexual assault is a crime that may result in prison time and other repercussions for the accused if they’re found guilty in a court of law.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment

Companies in California with more than five employees are required to prevent sexual harassment by putting all their employees through regular training. Completion of each training module gives employees the ability to spot inappropriate behaviors, report them to the proper entities, and prevent retaliation.

Putting sexual harassment policies in place can also help create a safe, respectful work environment for all employees. These policies instruct employees on how to conduct themselves in the workplace and what to do if harassment occurs. All employers should take claims of sexual harassment seriously as well by investigating all incidents and enacting a prompt, equitable resolution.

Free Case Review with a California Sexual Harassment Attorney

Were you a victim of sexual harassment in your workplace? Did your employer fail to appropriately resolve the situation to your satisfaction? If so, you can get the justice you deserve by filing a lawsuit against the individual who harassed you and your employer.

As your trusted sexual harassment lawyer in California, our team at Wilshire Law Firm will help you fight for your rights. We understand what counts as sexual harassment in California, and we’re well-prepared to prove your claims in court. 

Since we started our firm in 2007, we’ve helped our clients recover more than $1 billion in damages and we’re ready to help you recoup your losses as well.

To get started, call us 24/7 at (800) 501-3011.

Upon receiving your call, we’ll help you schedule a convenient appointment with our sexual harassment attorneys. Our lawyers will then take the time to evaluate your case and help you understand your options.

Common Questions About California Sexual Harassment Cases

Can you sue for sexual harassment?

You can sue for sexual harassment in California and many other states. The court may deem your employer and the person who sexually harassed you responsible for the damages. An experienced lawyer can help you decide whom to list on the lawsuit and how to proceed with your case.

Is sexual harassment a crime?

Sexual harassment generally violates civil law but does not cross over into criminal law territory unless sexual assault occurs. The frequency and severity of the inappropriate commentary determine whether it’s unlawful. If the comments create a hostile, offensive, or otherwise unsafe environment, they’re likely prohibited under state and federal law.

Is sexual harassment a form of discrimination?

Sexual harassment is considered sex discrimination under state and federal law. Everything from requests for sexual favors to unwelcome massages falls under the umbrella of sex discrimination. Even vulgar jokes, comments, and gestures that do not directly target you may be sexual harassment under the law.

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