Sacramento Sexual Harassment Lawyer

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Sacramento Sexual Harassment Attorney

Sacramento Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Sexual harassment can affect anyone in the workplace, regardless of gender. It is a form of sex discrimination defined as unwanted sexual advances, requests, or verbal or physical conduct toward another. Though predominantly characterized using employers to subordinate, harassers and their victims can hold any status in the workplace.

If not addressed appropriately, sexual harassment can lead to a hostile working environment. If you or someone you know has been in a situation like this, you should consider speaking with a Sacramento sexual harassment lawyer for help. A lawyer can help review your situation and advise on the necessary legal steps you should take.

Fighting to End Sexual Harassment in California

The Sacramento law firm of Asbill Law Group offers sound legal advice, personal guidance, and dedicated representation to employees throughout central and northern California who feel they have been the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Many of our clients first contact us for answers to important questions: What is sexual harassment? How do I prove I am working in a hostile environment? How do I make the behavior stop? For honest answers and straightforward advice, simply contact us today.

Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, and Quid Pro Quo

Under California law, in order to establish sexual harassment, it is necessary to prove that the conduct is severe or pervasive and that it affects an employee’s ability to work. This is what is known as a “hostile work environment.” It is not necessary that you be the target of the behavior. Repeatedly witnessing inappropriate actions and comments can cause the work environment to be hostile.

Another form of sexual harassment is known as quid pro quo. To put it simply, this is a situation in which a manager, supervisor, or other superior promises a raise, bonus, or career advancement in exchange for sexual favors. The opposite situation may also occur, in which the person in a position of power threatens demotion or other consequences if these favors are not provided.

It is important to understand that if a coworker is touching you or making comments of sexual nature, you should make every effort to make sure the coworker knows that this conduct is unwelcome.

In most sexual harassment cases we see, there is a pattern of behavior and ignored complaints. Employers may be held strictly liable under California law for sexual harassment by a supervisor if they fail to take prompt corrective action following a report of harassment.

What should I do if I think I have been sexually harassed?

If you think you have been sexually harassed, there are important steps to take to protect yourself and your career.

In many cases, speaking directly to the harasser and clearly stating the conduct is unwelcome is enough. In cases of subtle harassment, the perpetrator may not be aware their behavior has crossed a line or is unwelcome.

However, if you feel directly addressing the unwanted sexual conduct will jeopardize your career or safety, you may speak to someone in a position of authority, like a supervisor or an HR representative.

It can be helpful to review your employer’s policies on sexual harassment and follow the reporting procedures. Addressing sexual harassment through the internal process may not stop the behavior, but it is necessary.

Most organizations have built-in sexual harassment policies to aid them in legal disputes. Sexual harassment lawsuits can be expensive when plaid out in court. Company policies help prevent, address, and resolve sexual harassment complaints before they become more significant legal matters.

If a victim of sexual harassment fails to notify a manager, perpetrator, or HR, it can be challenging to establish a case.

If you feel reporting the unwanted sexual conduct will negatively impact your career, it is important to know that retaliation is prohibited by federal and state laws.

Another critical task is collecting evidence as soon as the harassment begins. This may be as simple as recording the time, date, and description of events in a logbook or calendar. If the sexual harassment continues or escalates despite following internal procedures, keep track of the events, who you have reported the unwanted behavior to, and what steps the company has taken to resolve the problem. In addition, collect any memos, emails, texts, recordings, witnesses, or other victims willing to share their experience.

I feel uncomfortable around my co-worker. How do I know if my co-worker’s conduct qualifies as sexual harassment?

Feeling uncomfortable around a co-worker can make work-life stressful. Knowing if your colleague’s conduct qualifies as sexual harassment is essential to stopping the behavior in the appropriate manner.

Organizations typically have policies regarding unwanted behavior. As discussed above, it is important to follow the proper procedure to stop the behavior and protect your credibility.

Many employees are uncertain if the unwanted conduct they experience in the workplace qualifies as harassment, sexual or otherwise. Annoying or rude behavior may be unpleasant, but it may not meet the criteria for legally defined harassment.

According to the EEOC, sexual harassment occurs when the conduct:

  • Implies a quid pro quo relationship between the harasser and the victim, meaning the victim’s job, promotion, or salary is dependent on their willingness to participate in the suggested or explicitly stated sexual behavior
  • Interferes with an employee’s ability to fulfill the duties of their job
  • The conduct must be unwelcome, meaning the victim did not consent to actively participate in the offensive or objectionable behavior

Sexual harassment can involve a wide range of behaviors. Some of the most common unwelcome conduct includes:

  • Sexual favors, looks, gestures
  • Touching, cornering, pinching
  • Sexual communication, verbally or digitally
  • Catcalls
  • Whistling at someone
  • Being referred to as doll, hunk, babe, girl, boy
  • Neck massage
  • Personal questions about social or sexual life
  • Giving personal gifts
  • Blocking a person’s path
  • Hugging or kissing on the cheek
  • Standing too close or purposely rubbing against someone

If the behavior is consensual, it will not qualify as sexual harassment. However, the conduct can be considered inappropriate and may violate company policy.

What if my manager fires, transfers, or passes me over for a promotion after I submit a sexual harassment complaint?

If your manager fires, transfers, or passes you over for a promotion after filing a sexual harassment complaint, you may have suffered retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for exercising their rights protected under the law. Reporting sexual harassment is protected.

Retaliation makes up most EEOC litigated cases, accounting for 55.8% of all charges filed. Common reasons employers retaliate against their employees include:

  • Reporting illegal activity, or an act of whistleblowing
  • Requesting leave that is protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Filing for workers’ compensation
  • Participating in an investigation by the EEOC, including testifying, giving statements, corroborating stories, or providing supporting documents
  • Refusing to participate in illegal or immoral behavior
  • Filing a complaint about a hostile work environment

An employer may choose any number of ways to retaliate against an employee. The most commonly cited retaliatory consequences under the EEOC involve:

  • Bullying, belittling, or intimidating behavior
  • Increased scrutiny to the point the employee is unable to perform the duties of their job
  • Attempting to make the employee quit
  • Defamation of character by spreading rumors or lies with the intention of causing harm
  • Threats, including the threat to report a person’s immigration status
  • Demoting the employee so they lose their status, salary, or benefits
  • Dismissal from employment
  • Exclusionary tactics, including social ostracizing, exclusion from meetings, and work events
  • Reassignment of duties, responsibilities, or relocating the employee to a different workplace team to cause hardship
  • Reducing wages by reducing overtime, hours, or their salary
  • Termination of employment

It is crucial to gather all pertinent evidence to establish that your employer fired, transferred, or passed you over for a promotion due to a complaint.

What if I am sexually harassed by a client, vendor, or non-employees at my workplace?

If you are sexually harassed by a client, vendor, or another non-employee, your employer has certain obligations for keeping you free from discrimination or harassment. When the harasser is not a direct employee, it is referred to as third-party sexual harassment. The term may apply to an independent contractor, customer, and delivery driver, among others.

According to the EEOC , an employer can be held responsible for third-party sexual harassment when:

  • The harasser is on the premises
  • They knew the sexual harassment was taking place and failed to investigate or provide the appropriate corrective action

Employees have the right to file sexual harassment complaints about third parties with their employer. When a company fails to take action, it is held as liable for a third-party’s actions as an employee.

Employers can exercise their duty to protect in the following ways:

  • Conduct a thorough, discreet, and respectful investigation into the claim
  • Prevent future sexual harassment by:
    • Separating the employee from the harasser
    • For example, if the employee is a receptionist and the perpetrator is a vendor, an employer may request a different vendor, change suppliers, or have someone else accept deliveries from the vendor
    • Directly telling the harasser to stop or not to return to the premises
    • Give the employee the option to work where they will not have contact with the harasser

If you are sexually harassed by a third-party, your employer has an obligation to provide you with a safe, discrimination and harassment-free workplace.

Reporting Harassment vs. Filing a Lawsuit in California

A first step toward resolving any workplace difficulty is to talk to human resources or a supervisor if something inappropriate is going on at work. This can be the most effective way to address the situation and to put an end to the behavior. Sometimes, however, employers refuse to act. In other cases, reporting harassment to a supervisor could be problematic, or your supervisor may be the harassing party. Under these circumstances, you should contact an attorney who can guide you in protecting your rights and pursuing legal action to stop the harassment.

Litigation is almost always a last resort in these cases. Ideally, your lawyer can help assist you to ensure that your employer takes the necessary corrective action. If your employer fails to respond appropriately, we have the skill and experience to fight for your rights in court.

Hostile Work Environment Claims: Sacramento Attorneys With Extensive Experience

difference between discrimination and harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms. It extends far beyond the traditional “quid pro quo” scenario of a male supervisor pressuring a female subordinate for sexual favors. In today’s diverse workforce, sexual harassment often involves more subtle behaviors. It can be directed toward either gender and on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

What’s the difference between discrimination and harassment?

While there is a lot of overlap between the effects of discrimination and harassment, the two concepts are legally distinguishable.

Discrimination in the workplace involves treating people differently for unacceptable reasons such as of race or color; religion; national origin or ancestry, physical disability; mental disability or medical condition; marital status; sex or sexual orientation; gender identity; age, with respect to persons over the age of 40; pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and military or veteran status.

Discrimination and harassment can often go hand in hand but are not always present simultaneously. For example, using racial slurs is an act of harassment but discrimination may occur when a supervisor routinely only gives raises or promotions to people based on their race. If you are not given a fair opportunity because you are in the protected class, you may be actively discriminated against. Harassment, particularly hostile work environment harassment, on the other hand, may take the form of inappropriate comments, pressuring, and bullying, but no tangible action.

Experiencing A Pattern Of Uncomfortable Conduct?

No employee should have to endure a workplace where offensive remarks, inappropriate touching, derogatory comments or other uncomfortable behaviors are allowed to persist. If you experience a pattern of sexual harassment at your workplace, and your supervisors are either involved in the harassment or fail to do anything about it, you should consider enforcing your rights through a hostile work environment claim.

This type of employment law claim can help expose the harassment, prevent it from recurring, and shield you from retaliation. You might also be entitled to compensation for the indignity you have suffered and, in some cases, punitive damages (a monetary award intended to deter other employers from allowing such harassment to flourish).

As an employee in the State of California, you have certain rights that protect you against this type of treatment in the workplace under both state and federal law.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

California has enacted laws to protect people in the workforce. This is known as California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). California law requires that the workforce be free from sexual harassment, a hostile environment, and discrimination. You may have a claim if you have been subjected to a violation of the law.

There are two different types of harassment claims under FEHA: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. To fully understand and recognize a hostile work environment, let’s first examine what quid pro quo harassment looks like.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

A harassment in the workplace can consist of “quid pro quo” harassment such as gaining a job-related benefit in exchange for sexual conduct. This is what we often envision when we think about workplace harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone in a supervisory role says or suggests that an employee perform a sexual act in order to gain a work-related advantage or benefit. Conduct that often occurs in these types of claims include unwelcomed sexual advances, demands, comments, and retaliation when the employee spurns the advances of the supervisor.

Some benefits that a supervisor may offer for a sexual act include an increase in pay, time off, a better shift, job promotion, or beneficial transfer etc. Often, a person may be retaliated against for not accepting the sexual advances. The retaliation takes the form of a decrease in pay, unwanted transfer, demotion, or even firing.

However, a claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment can usually only be made if there is a tangible employment action like the benefits or retaliatory actions listed above. If there is no tangible employment action, but there is still harassment, a claim could fall under a hostile work environment claim, if it meets certain criteria.

What should you do if you experience quid pro quo harassment in the workplace?

There are a few things that you must do if you experience quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace. First, give notice to your employer that the harassing conduct is occurring. If your employer has a reporting policy in place, contact the designated party to report the harassment. If your employer does not have a harassment reporting policy, speak with Human Resources or a supervisor and tell them about the conduct. If your supervisor is the person harassing you, report the conduct to HR or your supervisor’s supervisor.

You must put your employer on notice of the harassing conduct, so that they are aware of the situation and can take corrective action. Reporting this conduct is essential to the success of your claim against your employer for vicarious liability.

Another thing you should do is to file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged act(s). After a complaint is filed with the DFEH, you can send a right-to-sue notice, which allows you to sue your employer within one year of receiving the notice.

While being the victim of workplace harassment can be extremely stressful and possibly spark fears of losing your job, you should not simply ignore the harassment. You may wish to consult an attorney to give you advice on what to do or for support in taking action.

It is important to note that in a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, the supervisor must be the person harassing an employee and there must be a tangible employment action. If either of these elements are not present, the harassment may fall under a hostile work environment claim (HWE).

Hostile Work Environment (HWE)

Under California law, hostile work environment harassment is distinct from quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environment harassment is often explained in terms of persistent pressuring or bullying. If your employer knows of the harassment or should have known and did not take proper measures to prevent or correct the conduct, your employer may be vicariously liable. This form of harassment may be based on one of several protected classes.

Protected Classes

Under the FEHA, you may not be harassed or discriminated against because of race or color; religion; national origin or ancestry, physical disability; mental disability or medical condition; marital status; sex or sexual orientation; gender identity; age, with respect to persons over the age of 40; pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and military or veteran status. In order to be eligible to file a claim under FEHA, you must be one of these protected classes.

What is HWE?

Aside from being a protected class, you must be subjected to harassment repeatedly or pervasively in the workplace. If a co-worker says something to you once that bothers you, that alone will not likely constitute a hostile work environment. If the behavior complained of is minor or inconsequential/trivial or happens occasionally, it is also unlikely to rise to the level of a hostile work environment. Using this as a guideline, to have a claim, the behavior must occur repeatedly and threaten your well-being.

Who is responsible for acts contributing to an HWE claim?

The harassment can be committed by a co-worker, contractor, customer, client, or anyone who continues to harass based on race, religion, disability, medical condition, sexual orientation etc. The conduct does not have to be committed by a supervisor to be actionable. However, these claims are harder to prove and require a showing that the supervisor was negligent. When considering whether an employer was negligent in allowing harassment to persist, the court will look to how an employer responded to the complaint of harassment.

If you are harassed by a supervisor and a tangible harassment action is taken, the company will be held strictly liable. The company may have an affirmative defense available if they can prove that no tangible employment action was taken, they took reasonable measures to prevent such conduct and promptly corrected the behavior after learning about it, and the harassed employee failed to report the conduct or take advantage of preventative or corrective measures provided by the employer.

To establish vicarious liability of a company in a hostile work environment claim, the harassed employee must prove that the employer was negligent in allowing the hostile work environment to exist.

You Have Rights. We Can Help You Enforce Them.

Deciding whether to bring a harassment claim involves complex considerations. You should first speak with a California employment law attorney to discuss your options.

Retaliation Against Employees For Reporting Harassment

Retaliation Against Employees For Reporting Harassment

As an employee, you have the right to a workplace free from unlawful discrimination or harassment. Yet these rights mean little if you are unable to enforce them. Some employers have “unwritten rules” that pressure employees to keep silent when they see something wrong. This type of work environment stifles employees from speaking out against injustice.

Fortunately, state and federal laws provide protections for whistleblowers — that is, those who report what they believe to be unlawful conduct in their workplace. Your employer cannot legally punish you for reporting sexual harassment of any kind against yourself or others. Even if your actions did not lead to any legal action against your employer, so long as you pursued the report in good faith, you are still shielded from retaliation.

The fact that you have suffered an adverse employment action such as demotion or termination may not be enough. Your attorney will need proof – a preponderance of evidence – that the adverse action was based on your:

  • Race or ethnicity
  • Country of origin
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sexual preference or gender identity

For honest answers and a realistic evaluation of your case, contact us today. We can help you understand your rights and options in fighting employment discrimination.

What Is Considered Retaliation?

How do you know whether you have suffered unlawful retaliation for reporting harassment? Losing your job is certainly one type of illegal retaliation. However, retaliation isn’t always so blatant. Perhaps you were not fired or terminated. You may still be suffering from more subtle forms of retaliation such as:

  • A demotion
  • Unfair treatment or harassment
  • Reduced pay or benefits
  • Unfavorable work assignments or conditions of employment

Any adverse employment treatment that you receive as a direct consequence of reporting harassment may be considered unlawful retaliation.

Passionate About Protecting Your Rights

Pursuing a retaliation claim against your employer requires a strong factual basis. For a detailed evaluation of whether you have a claim, contact the team at Asbill Law Group, A Professional Law Corporation in Sacramento, California. We believe you should not have to suffer financial or emotional harm due to your courage in speaking up against injustice. Our job is to speak up for you — acting as your voice in the legal system. To that end, we have worked tirelessly to prevail against some of the nation’s largest employers.

How do I move on with my life and career after being sexually harassed at work?

Moving on with your life and career after being sexually harassed can be overwhelming. Sexual harassment has received wider recognition in the media over the years. Victims have stepped forward to share their stories, shedding light on the profound and lasting impact of sexual harassment.

According to the EEOC’s Study of Harassment in the Workplace, 25% to 85% of women reported being sexually harassed at work. The high variability is explored in the research, concluding:

  • Study participants respond differently depending on the definition of sexual harassment. If the term is used broadly, only 1 in 4 acknowledged being harassed.
  • The percentage of reported harassment had a positive correlation to a narrower definition of sexual harassment.
  • The highest percentage of reported abuse occurs when women are asked if they have experienced specific situations without mentioning the term “sexual harassment.”
  • The study infers that most women do not perceive most unwanted sexually based conduct as sexual harassment. This supports the theory that sex discrimination is systemic and embedded in workplace culture, leading to a new hypothesis to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

Women are not the only targets of sexual harassment, but the high variability in the above percentages can reasonably indicate that other victims may suffer from systemic unwanted sexual behavior.

Moving on after experiencing sexual harassment is a mental health concern. Every affected person has an individual experience and background, requiring coping mechanisms as unique as their story.

Two consenting colleagues whose ended relationship has caused one to harass the other during working hours will have a different impact than a transgender woman who is subjected to ongoing ridicule and exclusion from work-related networking events.

Mental health therapists employ numerous strategies for survivors of sexual harassment, including:

  • Problem-based coping strategies, where applicable
  • Stopping passive strategies where a person is likely to be revictimized
  • Build reframing techniques and emotional support strategies


Q: How Long Do You Have to File a Harassment Suit in California?

A: In the state of California, the statute of limitations for filing harassment suits is three years. This means that if you choose to file a claim with the California Civil Rights Department, then you must do so within three years of the incident’s occurrence. If you wait three years after the date of the harassment, then you may not be able to successfully file your claim.

Speaking with an employment attorney as soon as possible following your incident can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

Q: Are Harassment Cases Hard to Prove?

A: Sexual harassment cases can be hard to prove depending on the circumstances. If the workplace harassment has a lot of real evidence such as email chains, recorded conversations, or witness testimonies, then a lawyer can put together a compelling case.

In every sexual harassment case, the victim must prove that the perpetrator was sexually harassing them or that sexual assault did occur. Also, the victim must prove that the harassment adversely affected their work environment, limiting their ability to perform their job functions.

Q: What Is the Five-Year Rule in California?

A: The five-year rule in California mandates that if a plaintiff does not bring an action to trial within five years, then the legal case will be dismissed. This dismissal is mandatory and the court will not make a determination as to the merits of the case or any evidence. They will just throw the case out solely based upon the failure to move the case to trial within the last five years. Contact an attorney immediately for help if you are in this situation.

Q: What Evidence Is Needed to Prove a Case of Harassment?

A: Evidence needed to prove a case of harassment can include witness testimonies, emails or text messages, or recorded audio or conversations. In any harassment or discrimination case, the victim will have to prove that the harassment happened and that it led to a hostile work environment, severely affecting the victim’s ability to perform their job tasks. Each business should have resources in place to help victims of harassment, and if not, you should contact an attorney for help.

Q: Can Sexual Harassment Lead to an Injury?

A: Sexual harassment, if left unchecked, can lead to injuries and accidents in the workplace. Sexual harassment can lead to physical, emotional, and psychological effects on victims. These effects can be serious and can change a victim’s life forever. There are also instances where sexual harassment has led to sexual assault, and there can be significant injuries that stem from that. It is important that each sexual harassment case is treated as soon as possible and properly addressed.

Reach Out to an Experienced Sacramento Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Coping with the aftermath of sexual harassment is a very personal process that will likely take time. A compassionate and skilled attorney can take care of your legal concerns while you focus on your recovery.

With twelve years of employment law experience, Natalia Asbill knows how to work through the intricacies of the California Labor Code, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and other applicable law. To get started, arrange a confidential consultation by calling 916-438-7777.