Verbal, physical, sexual, and other abusive behaviors in the workplace are not only wrong—they are illegal. Every organization or company in California is encouraged (if not required) to implement responsible measures that ensure their workplace is harassment-free. If you’ve experienced harassment in the workplace and your employer hasn’t taken steps to correct it, Wilshire Law Firm is ready to fight for you. Contact our award-winning workplace harassment attorneys by calling (800) 522-7274 to maximize the value of your claim and get started on your path to recovery.
Forms of Workplace Harassment
Inevitably, nearly everyone will encounter hostility in the workplace. But when does workplace hostility legally constitute workplace harassment? In order for a harassment lawsuit to be successful, you must prove the following in court:
- The harassment was based on a protected characteristic such as gender, race, disability, etc.
- The conduct was both offensive and unwelcome
- The harassment was severe and pervasive enough to create an intimidating or hostile work environment
While some less than desirable behaviors such as off-color jokes may be offensive to some, such actions may not be extreme enough to warrant legal repercussions. When evaluating your case, the employment attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm will look for these forms of workplace harassment:
- Physical—Pushing, hitting, groping, physical intimidation, and other unwanted physical contacts
- Verbal—Off-color jokes, remarks, slurs, and other comments that attack a protected characteristic or status
- Visual—Cartoons, drawings, photographs, and posters are some examples of visual harassment
- Sexual—Repeated requests for dates, sexual favors, and other unwanted sexual behaviors qualify as workplace harassment. Quid Pro Quo harassment, which occurs when an employer requests sexual favors in return for employment benefits, is one example of sexual harassment; the creation of a Hostile Work Environment is the other main category sexual harassment.
When assessing whether the conduct in your case is severe enough to constitute workplace harassment, the courts will examine both the frequency of and the length of time over which the offending behavior occurred. It is important to note that the law does not require that the victim be the direct target of the harassment, and that your employer can be found liable if they knew about or could have reasonably learned of the harassment and failed to take action in a timely matter.
Your Initial Steps
Before beginning the legal process, workplace harassment victims must first take adequate steps of their own to stop such behavior from occurring. This includes directly telling the harasser or harassers to stop, informing management and human resources of the unlawful conduct, and working through any internal recourse channels your workplace has established. Under both federal and California law, harassment victims must first pursue and exhaust these recourses before filing a lawsuit.
Victims should also carefully document the harassment as it occurs in order to strengthen their case. Take notes following any unlawful incidents of harassment, conversations with your employer, harasser, or any witnesses regarding unlawful conduct, and gather copies of internal correspondence that may be related to your case—this direct evidence may prove invaluable in helping you recover lost wages, lost benefits, punitive damages, and other compensatory damages.
Taking Legal Action
If you were the victim of workplace harassment, the statute of limitations for bringing a claim may be as few as 180 days from the date of harassment to take legal action. Before you file a harassment lawsuit, however, you must first file an administrative charge with either the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for a federal claim or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for a state claim.
Soon after receiving your claim, your employer will be notified and a thorough investigation will be conducted by the responding agency. Following the completion of this investigation, the agency can either: Dismiss the harassment claim; request mediation between the two parties; file a lawsuit on your behalf; or, most likely, issue you a right to sue letter.
Why Wilshire Law Firm?
Because of the limited time that you may have to file your lawsuit, it is important that you speak with one of the experienced workplace harassment attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm once you have your right to sue letter. Our highly-skilled employment attorneys will assess the strengths and weaknesses of your claim, inform you of your rights, and will work with you to maximize the value of your claim. Fighting to get workplace harassment victims the justice they deserve is a serious business, and we don’t play around—we win.