Schwimer | Weinstein LLP | Sexual Harassment
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Sexual Harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and any other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” This sort of hostile behavior can create a negative and stressful environment that you do not have to endure. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, you should consult with an attorney immediately to ensure that the behavior stops. An attorney at Schwimer Weinstein can advise you of your rights.

 

Sexual harassment claims are not limited to the workplace.

Sexual harassment can arise in the context of a business, service or even a professional relationship. A sexual harassment claim can be filed against a doctor, psychotherapist, dentist, attorney, social worker, real estate agent, accountant, banker, contractor, executor, trustee, landlord, property manager or teacher. In sexual harassment, the aggressor often holds a position of authority over the victim. However, a claim can also be asserted whenever the victim is unable to easily terminate the relationship.

 

Typical sexual harassment conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • Overt or subtle sexual advances
  • Solicitations and sexual requests
  • Any other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature or of a hostile nature based on gender that was unwelcome, pervasive or severe.

 

Sexual harassment claims can be divided into two categories.

  • Hostile work environment (link to hostile work environment page)

This is where repeated sexual advances make the conditions of the victim’s employment intolerable.

2) Quid pro quo This Latin phrase means “this for that.” In a quid pro quo situation, victims lose their jobs, or certain benefits, if they do not submit to sexual advances.

 

Protect your rights

A claim for sexual harassment can be asserted under Civil Code Section 51.9 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), and the victim is entitled to personal injury damages, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

 

Did you know same-sex sexual harassment is unlawful?

In Mogilefsky v. Sup.Crt. (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1418, the Court held that a sexual harassment suit may be brought by a member of the same sex as the harasser, based on either the hostile work environment or the quid pro quo theory. In Mogilefsky, a male producer pressured a subordinate male employee to sleep with him in his hotel room bed on two occasions. Id. at 1412. The employee was told by other employees “that another male employee had been fired for not going to [the producers’] suite when ordered to do so, and that [the editor] should consider the consequences before refusing.”

 

Employers have a duty to prevent sexual harassment.

Under Government Code Section 12940(k), it is an employer’s duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. What’s more, supervisors are obligated to report any allegations of sexual harassment to management. See State Department of Health Services v. Sup.Crt. (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1026, 1040-1041. Any time your employer or supervisor advices you not to report instances of sexual harassment to human resources, they are violating the law.

 

Employees who are sexually harassed by their supervisors are particularly vulnerable.

The California Supreme Court has held “that under the FEHA, an employer is strictly liable for all acts of sexual harassment by a supervisor.” State Department of Health Services, 31 Cal.4th at 1042. In State Department of Health Services, the Supreme Court recognized the extreme vulnerability of employees in this situation:

 

“Sexual harassment in the workplace by a supervisor is a nightmarish experience for any employee. The employee wants a prompt end to the harassing conduct, but being known as a harassment victim can be personally humiliating, and reporting acts of harassment by a supervisor carries risks that are both professional and economic. When deciding whether to report a supervisor’s harassment to an employer, the harassment victim, who may already feel vulnerable and defenseless, is likely to wonder: Will my employer believe me? Will my employer fire me, demote me, label me a troublemaker, or transfer me to a position with no future?”

 

The “nightmarish experience” so eloquently articulated by the court is often realized by any victim of sexual harassment. If you have suffered from the trauma of sexual harassment, please contact one of our attorneys at Schwimer Weinstein for a free, confidential consultation so that we may advise you of your rights and help you get the justice you deserve.

 

We can help. Contact Schwimer Weinstein for a free, no-obligation consultation.