Sexual harassment in the workplace is not just a personal violation; it’s a breach of professional ethics and, more significantly, the law. This comprehensive guide aims to unravel the complexities surrounding sexual harassment and the steps to address it effectively. Contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 if you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work and require help from an employment law attorney.
The Nature of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment encompasses any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that disrupts an employee’s work environment or job performance. It can range from blatant propositions to subtler, pervasive patterns of behavior that create a hostile or offensive workplace.
The Unwelcome Threshold
The cardinal rule of identifying sexual harassment is the unwelcomeness of the behavior. It is crucial to communicate, clearly and unequivocally, that the harasser’s conduct is unwanted and unacceptable. Documenting each incident, along with any witnesses or evidence, is vital for substantiating your experience should legal action become necessary.
Reporting the Conduct
Taking the step to report sexual harassment is pivotal. Addressing the issue head-on by filing a formal complaint with your employer, typically through a supervisor or Human Resources department, is often the first course of action. This process should be handled with the utmost professionalism, and it is often beneficial to consult an attorney to navigate this sensitive terrain effectively.
Upon receiving a complaint, employers have a legal obligation to investigate promptly and thoroughly while maintaining confidentiality to the greatest extent possible. The investigation must be impartial, and appropriate measures should be taken to prevent retaliation against the complainant. Should the investigation substantiate the claims, employers are expected to take corrective action, which may range from mandatory training to termination of the offender’s employment.
Knowing and Exercising Your Rights
Every employee has the right to a safe and harassment-free workplace. California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act enshrines this principle as a fundamental civil right. Employees who suspect that their rights are being infringed upon due to inadequate action or negligence on the employer’s part should seek legal counsel. An employment lawyer can advise on the rights afforded to you under the law and the remedies available, including filing a claim with the appropriate state or federal agency.
Taking Legal Action
If internal reports do not yield a satisfactory response, or if an employer fails to act, legal action may be the next step. Filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) can lead to an external investigation. If these agencies grant a right-to-sue notice, you may pursue your claim in a court of law.
Remedies and Settlements
Legal interventions can result in various remedies, from monetary damages to reinstatement or promotion, depending on the nature of the harassment and its impact. Settlements may include compensation for emotional distress, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages in egregious cases.
For employees grappling with sexual harassment, the path to resolution involves understanding their rights, reporting the misconduct, and possibly pursuing legal action. PLBH, with a dedicated team led by experienced attorneys, stands ready to provide the legal support necessary to navigate these challenging situations. Contact (800) 435-7542 for a confidential consultation and to learn more about your options in the fight against workplace sexual harassment.