Sexual harassment can occur in various ways in any workplace in any industry. While this is unacceptable in all forms, it is, unfortunately, a persistent problem throughout the country that negatively impacts the lives of countless people each year. One of the most challenging aspects of sexual harassment is the fact that many people are unaware of their rights to put a stop to these experiences, or they are scared of losing their jobs if they speak up.
While it’s true that many people have been unfairly penalized simply for seeking help in resolving workplace harassment, the employer is typically the first line of defense for an employee who has been harassed by a coworker. Every employer in the state is required by law to have anti-harassment policies in place and a system for investigating and resolving claims of workplace sexual harassment.
Diefer Law Group regularly assists employees in various industries with sexual harassment claims. One of the most common concerns we hear from our clients is their fear of speaking out due to the perceived risk of losing their jobs. It is vital to remember that you legally cannot be fired for reporting sexual harassment. If you are unfairly penalized for making any legally protected action, this could not only lead to you recovering compensation for the sexual harassment you experienced but also further recovery of punitive damages from your employer for breaking state and US law.
Reporting Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace
Whenever an employer is made aware of sexual harassment of any kind, they are required to investigate the issue. They must also have a process in place for putting a stop to such behavior, which may include sensitivity training, mandatory coursework for harassers, or simply firing employees who create hostile work environments for their coworkers.
If your employer is the one harassing you, it’s natural to feel scared of speaking out because you believe you will lose your job. Remember that filing a report of sexual harassment at work in good faith is a legally protected action. If you cannot rely on your employer to help, you must escalate the issue by reporting the incident to the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). A representative can provide guidance for what you should do next, which will likely be filing a report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC is required to investigate reports of discrimination and harassment in American workplaces. If you have been unsuccessful in addressing your issue through internal conflict resolution channels at work and the guidance provided by the DFEH, the EEOC is your next stop for the help you need. An experienced employment law attorney can provide guidance and support for the EEOC claim filing process. If the EEOC investigates and determines that you did experience harassment of any kind at work, you will have grounds to pursue a civil action against the party harassing you.
Q: How Do I Report Workplace Harassment?
A: The first level of escalation after experiencing workplace sexual harassment is to notify your employer immediately. However, if they do not address the problem or if your employer is the one harassing you, the next level of escalating the issue would be contacting the DFEH. A representative can provide guidance about resolving the situation, which may include a complaint to the EEOC.
Q: How Long Do You Have to Report Sexual Harassment?
A: If you experience any type of harassment in your workplace, it is always advisable to file your report as soon as possible. However, the formal statute of limitations for filing a workplace harassment claim to the DFEH is one year from the date of the last incident you experienced. The sooner you report the incident, the easier it will be for you to collect any evidence you may need to substantiate your claim.
Q: Can I Sue My Employer for a Hostile Work Environment?
A: A hostile work environment can develop whenever any type of harassment prevents you from performing your job duties. If you have experienced harassment and your employer is either directly responsible for it or has done nothing to resolve the problem, you have the right to pursue legal recourse and collect compensation for any damages you suffered. These damages may include compensatory damages like back pay or lost benefits and compensation for your emotional distress. You can also receive punitive damages depending on the nature of the harassment you experienced.
Q: What Happens if My Employer Ignores My Report of Harassment?
A: Your first option for resolving workplace harassment is to utilize internal conflict resolution channels in your workplace and report the issue to your employer. However, if they do not resolve the issue to your satisfaction, you will need to escalate the issue to the DFEH or the EEOC. Consult an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to determine the most viable steps to take to resolve the situation.
Q: What Are the Penalties for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
A: Penalties for workplace harassment of any kind can be severe. If an employee has committed sexual harassment, they face losing their job. For an employer, penalties can include fines and other penalties assigned at the discretion of the DFEH and the EEOC, as well as liability for the victim’s damages. If that harassment escalated to the point of physical harm, the harasser faces criminal prosecution for sexual battery, which can lead to heavy fines, imprisonment, and sex offender registration.
Diefer Law Group provides responsive and compassionate legal counsel to victims of sexual harassment in workplaces. If you are unsure how to address the harassment you have experienced at work and need legal counsel you can trust, it’s vital to speak with a legal representative with experience handling these cases. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with a seasoned employment attorney and learn how our firm can assist you with your case.