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Types of Sexual Harassment at Workplace in California

Types of Sexual Harassment
Although many people understand the basics of sexual harassment, few understand the details and ways in which it can manifest. Unfortunately, this means that a significant amount of sexual misconduct goes unreported, as victims and witnesses are unsure what behaviors fall under the category of sexual abuse in the workplace. Most sexual activities are not appropriate or necessary in a productive work environment. Therefore, most sexual contact or activity that occurs in the workplace can be considered forms of harassment in certain situations. Understanding the forms of sexual harassment can make you feel empowered to take action if you experience workplace sexual harassment. Employment law prohibits harassment of any kind in the workplace, and if you suffer sexual abuse while at work, you likely have grounds for a legal claim. Our employment lawyers have significant experience in this area, and we can help you build your case.

Diefer Law Group: Your California Employment Lawyers for Workplace Sexual Harassment

Our team has been working in employment law for many years. During our time in business, we have represented hundreds of individuals and groups who have experienced sexual assault or harassment in the workplace. These scenarios are traumatic and can cause lasting damage to one’s career as well as one’s mental and physical health. We are confident that we can build a case in your favor that properly accounts for what you have been through. You should not have to suffer because of someone else’s poor behavior, and we are here to hold all responsible parties accountable for their actions. Our experience in this field gives us a wide breadth of knowledge with which to build your claim, offering you the strongest possible case for your situation. Sexual harassment cases are extremely vulnerable and can be difficult to pursue without the right attorney. Our team is committed to providing sensitive, supportive legal care during these difficult claims. You can trust us with this sensitive topic, as we do everything in our power to support you and be sensitive to what you are going through. Unlike many firms, you will work directly with our experienced attorney, never with a paralegal or other representative. This gives you the opportunity to get to know us and feel comfortable telling us your story. If you need legal support for a sexual harassment claim, you can count on our team at Diefer Law Group.

Categories of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a varied and complex topic that is difficult to explain in a single definition. This is because there are many different activities that count as sexual harassment, and any of them can appear in the workplace. Regardless of your working situation, it is important to understand different types of sexual harassment so that you can identify them if they happen to you or a coworker. Identification is the first step toward stopping the behavior and seeking justice for any damage that it has caused.

Physical Sexual Assault

The most egregious form of sexual harassment is sexual assault. Sexual assault is not only inappropriate in the workplace, but it is also illegal under state and federal laws. This means that filing a claim against a sexual assault offender may result in consequences outside of the workplace. Many people charged with sexual assault face felony charges, fines, prison, or jail time, and they may have to register as a sex offender. Sexual assault can include many serious offenses, such as:
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Kissing
  • Rape
  • Massaging
  • Groping
  • Physical sexual harassment
These activities may happen under the threat of violence, but they do not have to. Any nonconsensual physical sexual activity is strictly illegal. When these actions happen in the workplace, it is important to take immediate action.

Verbal Sexual Harassment

Actions do not need to be physical to be considered sexual harassment. Verbal sexual harassment is just as valid and pervasive as physical touches. Verbal sexual harassment may include:
  • Sexual innuendos
  • Comments about your body, clothes, etc.
  • Telling inappropriate stories
  • Making sexual jokes
  • Asking personal, inappropriate questions about sex or sexual activity
This is not an exhaustive list of the ways that verbal sexual harassment can occur. If a coworker or employer makes you feel uncomfortable through sexual words or interactions, you may be experiencing verbal sexual assault.

Digital Sexual Harassment

With the vast technological resources available in the workplace, you do not need to experience sexual harassment in real life for it to be valid. Digital sexual assault occurs when someone sends text messages, instant messages, or emails of a sexual nature. Although these types of offenses can feel especially isolating, they do provide significant evidence for your case. If you are being sexually harassed by a coworker or boss via a form of media or technology, retain copies of all your conversations.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when someone offers something in exchange for sexual favors. This may be a promotion, a new office, a better parking spot, etc. Quid pro quo means “this for that.” Sexual favors should not be a form of currency at work. If someone is asking you to perform sexual activities for them in exchange for a benefit, you can report them for quid pro quo. Any of these categories of sexual assault can be extremely harmful to your health and well-being. Be sure to report your experience and find a trusted attorney if you believe that you are experiencing workplace sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

According to California law, employers have the obligation to protect their employees while at work. This means taking action if the employee reports sexual harassment or other issues in the workplace. Unfortunately, some employers do not take action when they learn about sexual harassment. In fact, some employers retaliate against their employees for reporting the activity. This may include:
  • Demoting or firing the employee
  • Ignoring or freezing out the employee
  • Taking privileges or benefits away from the employee
  • Leaving the employee out of necessary information or meetings
  • Creating a hostile work environment
This is not a complete list of retaliatory practices that can occur. Your experience may be different. It is important to know that retaliation of any kind is illegal. Not only is your employer not fulfilling their obligation to keep you safe, but they are also furthering the damage that the situation is causing you. You can take legal action against retaliation as well as the sexual harassment that is occurring.

Wrongful Termination

Unfortunately, some retaliation can go as far as terminating the employee’s contract over the report of sexual harassment. This is a form of wrongful termination, and it is extremely harmful. Losing your job over-reporting sexual harassment is demeaning and can derail your entire career and future. Employers in California do not need a reason to fire an employee, but they cannot fire someone for certain reasons. This is difficult to understand and can make these cases complicated. In many cases, an employer will not admit that they have terminated an employee illegally, but they will instead try to blame the termination on something else. Be sure to note the timing of any sexual harassment activity, reports, and resulting termination. Although your employer may try to claim that the termination is unrelated, your attorney may be able to prove to the court that the firing was illegal and due to the report of sexual harassment.

Potential Damages in a Sexual Harassment Claim

When many people report sexual harassment, they do so to stop the behavior and prevent it from happening to others. However, there are benefits for you that may occur if you win your case. There are a variety of damages for which you may be entitled to compensation. If the sexual harassment led you to lose your job, you can sue your employer for failing to protect you. Your compensation should include back pay, benefits, and lost income, as you are entitled to a workplace free of sexual harassment, and your employer failed to provide that. Similarly, if you lost your job, and had to look for a new one, your settlement should include compensation for transportation and other costs of searching for a new job, as it was your employer’s fault that you had to incur those costs. Finally, you are entitled to compensation for any medical bills or costs associated with the sexual harassment. This includes physical medical bills if you suffered injuries or had to get tests at the doctor’s office. However, it also includes compensation for emotional and mental damages. Sexual harassment is serious and can cause lasting mental health issues. These costs need to be covered by your compensation.

Why Do I Need a Sexual Harassment Attorney?

If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, it is essential that you do everything in your power to bring it to an end. The most effective way to do this is through attorney representation. An attorney can help you execute the process as well as offer advice on the most effective way to earn the compensation that you deserve. Attorney representation can protect your interests as well as prevent the same harassment from happening to others. When you press charges against an employer, they usually have an in-house attorney or legal representation to defend them. This makes it very difficult for you to win your case without representation of your own. Fighting your own claim under these circumstances will likely lead to disappointment or further damage. Finally, it is important to remember that sexual harassment is emotionally difficult. Building and arguing your own case will be difficult for your mental health. It is a situation that most victims cannot successfully navigate alone.


Q: What Is Inappropriate Sexual Harassment Behavior?

A: Sexual harassment takes many forms, but it occurs any time someone engages in physical, verbal, or digital sexual activities without the other person’s consent. When this occurs in the workplace, it can create a toxic work environment. Common examples include:
  • Groping
  • Sending sexual messages
  • Asking for sexual favors
  • Making sexually explicit jokes
If you believe that you are being sexually harassed at work, contact an attorney right away.

Q: How Do You Prove You Were Sexually Harassed?

A: Emails, text messages, and employee files are all pieces of evidence that may prove that you have been sexually harassed. Eyewitness accounts can also help, as can personal testimony. If the offense was physical, getting a rape kit or medical exam may help gather evidence in your favor as well. There is no singular way to prove sexual harassment has occurred. Speak with an attorney if you believe that you may have a sexual harassment claim.

Q: Does Sexual Harassment Only Happen to Women?

A: No. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone of any gender. Unfortunately, women are the most common victims of sexual harassment, which is why many people believe that the victims are all women. However, any gender can be harassed. If someone suggests that you cannot be a sexual harassment victim because you are not a woman, they are engaging in discrimination, and you can take further action. Do not let gender determine whether you report sexual harassment.

Q: What Should You Do If You Feel You Are Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

A: Going to HR is a good first step in resolving your sexual harassment situation. Tell them what you experienced, and ask them to record your meeting. This way, you have proof that you brought the issue to your employer’s attention. If they fail to take action, or allow the behavior to continue, you should seek legal help right away. A qualified employment attorney can represent you in this matter.

Contact Diefer Law Group

Our team at Diefer Law Group is passionate about employee rights. No one should have to feel scared to go to work because of sexual assault. We are here to help you take action against your employer if you have endured this kind of treatment in the workplace. For more, please contact Diefer Law Group.

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Diefer Law Group, P.C.


2030 Main Street
Suite 1356
Irvine, CA 92614

(949) 799-1860

San Diego

12636 High Bluff Drive
Suite 400
San Diego, CA 92130

(619) 728-3990

Los Angeles

355 South Grand Avenue
Suite 2450
Los Angeles, CA 90071

(213) 973-6142


6670 Alessandro Blvd
Suite H,
Riverside CA, 92506

(951) 470-1862

Dana Point

34204 Pacific Coast
Dana Point, CA 92629

(949) 799-1534

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