Workplace Harassment Attorney in Sherman Oaks, California
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) fields charges of harassment by employees throughout the country. According to EEOC statistics, sex-based harassment charges average about 12,000 a year, with 13,055 charges in Fiscal Year 2018 representing the highwater mark, and 11,497 charges in 2020 representing the least reported since 2011.
Workplace harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature to be considered an illegal activity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 established protections against both workplace discrimination and harassment, the latter of which is described as “unwelcome conduct” that can create a hostile, intimidating, or abusive work environment.
California also protects against workplace harassment, sexual or otherwise, through its Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
If you feel you’ve been harassed at work in or around Sherman Oaks, California, including nearby Northridge and Van Nuys, and anywhere in Los Angeles County, contact The Sweeney Law Firm, APC.
You don’t need to suffer any longer. We will listen to your story, evaluate the situation, and guide you in asserting your rights under state and federal law.
Harassment as Defined
by State and Federal Law
The EEOC enforces federal laws that protect workers against acts of discrimination and harassment. It defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).”
Harassment is unlawful when it makes enduring offensive conduct a condition of continued employment or when it creates a work environment that a “reasonable person” would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Examples of such conduct include offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, interference with work performance, and more.
Sexual harassment can take many forms as well. The most egregious is called “quid pro quo,” or hinging a workplace benefit – promotion, choice assignment, vacation time, or the like – on sexual favors.
But there are also much subtler forms of behavior that can be considered sexual harassment, including off-color jokes, references to one’s body, sexually gesturing, catcalling, making kissing sounds or gestures, repeatedly standing too close to someone, and types of behavior. Overt touching, hugging, kissing, and massaging are blatant examples.
In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces anti-discrimination and harassment laws. Its website states: “The FEHA [Fair Employment and Housing Act] prohibits harassment based on a protected category against an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a contractor. Harassment is prohibited in all workplaces, even those with fewer than five employees.”
Protected categories in the Golden State encompass not only those listed by the EEOC but also more expansive categories such as ancestry.
Who Can Be a Harasser?
Obviously, managers and supervisors are at the forefront of anti-harassment efforts. Both the EEOC and DFEH advocate – and in some cases, such as for sexual harassment in California – mandate discrimination and harassment training for those at the management level.
But harassment doesn’t have to originate from a higher-up. Coworkers, customers, contractors, and anyone who comes in contact with a firm’s employees in the workplace can be the source of harassment.
Also, even if the person who is being mistreated or harassed isn’t affected by the offensive conduct but another employee is, though not directly involved, that still represents harassment. Remember, one of the definitions of illegal harassment is creating a hostile or intimidating work environment, regardless of who the targeted victim is.
Additional Laws Addressing Harassment
In addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, other laws at the federal level protecting against discrimination and harassment include the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
These federal statutes apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, but when it comes to harassment in California, the FEHA applies to businesses with any number of employees.
Also in California, two Senate Bills – SB 1343 and SB 788 – took effect in 2019 requiring sexual harassment training for both supervisory and non-supervisory employees, the first round of which was to be completed by January 1, 2021. The training consists of two hours for supervisors and one hour for non-supervisors every two years following the initial deadline of January 1, 2021. The laws apply to businesses with five or more employees.
Filing a Harassment Charge
The EEOC requires that you submit your complaints for their investigation before you can take any legal action. It requires that you wait to receive a notice of your “right to sue” before taking any legal action on your own.
In some cases, you can request a “right to sue” authorization even while the agency is investigating the complaint. Also, by statute, if the EEOC doesn’t complete its investigation in 180 days, you are then free to sue.
In California, the DFEH does not require that you instigate an investigation before suing, but it advises that you do so “only if you have an attorney.”
Your official workplace policy may say you must confront the harasser or report it to your manager, but many workers are afraid to speak out against inappropriate behavior for fear of losing their jobs. Don't endure workplace harassment for another day. Call us today.
Workplace Harassment Attorney
in Sherman Oaks, California
You don't need to tolerate workplace harassment to keep your job. If your boss or coworkers insult, threaten, or bully you repeatedly, they've violated workplace harassment laws. The Sweeney Law Firm, APC can help hold them accountable.