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How to Prove Sexual Harassment at a Workplace in California?

Emanuel Shirazi

As a California employee, you deserve a safe work environment. Sexual harassment is an unfortunately common issue in workplaces across the state. Any form of harassment makes a workplace feel incredibly unsafe and is unacceptable. Employees have the right to a work environment free from derogatory comments, inappropriate gestures, or other harassing behaviors based on sex or gender.

If you are an employee facing sexual harassment, you may find it hard to do your job well, or even feel ill at the thought of going to work. No one should feel this way. Your employer may be harassing you or failing to take action against a harassing co-worker. If so, you can file a harassment claim against your employer. To receive financial compensation for the harm done to you, you must prove that harassment occurred.

Forms of Workplace Sexual Harassment in California

Both state and federal laws rule harassment and sexual harassment illegal in the workplace. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), sexual harassment is defined as one of the two following categories:

  • Quid Pro Quo HarassmentQuid pro quo harassment refers to an explicit or implied agreement that enduring the harassment allows the employee to keep their job or increase their benefits. An employer may threaten adverse employment action, such as a decrease in benefits, a pay decrease, or a negative employment review. Either a negative action is avoided or a positive employment action is provided in exchange for sexual favors, advances, or other types of sexual harassment.This form of sexual harassment can only be done by another employee who has the authority to make these changes to someone’s employment. This includes managers, supervisors, or other authority figures.
  • Hostile Work Environment HarassmentHarassment through a hostile workplace environment refers to an employee suffering intimidating, hostile, or abusive behavior on a consistent basis that would be intolerable to a reasonable person. This form of harassment can be done by co-workers, as there is no conditional employment action for enduring harassment.A hostile work environment, under the FEHA definition, must meet certain criteria. It must be severe and pervasive, which could be a single very serious act but is more often multiple, less-severe occasions of harassment. The conduct must also be unwelcome and offensive to a reasonable person.Sexual harassment in a hostile work environment is based on sex or gender. This doesn’t necessarily mean sexual behavior; it can also refer to bullying or negative actions based on a person’s gender.An employee suffering from either of these forms of sexual harassment can take legal action against the person who is harassing them. Quid pro quo harassment only has to occur once to allow a victim to file a complaint. A hostile work environment case often requires multiple instances to file against the harasser. If an employer knew about the hostile environment, or should have known, and failed to correct the issue, then the employee who suffered harassment can file a claim against their employer.

Proof Needed for a Sexual Harassment Claim

Evidence in a sexual harassment case can come in the form of direct and indirect evidence. Direct evidence is harder to obtain in a workplace harassment claim, as co-workers or employers are often aware of their illegal actions and are careful about leaving harassing statements in writing or recording. Sexual harassment cases often hinge on indirect evidence. With the right harassment attorney helping you compile and structure evidence, your sexual harassment case has a better likelihood of success. Evidence in a sexual harassment case may include:

  • Emails, recordings, messages, or other forms of communication between you and your employer or harasser
  • HR verbal and written complaints and how those complaints were resolved
  • Detailed and dated personal notes of each harassing event
  • Any eyewitnesses to the harassment, such as coworkers
  • Employer policies on sexual harassment
  • Employment and personnel contracts
  • Evidence of past harassment that other employees have suffered
  • A history of a hostile work environment

If you have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s essential that you contact an experienced attorney. They can advise you on filing complaints with your HR, gathering evidence, and when filing a legal claim is necessary. Sexual harassment is a serious situation, and you deserve legal protection.


Q: How Do I File a Workplace Harassment Complaint in California?

A: You can file for workplace harassment with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) state agency or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) federal agency. An attorney is not required to file this complaint, but they can make the process more straightforward and prevent mistakes in the filing process. File the claim with one of these agencies, and the agency will begin an investigation. The agency may decide to file a claim against an employer itself or provide you with the right to sue.

Q: Can I Sue My Employer for a Hostile Work Environment in California?

A: Yes, there are cases where you can sue your employer for a hostile work environment. If your employer is the cause of the harassment, you can file against them. If harassment is coming from a co-worker, you may only be able to file against your co-worker. However, if your employer knew about the harassment, such as if an HR complaint was filed, and the behavior continued, you could file against your employer. If your employer should have known about the harassment, such as seeing it happen, and did nothing, you can also file a claim against them.

Q: Can I Sue My Employer for Harassment in California?

A: If your employer has harassed you, you can file a claim against them. If your employer knows or should have known about a co-worker who is harassing you, you can file a claim against your employer if no steps were taken to prevent the harassment. A knowledgeable employment attorney can help you determine if you can sue your employer based on the facts of your situation.

Q: What Qualifies as a Harassment Charge in California?

A: Workplace harassment or sexual harassment is unwelcome negative behavior based on a protected characteristic. Sexual harassment is based on sex or gender. Sexual harassment may come from an employer or employee with power over a victim’s employment. They will request sexual favors for positive employment action or to prevent adverse employment actions. It may also be a hostile work environment from one severe event or continuous harassment.

Contact Shirazi Law Firm, P.C.

At Shirazi Law Firm, P.C., we stand up for employees and their rights. Contact our team today to see how we can help with your harassment claim.

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