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Protecting employees from unwanted sexual advances at work.

Have you received unwanted advances from a co-worker? Perhaps a co-worker or a supervisor has been sending you inappropriate emails or making comments that make you feel uncomfortable. Whatever the case may be, being sexually harassed at work is not only unacceptable – it’s illegal.

Our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys at Levin & Nalbandyan, LLP can help you take action if you believe that you have been sexually harassed at your workplace. As experienced employment law attorneys, we understand how to protect workers enduring illegal harassment.

Contact us online for a consultation or give us a call at (213) 232-4848.

On This Page

What Legally Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

According to the State of California Department of Justice, sexual harassment is defined as, “a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Briefly, sexual harassment refers to both unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.”

Sexual harassment may involve:

  • Inappropriate comments
  • Quid pro quo offers or asking for sexual favors
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual comments
  • Sexual innuendos
  • Sexual jokes about one’s body
  • Sexist remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Unwanted touching, such as unwanted neck or shoulder massages
  • Uncomfortable staring or glancing at one’s body
  • Asking about one’s sexual orientation
  • Asking someone out on dates repeatedly even after being rejected
  • Spreading sexual rumors about an employee

Sexual harassment is a very sensitive issue that can affect your ability to work and make it difficult for you to speak up when you feel uncomfortable. There are many different ways that a person can commit acts of sexual harassment in the workplace. Our goal is to provide the highest level of representation to men and women in all types of cases involving sexual harassment.

What Are the Warning Signs of Sexual Harassment?

Even with the #MeToo movement in full-force, sexual harassment still occurs and victims may not be sure if what they are experiencing is considered sexual harassment. Whether the harasser is blatant about advances or tends to be evasive in their behaviors, here are the common ways a sexual harasser may try to intimidate you:

  • Standing too close or being “touchy.”
  • Making inappropriate comments about a person’s body or clothing.
  • Asking about your personal life and sexual experiences as well as talking about their own.
  • Frequently asks you to meet alone outside of work or persistently askes for dates after you’ve repeatedly turned them down.
  • Exposes you to pornographic materials.
  • Tries to engage you in sexually charged conversations.

What Are the Types of Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment comes in two forms — quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Here’s the difference between the two:

Quid Pro Quo – meaning “this for that,” quid pro quo harassment happens when a supervisor hints or blatantly asks for sexual favors in return for employee benefits such as raises, trips, bonuses, and promotions.

Hostile Work Environment – any employee that feels uncomfortable, intimidated or threatened while trying to perform their job is working in a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment does not have to be caused by a supervisor. Co-workers, clients or other business-related associates may also create an uncomfortable work atmosphere.

Bringing Forward a Sexual Harassment Claim

If you were subject to frequent and unwanted sexual advances or remarks that created a hostile work environment, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer. You’ll also have to submit your claim to the appropriate government agency.

Filing a Complaint with Your Employer

If a co-worker, supervisor, agent of the company, or any other individual has sexually harassed you at work, record the dates of the incidents and file a complaint with your employer. Documenting the details of the harassment can help with the investigation when you file charges.

Filing a Charge with the Appropriate Agency

Before you can pursue a lawsuit against your employer, you must file a Charge of Discrimination with either the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Deciding which agency to file a charge with depends on the laws governing your case.

In some instances, if you submit with one agency, your charge will automatically be sent to the other. Our lawyers can help you understand what laws pertain to your situation and which agency to submit a charge to.

Receiving a Right to Sue Notice

After receiving your charge, the agency will conduct an investigation and review all relevant information about your situation. When the investigation is complete, the agency will send you a right to sue notice.

You can request the notice before the agency finishes its investigation. The EEOC will send it to you only if it believes it cannot close your case within the allotted timeframe. The DFEH will send it once your request is received. If you try to move forward with a lawsuit before receiving the notice, your case will not be heard. Once you have your right to sue notice, you can file a claim against your employer.

How to Document Instances of Sexual Harassment

As part of your preparation for reporting, it is important to document the incidences of harassment and keep track of what takes place.

We recommend that you:

  • Collect as much detailed information as possible about each incident, including screen captures of text messages, emails, photos, notes, or cards you receive.
  • Photograph anything that is posted or public that you cannot collect as evidence if your case involves a hostile work environment (such as an offensive poster or wall graffiti). Include a date stamp or take note of when the objects were photographed.
  • Keep a journal or list of incidents of harassment including the names of those involved, names of witnesses, what happened, and where it occurred. Note how the incident affected your mental and physical well-being and if it inhibited job performance.
  • Make copies of performance reviews, evaluations, or other HR-related documents before making a complaint in case your employer seeks retaliation or tries to alter them.

In summary, here is a breakdown of how to file a sexual harassment claim:

  • Record the dates and details of the harassment
  • File a complaint with your employer
  • File a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)

When Are Employers Liable for Sexual Harassment?

Whether your employer can legally be held accountable for sexual harassment depends on the harasser’s position in the company or workplace and the kind of harassment you experienced.

If the following instances apply to your sexual harassment claim, your employer may or may not be liable:

  • The employer: If your employer directly perpetrated sexual harassment, they are directly liable for their personal conduct.
  • Immediate supervisors: The employer is strictly liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by immediate supervisors. If your supervisor or manager sexually harassed you and you informed your employer, they have a duty to stop it.
  • Coworkers and/or customers: If your harasser is or was your coworker, customer, or not someone you report(ed) to, the employer is unlikely to be held liable since these individuals are not a proxy for the employer and have no direct authority over you.
  • Quid pro quo harassment: This is strictly unlawful, even if it only happens once. This type of harassment involves an employer or supervisor offering a kickback, perk, or another incentive in exchange for sexual activity, and a negative consequence, such as being fired, if the victim refuses. If there are fewer supervisors than employees, the supervisors are easier to train and monitor.
  • Hostile work environment: If the employer is aware there was a hostile work environment that affected you, they may be held liable for their negligence if they failed to take action.

Is Sexual Harassment a Form of Discrimination?

According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. Every employee has the right to be protected from any type of harassment that creates a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment may be defined as:

  • Discriminatory behaviors against age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or race.
  • Any reasonable person would find the work environment abusive or hostile.
  • The behavior is a persistent problem.
  • The employer knows about the problem and has failed to address the behavior.
  • The victim’s ability to work has been negatively impacted.

Can You Tell the Difference Between Friendliness and Sexual Harassment?

We spend most of our waking hours at work so naturally, we develop in-office friendships with our co-workers, supervisors and sometimes clients, too. However, how can you tell when the boundaries of friendly behavior have been overstepped into sexual harassment? Know these warning signs:

  • Unwanted compliments and comments.
  • Incessant flirting – being repeatedly asked for dates even after turning them down.
  • Inappropriate touching (i.e., physical contact with intimate body parts, touching hair, rubbing your arm or shoulders, grabbing or prolonged hugging).

What Happens if I'm Being Harassed After Work Hours?

On the surface, it may not seem likely that sexual harassment would follow you home after your workday, but with social media, emails, and text messaging being a normal part of everyday life, harassers can still contact their victims even after the workday ends. Whether you are being sexually harassed at work or after work hours, you have the right to be protected.

It’s important not to engage with the harasser and report every incident as you would if you were being harassed while working. Document everything, save emails and text messages and take screenshots of comments on social media.

Is Sexual Harassment a Crime?

While being sexually harassed at work violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is a form of discrimination, it will not be tried in the criminal justice system unless the harassment has led to sexual assault. However, you can still file a lawsuit against your harasser.

Being repeatedly harassed, even after taking up the incidents with your supervisor or human resources department, is not acceptable. When suing for sexual harassment, it’s important to document every encounter as well as note any witnesses to the harassment. Be as specific as possible — for example, what comments and types of gestures were made, how often you reported the incident, who you reported the incident to, etc.

Seek Experienced Legal Counsel Today

We understand that reporting a fellow employee or even an employer for sexual harassment may seem overwhelming and confusing. Our sexual harassment attorneys in Los Angeles are here to not only guide you but to protect you from further retaliation or action. We want to help you determine what your next best step is and how to effectively approach your case.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, we understand how difficult it can be to speak out against your harasser, especially after exhausting all possibilities for getting the behavior to stop. Contact Levin & Nalbandyan, LLP today at (213) 232-4848 to learn more about your rights and how we can help.

We’re dedicated to every client and every case

“At the offices of Levin & Nalbandyan you get the help from very professional people like Harry Nalbandyan and his team. They work with you, they know what they are doing and they get things done.”

L. C.
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