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Fired Due to Sexual Harassment
You may just have been fired from your job. Your employer may have told you that you were “not a good fit” or had attendance or performance issues. You believe the “not a good fit” or attendance or performance issues explanation is nonsense aimed at hiding the real reason you were fired—due to sexual harassment. This is not far-fetched. People are often fired for complaining of sexual harassment, or for rejecting unwelcome (undesired or offensive) sexual advances.Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Is Illegal and so Is Being Fired for Complaining of Sexual Harassment
An employer will rarely if ever tell you that you are being fired due to sexual harassment. The reason is that firing you due to sexual harassment is against the law.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code sections 12900 – 12996, is the primary California law that prohibits workplace sexual harassment and retaliation against those who complain of sexual harassment. Other laws that prohibit workplace sexual harassment and retaliation include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the California Education Code. Workplace sexual harassment exacts a heavy cost on those affected. Sexual harassment can end careers, ruin personal relationships, and cause immense emotional damage. Physical, verbal, and non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature and unwelcome sexual advances can be unlawful workplace sexual harassment if:
- the conduct creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment from a reasonable person standard;
- the conduct affects employment decisions concerning the person targeted by the conduct;
- submission to the conduct is an explicit or implicit condition of employment (a “this for that” or quid pro quo situation); and/or
- the conduct interferes with the work performance of the person targeted by the conduct
Workplace sexual harassment is actionable even if the victim does not suffer any economic loss and the victim retains her job position or is even promoted after the harassment occurs.How Do I Know If I Have Been Sexually Harassed?
Sometimes it is obvious that one is being sexually harassed. Other times, misconceptions about what is and what is not sexual harassment prevent people from recognizing that they have been sexually harassed. In years past, laws concerning sexual harassment only prohibited a narrow range of conduct and those laws were often rigidly and unforgivingly applied to dismiss credible sexual harassment claims. Fortunately, current California law aims to protect the broadest group of individuals possible from the full range of sexual harassment one might encounter in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace includes an assortment of abusive conduct, including harassment based on sexual orientation, gender expression (a person’s gender-related behavior or appearance or perception thereof), and gender identity (one’s internal understanding of one’s gender). The following list is aimed at clearing up some misconceptions as to what is and what is not sexual harassment.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Be Directed at Supervisors, Coworkers, or Subordinates
While stereotypical workplace sexual harassment involves a supervisor harassing a subordinate over whom he or she has leverage based on the power difference between the parties, sexual harassment in the workplace does not require the parties involved to be in a hierarchal relationship.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Does Not Have to Be Motivated by Sexual Desire
Workplace sexual harassment can be, and often is, motivated by a desire to bully, dominate, or demean another person based on general hostility towards the victim’s actual or perceived sex or gender as opposed to being motivated by sexual desire.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Does Not Require Touching
Workplace sexual harassment does not require a physical component and is often effectuated by means other than touching. Workplace sexual harassment can carried out by speech, visual materials, and other means.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Does Not Require Talking
Talking or speech is not a required component of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment regardless of the means by which it is transmitted.
- Men Can Be Sexually Harassed by Women
While stereotypical workplace sexual harassment involves a man harassing a woman, a situation in which a woman is harassing a man is equally actionable.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Does Not Necessarily Require Repeated Behavior
One particularly awful or severe incident can be enough to constitute workplace sexual harassment. Less severe but frequent conduct can also be workplace sexual harassment.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Outside of the Workplace Can Be Actionable
Objectionable emails, communications through social media, texts, or phone calls between employees outside of working hours can be workplace sexual harassment. Workplace sexual harassment can occur during business trips to meetings, seminars, or conferences. Workplace sexual harassment can occur at company-sanctioned gatherings, celebrations, or parties, or during a person’s lunch or rest break, regardless of location.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Be Actionable Even if It Was Intended Only to Be a Joke
For example, a male supervisor may be in the habit making vulgar and obscene jokes of a sexual nature directed towards a longtime female subordinate. The longtime female subordinate does not consider the jokes to be sexual harassment. In fact she likes the jokes, she thinks they are funny, and she looks forward to being the butt of her supervisor’s jokes even though a reasonable person in the subordinate’s shoes could find the conduct to be sexual harassment. If the supervisor begins directing the same type of jokes towards a new female subordinate, who finds the jokes offensive, this may be workplace sexual harassment. This type of situation can be avoided if the person thinks things over before making comments. Sexual harassment prevention training can help. Fortunately, California law now requires most California employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to their employees.
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Be Between Two Persons of the Same Sex or Gender
As discussed previously, workplace sexual harassment is not limited stereotypical situations.Contact Us
If you believe you have been fired due to sexual harassment, or you believe your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.