Sexual Harassment Lawyer
While FEHA prohibits harassment towards several protected classes of individuals, sexual harassment is by far the most common claim invoked out of those categories.
While the term "sex" denotes the biological differences between males and females, gender refers to the cultural implications attached to each sex. Harassment based on sex or gender includes not only harassment directed towards the physical differences between the sexes, but also the stereotypes and attitudes about the sexes.
Generally there are "two distinct categories of sexual harassment claims: quid pro quo and hostile work environment." Fisher v. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, (1989) 214 Cal. App. 3d 590, 607.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when submission to sexual conduct is made a condition of … employment benefits. Id. The harassment must occur by the supervisor (person with higher authority over the employee) while the supervisor is acting as an agent of the employer. State Dept. of Health Services v. Superior Court, (2003) 31 Cal. 4th 1026, 1041.
On the other hand a hostile work environment occurs when the sexual harassment creates an abusive work situation, regardless of whether the individual suffers tangible or economic loss. Id. In determining whether the harassing conduct is severe or pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment, courts look to the factors of:
- the nature of the unwelcome sexual acts or works (for example: generally physical touching is more offensive than unwelcome verbal abuse)
- the frequency of the offensive encounters,
- the total number of days over which all of the offensive conduct occurs,
- and the context in which the sexually harassing conduct occurred. Fisher v. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital (1989), 214 Cal. App. 3d 590, 610.
Harassing conduct must be found severe and pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment, an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive which requires both, and also that the victim subjectively perceives the environment to be abusive. Harris v. Forklift Sys., (1993) 510 U.S. 17, 21-22. The objective standard is understood through the perspective of a reasonable employee. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, (1989) 214 Cal. App. 3d 590, 609.
It is unlawful "for an employer....to fail to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring." Cal Gov Code 12940(k).
Sexual harassment is normally a separate cause of action from sex discrimination. However, harassment is actionable as "discrimination" if it is "so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of [the victim's] employment and create an abusive working environment." Clark County School Dist. v. Breeden, (2001) 532 US 268, 270. The
Trujillo v. North County Transit Dist. case creates a tort under this statute with the usual elements of a tort, enforceable by private plaintiffs, who have established: defendants "legal duty of care toward plaintiffs, breach of duty (a negligent act or omission), legal causation, and damages to the plaintiff." (1998) 63 Cal. App. 4th 280, 286.
Employers can require an employee to "adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards," but an employer must "allow an employee to appear or dress consistently with the employee's gender identity." Cal. Gov. Code § 12949. On the other hand, forcing unduly burdensome appearance standards on a particular gender is prohibited. Frank v. United Airlines, Inc. (9th Cir. 2000) 216 F3d 845, 854. In addition, requiring a gender to wear sexually provocative clothing constitutes sex discrimination. Jespersen v. Harrah’s Operation Co., Inc., (9th Cir. 2006) 444 F3d 1104, 1113. It is also sex discrimination to require a particular gender to meet a certain level of attractiveness. Yanowitz v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., (2005) 36 C4th 1028, 1044.EXAMPLES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
There are many forms of sexual harassment, and sexual harassment can appear in almost any workplace.
Male on Female: A female worker sits next to a male worker. The male likes to tease the female about how he likes to look down her shirt or up her skirt. On some occasions, the male has exposed himself to the female worker as well. While the female worker has told him to stop and has even complained to her boss, nobody did anything to stop the male worker from continuing this behavior. This type of conduct would likely constitute sexual harassment. If you are undergoing sexual harassment at your own workplace, please contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, right away.
Male Supervisor: A male supervisor tells a female employee that he finds her “sexy” and asks her to sleep with him. When she explains that she is not interested, the male supervisor begins to increase her workload and scrutinize her work, and he continues to ask her out on dates and comment about her clothes and body. This would likely constitute sexual harassment from the supervisor. If you are experiencing similar treatment at your workplace, call us at Kokozian Law Firm, APC.
Female on Male: A female supervisor has been showing pictures to a male employee that show herself without clothing and in various sexual positions. The male feels uncomfortable and unable to do his work with these distractions and has asked his supervisor to discontinue showing him these pictures, but she has continued to tease him. Because sexual harassment can be caused by either gender, this conduct may constitute sexual harassment and expose the supervisor to liability. If you need help fighting sexual harassment at your workplace, contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, where our attorneys have experience handling sexual harassment cases.
Hostile Work Environment: A female employee used to enjoy her job, but she has discovered many of the supervisors talk about her body and about “getting her into bed” behind her back. These attitudes by her supervisors has even spread to other, male employees, and the female employee is now constantly faced with comments, stares, and lewd gestures at the workplace. This abusive work situation would possibly constitute a hostile work environment. Please contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, today if you are faced with a similar factual scenario.
Non-Consent: A male worker asked a female worker if she was interested in having a “crazy night.” The female laughed off his comment, said “No thanks,” and went back to work. The male worker in denial convinced himself she was interested because she had chuckled, and began texting and calling her at all times throughout the night whenever she would get off work. While the male worker wants to believe that she has consented to having a relationship, in this case the female worker did not consent to anything and is actually being sexually harassed. If you are experiencing a similar fact pattern, contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, where we know that employees have a right to be free from sexual harassment at the workplace.
Unwanted Physical Touching: A female worker is subjected to unwanted physical touching by her male boss. The boss often touches her shoulders, grabs her by the waist, and brushes against her private regions. The boss likes to say that the female worker actually enjoys it but in reality she does not and has told him so many times in the past. Here, the female worker may have a claim for sexual harassment, because the boss’s physical touching of her body would likely be considered an abusive working situation. If you have been facing an abusive working situation at your own workplace, be sure to call Kokozian Law Firm, APC, sexual harassment lawyers.
Comments About One’s Body: A female worker hears many comments from her coworkers about the size of her chest and/or her buttocks. It is hard for the worker to determine which person started the comments, but many people are spreading the comments, even after the female has complained to her supervisors. Because the employees had created an environment where the comments had become pervasive and the supervisors failed to protect the worker’s rights not to be harassed and discriminated against, the employer may be found liable for sexual harassment, failure to prevent sexual harassment, and/or sex discrimination. If you have been subjected to sexual comments about your body at the workplace, contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC for a free consultation.
Forced to be Alone with Supervisor: A male employee is given a promotion by a female supervisor. However, the supervisor requires the employee to attend seminars and conventions alone with supervisor, and while on the trips the supervisor attempts to kiss the employee and calls him affectionate names, despite being asked to stop. In this case, the male employee may have a claim of sexual harassment against the supervisor because the supervisor seemingly promoted him on the expectation of a sexual relationship and used the isolation as a chance to alter the conditions of his employment. If you or someone you know has undergone a similar situation, please contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC for a free consultation, the sexual harassment attorneys.
Quid Pro Quo: An employer asks one of his female employees out on a date, which she refuses. The employer then tells her that he will give her a promotion, or that he will decide against terminating her, if she accompanies him on the date. This sort of proposal is "quid pro quo," because the employee's promotion or job may be at risk if she refuses the date. If you have suffered from quid pro quo harassment at your workplace, please contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, where we have extensive experience working in employment rights.
Harassment then Retaliation: If a supervisor and an employee have established a pattern of flirting, but the employee suddenly stops flirting and in response the employer assigns the employee a harder workload, this too would likely constitute sexual harassment. Call Kokozian Law Firm, APC, if you need a consultation.
Male on Male: A male employee receives graphic text messages from a homosexual supervisor, who is also male. The supervisor has a crush on the employee, but the employee is not interested in a relationship. Other employees learn about the supervisor’s crush on the employee and begin to tease the employee about being a homosexual or about being in a relationship with the supervisor. This causes the employee to get in trouble and eventually be terminated. Under this fact pattern, the employee may have a claim for sexual harassment, even though the harassment is coming from a member of the same sex. A sexual harassment claim may be based upon a sexually-charged atmosphere created by supervisors or coworkers of the same gender. Oncale v. Sundwoner Offshore Services, Inc. (1998) 523 US 75, 78.
Being Harassed due to Attractiveness: A female employee who is considered very attractive enjoys her job; however, other employees and supervisors often tell her that she should take off articles of clothing or flash them. This kind of conduct would likely constitute a basis for a sexual harassment claim. Accordingly, if you have been subjected to similar treatment from your coworkers, call Kokozian Law Firm, APC, today.
Personal Invitations: A young, female employee is repeatedly invited to her boss’s house. After visiting, her boss asks her to stay the night, which she declines. The next day, the female employee receives a termination letter. The boss’s conditioning her continued employment on her acceptance of his implied sexual offer would probably constitute quid pro quo sexual harassment. If you have faced the same conduct by your supervisor, tell us at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. (323) 857-5900.
Pregnancy Harassment: A female employee has to take a pregnancy leave. The coworkers spread rumors that the employee has slept with one of her coworkers, and the employee has asked the supervisor to stop the rumors. Rather than stop the rumors, the supervisor tells her she is on her own. The employee eventually quits. Because the supervisor failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the ongoing sexual harassment and allowed untrue rumors to spread, the employee may have causes of action for sex discrimination, failure to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment, and possibly defamation for the rumors that she had slept with someone from the workplace. If you have suffered similar treatment at your own workplace, be sure to call Kokozian Law Firm, APC, and ask about our free consultation.
Harassment after Relationship: A female employee dated a manager for a time because she felt pressure to do so in order to keep her job. After the consensual relations ended, the manager scrutinized her work, humiliated her in front of other employees, and eventually fired her when she refused to allow further sexual relations. This type of scenario could lead to liability for the manager and for the company under a sexual harassment theory. If you believe this or something similar to this has happened to you, please call Kokozian Law Firm, APC.
Romantic Gifts: A male employee often receives gifts from a female supervisor which make him uncomfortable, such as valentine’s cards and sexual pictures. The clerk has asked the shift leader to stop giving him these items, but she has continued. This type of scenario may be found to be sexual harassment, so if you are undergoing similar treatment, contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC as soon as possible.
Revealing Outfits: A female employee is required to wear skimpy outfits while her male counterparts are allowed to wear conservative uniforms that cover most of their bodies. Because the employer in this case is altering the conditions of the server’s employment and is having her alone wear revealing clothing, the employer would likely be liable for sexual harassment. If you believe you are experiencing a similar fact pattern, Kokozian Law Firm, APC, where we understand the rights of employees.
Body Fixations: A female employee worked next to a man who would frequently comment about the size and weight of her breasts, often using obscene hand gestures to suggest that he should grope them. This type of abusive sexual harassment would likely lead to liability for the employer. Contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, now if you need a free consultation.
Prying Into Marriage: A female employee enjoyed her job until one day the manager began to ask her questions about whether she was previously married and about whether she had children. While the female employee did not think much of the questions at first, soon the questions became very personal and asked about whether she was interested in finding a new husband and whether she would like to have the manager’s next child. This could be sexual harassment under the law, so contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC now if you are in a similar situation.
Hostile Work Environment: A supervisor asked a female subordinate whether she would “hook up” with him on her first day of work. The female employee then found out that the same supervisor had said the same thing to the last three women hired. This may qualify as sexual harassment due to a hostile work environment, under the law. If you are facing sexual harassment at your workplace, give Kokozian Law Firm, APC a call!
Harassment and Wrongful Termination: One day a supervisor pulled aside a female employee, grabbed her buttocks, and told her she should sleep with him, which she refused. Shortly after the incident, the female employee was terminated for fabricated reasons. This fact pattern demonstrates sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and wrongful termination. If you have suffered similar treatment at your workplace, don’t delay. Contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, where our attorneys are experienced with employee rights.
Female on Female: A lesbian supervisor regularly scheduled one of the female subordinates to come in earlier and stay later than her fellow coworkers so that the employee could work on inventory and other matters in the back office alone with the supervisor. This back office would always be locked, and it was here that the supervisor would rub the employee’s shoulders and tell her that they should be “more than friends.” When the employee told the supervisor to stop saying things like that, the supervisor said that many girls wanted the employee’s job and would be willing to take it if the employee was ever fired. This type of ongoing conduct could result in liability for the employer and for the supervisor under a sexual harassment cause of action. If you or anyone you know is facing similar circumstances, give Kokozian Law Firm, APC, a call today.
Text Messages or Electronic Messages: A manager was attracted to a newly-hired, female worker. The manager would make comments about the worker’s physical appearance, her body, and her scent. Additionally, the manager sent the worker inappropriate text messages, including text messages in which he addressed her as “Lovely”, “Darling”, “Baby”, and called her “Cute.” This continued even during the personal time off for the female worker. This type of ongoing, pervasive conduct might constitute sexual harassment under California law. Contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, today if you need a free consultation for a situation such as this.
Touching Body Parts: A male supervisor tells a female subordinate he works with that he would like to examine her breasts. Later on, the manager also grabs her hand and makes her touch his erection. These obscene comments and acts would likely qualify as sexual harassment, and so the supervisor will be found liable to the female subordinate for his inappropriate and obscene conduct. If you need legal guidance or an attorney to protect your employee rights, call Kokozian Law Firm, APC, for a free consultation.
Frequent Phone Calls: A male employee gets a new, female supervisor. The employee gets many phone calls from the supervisor throughout his shift and also when he is off the clock. The employee has informed the supervisor on multiple occasions that he is married and not interested, but the supervisor continues to call him and ask him inappropriate questions, such as whether he thinks about her when he is with his wife and whether he would cheat on his wife with the supervisor. The supervisor even calls his house and hangs up when his wife answers. This pervasive, ongoing conduct by the supervisor is sexual harassment, and here the employee would be protected under the law. If you are undergoing similar treatment in your work environment, please give Kokozian Law Firm, APC, a call today.
Habitual Treatment Toward the Opposite Sex: A female worker attended an event with a fellow, male employee. On their way back from the event, the male employee pulled over into an alley and asked the female worker to take off her shirt. When she refused, he leaned in and kissed her on her neck. When the female worker complained to management, she was told that the male employee always kisses females as a gesture and that she could quit the job if she wanted. Here, the female was not only sexually harassed but was left with no option but to quit if she didn’t like it. The right not to be sexually harassed is protected by the laws of California, so contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC for a free consultation if you have been in a similar situation to the above fact pattern.
Inappropriate Excursions: The manager often takes his employees out for lunch or dinner. One night the manager invites one of his female employees to go clubbing, and while there offers to pay for her drinks and food. The female employee declines and stated she could pay for her own things and that it wasn’t right to be alone with him at a dance club. The manager didn’t listen and pulled her onto the dance floor where he began to dance uncomfortably close to her and rub against her body sexually. This abusive situation would likely constitute sexual harassment. Protecting against sexual harassment is a focus of Kokozian Law Firm, APC, so give our firm a call for a free consultation!
Antagonizing Harassment: A female works across the office from a certain male employee. While the female is trying to work, the male employee frequently sends her instant messages on her computer that “joke” about sexual experimentation, favorite sexual positions, and pornographic materials, many of which contain explicit pictures. The female employee has stated multiple times that she is repulsed by these topics, but the male finds delight in her reactions and continues to send the messages. This behavior may be sexual harassment, and the female employee is entitled to protection of her rights to be left alone from such obscene material as she works. If you or a friend are stuck in a similar situation as Amy, please give Kokozian Law Firm, APC a call.
Taking Pictures at the Workplace: A male manager continually takes pictures of one of his female employees. These pictures often focus on the female employee’s genitalia or private regions, and some of these pictures the manager keeps on his phone and shows to others, and some he prints out and keeps around his desk in the back office. This inappropriate behavior invaded the female employee’s rights and would likely subject the manager and the company to liability for sexual harassment. If you are suffering from similar treatment at your work place, be sure to give Kokozian Law Firm, APC, a call as soon as you can.
Ex-Lovers: A female worker loves her job, but one day her ex-lover is hired in the same department. In order to spite the female worker whom he used to date, the ex-lover spreads rumors around the office about her, including details of sexual activities the two have shared. Rather than quash the rumors, the management does nothing to protect the female wokrer from the bullying. In this case, the ex-lover has created a hostile work environment, and he and the company are likely liable for sexual harassment and for failure to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. If you have had similar events occur to you, please contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC, for a free consultation.
- Sexual Harassment Lawyer (Part 2)
- Sexual Advances by a Supervisor with an Express or Implied Threat
- Sexual Harassment as a Result of Physical Touching
- Sexual Harassment as a Result of Sexual Jokes
- Sexual Harassment as a Result of Visual Displays of Sexual Materials
- Sexual Harassment by Innuendo
- Sexual Harassment by Persistent Leering or Staring
- Sexual Harassment by Sexting or Email
- Sexual Harassment by Spying
- Sexual Harassment by the Same Sex
- Verbal Sexual Harassment