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What are the Laws Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment comes in many forms, including requests for sexual favors (known as quid pro), unwelcome sexual advances and being denied employment benefits due to sexual favors to others. If you are subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, you should inform your employer of the sexual harassment, using any complaint mechanism made available to you by your employer. If the sexual harassment does not stop, or if your employer retaliates against you for complaining of sexual harassment by firing you from your job or demoting you or withholding a job benefit to which you would otherwise be entitled, you should contact an experienced employment discrimination and harassment attorney. The experienced employment discrimination and harassment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm may be able to help you take full advantage of the laws against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Several laws are against sexual harassment in the workplace.Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code sections 12900 – 12996 Prohibits Sexual Harassment in The Workplace
FEHA is a California state law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on a broad range of personal characteristics, including sex. FEHA applies within the State of California.
FEHA prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of the size of the employer. FEHA prohibits the sexual harassment of workplace participants: employees, independent contractors, volunteers, and unpaid interns.
Before filing a lawsuit in a court of law for sexual harassment under FEHA, you must first file a discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and receive a Right-to-Sue notice from the agency.The California Constitution Prohibits Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The California Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 prohibits employment discrimination and harassment by both public and private employers on the basis of sex and other protected characteristics.The Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976 (California Civil Code section 51.7 and Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code section 52.1) Prohibit Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
A worker subject to sexual harassment involving threats or violence, intimidation, or coercion, or attempts to do the same, may bring a lawsuit in a court of law based on the California statutes referenced above.State Criminal Statutes Providing Criminal Penalties for Sexual Harassment in The Workplace
Certain behaviors related to sexual harassment in the workplace violate California criminal statutes.
For example, California Penal Code section 646.9 provides criminal penalties for stalking behavior of a repeated or willful and malicious nature intended to place a person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family.
California Penal Code section 653 m, subdivision (b), and California Penal Code section 653.2 provide criminal penalties for internet-based sexual harassment and stalking.Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 United States Code Section 2000e, et seq.) Prohibits Sexual Harassment in The Workplace
Title VII prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, national original, and sex, including sexual harassment. While both Title VII and FEHA prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sex, including sexual harassment, the two laws differ in several respects.
Title VII is a federal law. Title VII applies throughout the United States, while FEHA applies only in California. Title VII’s workplace protections apply exclusively to employees.
Title VII generally applies to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees. In addition, Title VII applies to qualifying private members clubs with twenty-five (25) or more employees. As a consequence, Title VII protects workers who work for larger employers from sexual harassment in the workplace. In contrast, FEHA does not recognize a distinction between an employer with two workers and an employer with two thousand workers—FEHA prohibits sexual harassment in small workplaces and large workplaces alike.
Title VII allows recovery of: (i) Compensatory damages (e.g. out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses and job searches, and for any emotional harm suffered); and (ii) Punitive damages (money awarded to punish the employer for conduct related to the harassment) up to certain amounts. For example, if the employer has 15 to 100 employees, recovery up to $50,000 is permitted. The amount of permitted recovery increases for larger employers. A victim can recover in any amount for pay he or she would likely otherwise have received if not for the sexual harassment that resulted in the victim being fired or having to quit because of intolerable working conditions. In contrast, FEHA has no caps on damages.
For numerous reasons, including those referenced above, most workplace sexual harassment lawsuits in California are brought under FEHA.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces Title VII. Before filing a lawsuit in a court of law for sexual harassment under Title VII, you must first file a charge with the EEOC and receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the agency.Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), 20 United States Code Section 1681. et seq. Prohibits Sexual Harassment in Certain Workplaces
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, in federally funded programs and activities. As with Title VII, Title IX applies throughout the United States. In the employment context, Title IX applies mainly to private sector employees who work in federally funded educational programs. Therefore, Title IX applies to less employees than Title VII. Unlike Title VII, Title IX has no requirement that you must first file a charge with a federal agency before filing a lawsuit in a court of law.
Sexual harassment claims are highly technical and fact specific. Experienced employment law attorneys have the expertise necessary to choose which law or laws might be most beneficial to use in your particular situation.Contact Us
If you believe you have been unlawfully harassed at work, or if you believe your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced employment law attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.