Treating someone poorly at work is not always illegal. For treatment in the workplace to cross the distinction of becoming unlawful, it must violate existing employment laws that protect certain classes from workplace harassment. Unlawful workplace harassment is typically done when someone within an organization harasses an employee based on the victim’s features or qualities like race, ethnicity, place of origin, gender, sexual preference, or familial status. On the other hand, non-discriminatory workplace harassment, can create a hostile workplace which you can build a case around if your employer fails to provide a safe work environment. If you have been victim to workplace harassment, in any form, it is important to talk to an experienced workplace harassment lawyer to discuss how to protect your rights.
Here are shortcuts to the specific topics:
- 1. Los Angeles Workplace Harassment Lawyers
- 2. What Does a Workplace Harassment Lawyer Do?
- 3. Why Choose Mesriani Law Group?
- 4. What is Workplace Harassment?
- 5. Is Workplace Harassment Illegal?
What Does a Workplace Harassment Lawyer Do?
Having a workplace harassment lawyer available is important to ensure that your workplace harassment complaint is heard and addressed and that you stand the strongest chance possible in a potential workplace harassment lawsuit. An experienced Mesriani Law Group workplace harassment lawyer will:
- Help file original complaint with employer
- Guide you through filing a formal complaint with DFEH & EEOC
- Collect evidence and testimony on behalf of the victim
- Initiate mediation between victim and employer
- Build your workplace harassment claim so it is ready for trial
- Present your case with the strongest information possible
Why Choose Mesriani Law Group?
What is Workplace Harassment?
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act defines harassment as one of 2 actions:
- Quid Pro Quo: Circumstance that involves a superior offering to exchange a positive benefit at work for sexual favors.
- Hostile Work Environment: Employee conduct creates an abusive workplace for another employee.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is usually between 2 individuals at work and typically focuses on sex or gender. Hostile work environment claims are usually prompted by acts of prejudice or discrimination against any of the other protected classes. This includes harassment at work based on an individual’s religion, nation of origin, race, sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Workplace harassment is not exclusive to employees, but also includes applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers, and independent contractors.
Is Workplace Harassment Illegal?
Workplace harassment in all its forms: workplace discrimination, bullying, and abuse all create a hostile work environment which is deemed illegal by several laws. The following federal laws clearly and explicitly prohibit harassment in the workplace:
- Title XII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967)
- ADA (Americans with Disability Act of 1990)
These different laws, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), determine what is acceptable behavior in the private and public sectors for businesses with over 15 employees.
California Laws That Protect Against Workplace Harassment
California also imposes some of the strictest employment laws in the nation. These laws are generally employee friendly and apply even more protections than those mandated by federal law.
- FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act): This law covers all employers with 5 or more employees and is enforced by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
FEHA recommends that employers:
- Have employee anti-harassment policy available and distributed to all employees in clear and easy to understand language
- Open anti-harassment policy up for discussion on a regular basis
- Properly train management and leadership on how to address and mitigate potential for harassment
- Upper management and leadership should lead by example
- Provide team capable of receiving complaints for harassment
- Have a team that can investigate and resolve harassment complaints
Employers have a strong stake in ensuring that their operations are free of harassment of any kind. They must prioritize those complaints and ensure that they are properly investigated if brought to the attention of management or HR. If there is proof of misconduct, the employer must take corrective action to ensure that harassment stops otherwise they can be held accountable for participating in creating a hostile work environment. These steps can include:
- Punish harassment and inappropriate behavior
- Ensure policy change is implemented that prevents further similar action
- Provide training and counseling for the offending employee
- Putting offending employee on probation, suspension, or termination
What if the Harassment Is Not by A Supervisor or Boss?
All forms of harassment can be committed by someone that does not hold a position of authority. It does help identify an imbalance in power dynamics in a quid pro quo claim but harassment in the workplace, sexual or otherwise, can be committed by anyone including coworkers, clients, and 3rd parties.
If the harassment was perpetrated by a supervisor, manager, or someone in a position of power / authority, then the employer is strictly liable even if they did nothing wrong themselves. If the harassment was perpetrated by someone that did not wield authority or power over the position, then the employer has the duty to take corrective action to avoid liability.
Examples of Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment comes in many different forms, not all of which are illegal. For the harassment to be unlawful, there needs to be some violation of existing employment laws. This typically becomes unlawful when there’s unwelcome conduct that focuses on a “protected class.” These classes include:
- Skin color, ethnicity, nation of origin
- Sex / gender
- Sexual orientation
- Medical status including pregnancy
- Familial status
Sexual harassment & racial harassment are the 2 most common types of employment harassment. This becomes ground for a lawsuit when:
- Harassment continues after it has been brought to the attention of supervisors and HR
- Conduct is so extreme that it creates a hostile work environment
In both instances, offensive actions have occurred enough to create a “pattern” of behavior that has been well documented. Examples of offensive conduct include:
- Offensive or distasteful jokes that are inappropriate for work
- Racial, sexist, or other offensive slurs
- Unwanted physical contact, Intimidation, & threats
- Emotional harassment & abuse
- Unwanted sexual advances including “quid pro quo” arrangements
- Insults, slander, & libel
- Offensive imagery in common spaces
Impacts of Workplace Harassment
Working in a hostile environment for long periods of time can cause stress levels that result in psychological trauma. This can impact and exacerbate symptoms of:
- Anxiety disorders
- PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder)
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Poor health
- Suicidal thoughts
The physical and emotional manifestations of such high stress resulting from a hostile work environment can exceed those listed above. This is just a small number of side effects an individual can have after dealing with workplace harassment from colleagues or supervisors.
What Should Victims of Workplace Harassment Do?
Mesriani Law Group’s experienced employment lawyers recommend that victims of workplace harassment follow these steps to protect their rights:
- Do not quit your position as it weakens your claim and lost wages become more difficult to recover.
- Speak with an experienced employment harassment lawyer to determine what actions should be taken.
- Report incidents of harassment to supervisors or HR so the action can be thoroughly investigated. If this doesn’t stop the issue, it will at least document it.
- File an official complaint with DFEH.
- Wait for DFEH to send their “permission to sue” to file a civil lawsuit against harasser and workplace.
How Do You Report Workplace Harassment?
If your current employer has a system in place to receive and handle harassment claims, the first step would be to notify your employer. This allows them to take corrective action needed to free themselves of liability. It is your employer’s responsibility to make changes to create a safe place for their employees to work and cannot retaliate in anyway. It is important to note, that you do not have to be the victim of employment harassment to file a complaint. You can be witness to it and still report it to your employer.
If corrective actions are not made in attempts at creating a safe space for employees, the complaint can be brought to the attention of federal and state regulatory agencies designed to oversee these types of claims. A complaint can be made to the EEOC and DFEH, which will alert the government and start an independent investigation into harassment claims. If the decision to file any type of formal complaint has been made, it is recommended that you enlist an employment lawyer to help provide guidance, outline the proper steps to take, identify valuable evidence to collect, and protect yourself. Following the advice of the employment harassment lawyer will help increase the chances of a successful workplace harassment lawsuit.
Can You Sue for Workplace Harassment?
If a complaint has been made with the EEOC and DFEH, an investigation should have been opened into your harassment claim. Sometimes the agencies will pursue a lawsuit for you, but if they do not, they will still send a “right to sue” declaration that allows you to file a lawsuit against your employer. Under these circumstances, an employee has between 180 days to 1 year from the time the “right to sue” letter was received to file a lawsuit or risk having the case thrown out.
In the state of California, employers are responsible for any damages incurred from harassment, whether they were aware of the harassment or not. In some instances, employers can avoid some liability if harassment wasn’t done by someone in a leadership role, the company had proper anti-harassment policy and took corrective measures to fix offensive behavior, or the employee failed to accept remedies provided by employer. Regardless, the business still has to improve company policy and take corrective action to create a workplace that isn’t hostile.
Statute of Limitations for Workplace Harassment Claims
Making sure that claims are filed within deadlines will help ensure that the cases aren’t dropped. According to the DFEH in the state of California, the deadline to file a lawsuit is a year from when you receive a “right to sue” notice. The deadline to file according to the EEOC and federal guidelines is either 180 or 300 days of the last incident of harassment.
Hire Mesriani Law Group to Handle Your Workplace Harassment Claim
Having the support of Mesriani Law Group in your workplace harassment lawsuit will be critical to the success of your claim. In these types of cases, we have been able to recover damages for:
- Lost wages and benefits
- Missed promotion opportunities
- Court fees accumulated fighting harassment
- Emotional duress caused by hostile work environment
- Punitive damages
Call today for a free consultation so we can discuss how to best move forward with your complaint!
Workplace Harassment Lawyer FAQs
Can you sue for work harassment?
Workplace harassment can be the reason for a lawsuit, but it would only make sense when harassment has become unlawful by being:
- Persistent and severe enough to qualify the work environment as hostile
- Sexual in nature
- Discriminatory towards a “protected class”
What are the 3 types of harassment?
The 3 primary types of workplace harassment are typically verbal / written, physical, or visual. Incidents of any of these should be documented and reported via formal complaint to management to ensure the incident is investigated.
What defines workplace harassment?
As defined by the EEOC, workplace harassment is any unwelcome action that is prompted or caused by prejudice towards a protected class. These protected classes include race, color, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, or familial status.
How do you prove a hostile work environment caused by workplace harassment?
These claims can be complex and require enough evidence to cement your claim as fact. This generally requires that the victim:
- Belong to a protected class
- Was the victim of inappropriate and unwelcome behavior
- That the inappropriate behavior was prompted by the victim of harassment being a part of a protected class
- That the behavior was persistent and intense enough to cause disruption in the workplace