Being propositioned sexually at work, subjected to unwelcome physical advances, told that submission to sexual requests is required to keep your job or you are subjected to a hostile and sexually offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment is a subject that gets lots of attention in the media but so many employees and employers really do not understand the law in this area.  While everyone knows that it is unlawful for a supervisor to demand sexual favors as a condition of job benefits or continued employment, some may not know that the law makes a major distinction between sexual harassment perpetrated by supervisors versus harassment by co-workers.  An employer is only liable for sexual harassment by co-workers if the harassment is reported to the employer and the employer fails to take prompt and appropriate remedial action (as in action that has the likely effect of ending the harassment).

By contrast, employers are strictly liable for sexual harassment by supervisors.  So if the harassment happened the employer is liable for it, no matter whether the employer was specifically notified and took remedial action or not.  This is the law for an important reason: to a lower level employee the supervisor is the company.  That supervisor generally has the authority to hire, fire and change the terms and conditions of the employee’s job.  So when the supervisor engages in sexual harassment he does so acting as the employer and the company is therefore liable for his or her conduct as its own.

Additionally, many people are afraid to come forward with sexual harassment complaints for fear of having embarrassing details of their private lives exposed.  Some employers try to use this discomfort to squash otherwise meritorious claims.  However, California law generally prohibits employers from examining the sexual history of an employee claiming sexual harassment.  That means, with very limited exceptions, if you sue for sexual harassment the only sexual conduct that the employer can ask about is your relationship with the accused harasser.  Even if you happened to have had consensual relationships with various other co-workers that is almost entirely irrelevant, would almost never be allowed into evidence and the employer is by default not even entitled to ask about those relationships.

Sexual harassment is a complex are of law that an experienced litigator can best help you navigate.  I can help you understand the differences between quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment as well as the requirements to prove each type of claim and the best strategies for doing so.