Preserving Your Rights: Filing a Timely Sexual Harassment Claim

While we might like to believe that sexual harassment doesn’t occur very often, that is unfortunately not true. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives approximately 7,000 claims of sexual harassment each year — and this number only represents workplace harassment that is reported. Sexual harassment is not reported far too often — and even when it is reported, sometimes the victim can’t recover because they have waited to long to bring the claim.

Read on to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and important considerations for bringing a timely claim to ensure you don’t lose the opportunity hold the perpetrator accountable.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Broadly defined, sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior that is:

  • Made a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Used as a basis for employment decisions affecting an individual; or
  • Unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment

While there is no exhaustive list of behaviors that constitute sexual harassment, examples include:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault;
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors;
  • Unwanted deliberate leaning over, cornering, touching, or pinching;
  • Unwanted sexual gestures or looks;
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions;
  • Pressure for dates;
  • Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks; and
  • Spreading rumors or telling lies about an individual’s sex life

Sexual harassment reports in California are higher than the national average, by 5% for women and 10% for men. More than 86% of women and 53% of men in California reported experience some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Verbal sexual harassment is most common, followed by physically aggressive forms of sexual harassment and cyber sexual harassment. Marginalized populations including foreign-born men, lesbian and bisexual women, and gay and bisexual men all report increased rates of harassment or assault.

How Long Do I Have to Report Sexual Harassment?

Every state places a limit on the amount of time a victim has to file a claim for sexual harassment, called the statute of limitations. In 2020, California tripled the amount of time an employee has to file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) after an alleged violation. Previously, an individual only had one year from the date of the incident to report a violation. The law now allows employees three years to file a claim after the incident occurred.

The extension of the statute of limitations is intended to address the unique concerns associated with sexual harassment, including victim’s need for significant time to come to terms with the incident and to feel comfortable coming forward. Sexual harassment victims often also face serious concerns of retaliation.

Even though the statute of limitations has been extended, it is important to file a claim as soon as the victim is able. The more time that passes, the more likely evidence will be lost or witnesses memories will become hazy. An experienced attorney will work with you to prepare your claim and ease the stress associated with the process. Additionally, if you were the victim of sexual harassment in 2019, it is important to bring your claim as soon as possible.

How Do I Initiate a Claim?

Once you have confirmed that the statute of limitations has not passed, you will need to file a sexual harassment claim. If you have experienced sexual harassment, take the following steps:

  • Be familiar with your employer’s sexual harassment policy;
  • Document evidence of the harassment, including witnesses, after it occurs, including putting all complaints in writing;
  • Notify your employer about the harassment in whatever manner advised in the sexual harassment policy, or, if no policy exists, to a human resource or other responsible employee; and
  • File a complaint with either the DFEH or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — a lawyer can help you determine which agency should receive your claim;

After a complaint is filed with DFEH, the department will evaluate the facts and decide whether the complaint warrants further investigation. Once accepted, the DFEH will investigate the facts and legal issues and determine whether to pursue a complaint on your behalf.

You also have the option to file your own lawsuit for employment discrimination instead of using the DFEH investigation process. You will need to complete a Right to Sue notice. It is important to work with an experienced lawyer if you choose to pursue action against outside the DFEH investigation process.

Preventing Workplace Harassment

Employers should take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, including having a clear sexual harassment policy. The policy should include a clear and safe reporting path for employees who have suffered sexual harassment, including appropriate assurances that the employee will not suffer retaliation.

California requires every employer of more than five employees to provide one hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention to non-supervisory employees and two hours of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to supervisors and managers once every two years. The training must include practical examples of harassment in a variety of categories including gender identify, gender expression, and sexual orientation. This training requirement is the minimum standard required of employers. If employers identify a need for additional training, they should take steps to provide the necessary training.

In addition to trainings and policies, employers must take active steps to discourage inappropriate jokes or other actions that create an environment that accepts or encourages sexual harassment.

Contact a Lawyer Immediately

One of the most important steps you can take after becoming the victim of sexual harassment is to contact an experienced attorney. At Perkins Asbill, our lawyers believe that every case matters and treat their responsibilities as more than a job. We are focused on protecting the rights of employees from all backgrounds and industries and believe that every employee deserves competent representation to enforce his or her rights.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in California, contact Perkins Asbill today at 916-446-2000 or through our website to schedule a consultation.

California Compliance Deadline for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Still Set For January 1, 2021

In 2018, California extended its law regarding anti-harassment training requirements to employers with five or more employees and mandated that non-supervisors and supervisors also had to receive this type of training. Yet, even though the original deadline for this prevention training was set for January 1, 2020. In 2019, Governor Newsom signed legislation extending this deadline to January 1, 2021. However, this amendment also clarified that any employer that provided sexual harassment training in 2019 was compliant with the requirements and did not have to provide any further training again for two years.

Yet, even with these updates, many employers are still confused with the sexual harassment prevention training requirements and their specific obligations. That is why, in this blog post, we will dive into these training details and provide you with answers to some frequently asked questions many employers have.

Anti-Harassment Training Requirements

Current California laws require that employers provide the following anti-harassment training:

  • One (1) hour of sexual harassment prevention training to non-supervisory employees.
  • Two (2) hours of sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors and managers.
  • This specific interactive training has to occur every two years. It includes the prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the program, as well as practical examples of harassment based on gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

COVID-19 Delay

Unfortunately, many employers delayed their anti-harassment training because of COVID-19 and California’s stay at home orders. Most hoping that by the summer, they could reschedule. However, based on the current state and county guidance, the ability to have in-person training remains challenging. Plus, there has been no further update about the Governor extending the deadline. As a result, it looks like the January 1, 2021 compliance deadline remains, and employers must provide the sexual harassment training to their employees by then.

How to Make the Training Work for You

Even though you may not provide in-person training, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) allows these live pieces of training to occur online, in a classroom, or in any other adequate, interactive format. This training:

  • May be completed by employees as part of a group or individually.
  • May be completed in portions as long as the total hourly requirements are met.
  • Is accessible on a mobile device or computer.
  • Is available in English, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Tagalog.
  • Can have closed captioning turned on or off in any version.
  • Can have alt-text for all images and icons.

It is critical to note that the training module will not save progress. As a result, if you reload the page, you can end up losing your progress. Once complete with the training, your employees will be able to obtain a certificate of competition. This means that no matter whether they are using a mobile device or computer, they will be able to print, take a screenshot, save, or email the certificate of completion to you.

What are the Employer Requirements in California for this Training?

Regardless of how the training is completed, employers need to make sure they take the following actions:

  • Retain records of all their employees’ training for at least two years.
  • Provide abusive conduct and sexual harassment prevention training to their employees every two years.
  • Provide their employees with a fact sheet or poster developed by the Department regarding sexual harassment or comparable information.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training FAQs

Since 2018, there have been many concerns regarding the sexual harassment prevention training. Typically, some of the most common questions include the following:

1. Why is this Training Required?

Sexual harassment is taken very seriously in California. Yet, despite it being against the law and there also being a greater awareness of the harms that come with sexual harassment. Many individuals are still subject to harassment because of a protected characteristic or their sex. As a result, this training was designed to remind and educate everyone about what is appropriate behavior and what is not appropriate behavior at work.

2. Who Needs To Be Trained?

Per the requirements, employers with five or more employees, all supervisory and non-supervisory employees must be trained. Regardless if they work at the same location or even if not all of them reside in California.

3. What Does the Training Need to Cover?

The Sexual Harassment Prevention Training needs to include practical guidance and information regarding the federal and state laws concerning:

  • The prevention, prohibition against, and correction of sexual harassment and any available remedies to victims of sexual harassment.
  • Practical examples of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
  • Information about preventing harassment or abusive conduct based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

4. By When Does The Training Need to Be Completed By?

There has been no indication that the date will be extended due to COVID-19. As a result, all employees must receive this training by January 1, 2021. Those employers who have 50 or more employees still have an ongoing obligation to train any new supervisory employees within six months of them assuming their new supervisory role. However, beginning on January 1, 2021, new supervisory employees in workplaces of five or more employees have to be trained within six months of starting their supervisory position. Additionally, new non-supervisory employees must be trained within six months of their hire.

5. Do I Have to Take California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing Training?

No. The DFEH provides training as a resource to help employers. However, to meet the obligation, you do not have to use their training. Instead, you are allowed to take part in your own sexual harassment prevention training as long as it meets the specific California training requirements.

Let Perkins Asbill Help You Meet Your Training Requirements

Time is running out. If your employees still need to be trained, call the Perkins Asbill law firm at 916-446-2000. We can discuss your sexual harassment prevention training questions and provide your employees with a compliant training webinar making sure they get the required training done, even if they are remote. Please do not wait any longer. Contactus today.

Common Types of Harassment in the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

Harassment at a place of work is nothing to joke about. As an employee, you have a right to work at a site that is free from insults, intimidation, and bullying. And yet, even though there are established laws that protect you against these harassment tactics, this sometimes-illegal behavior still occurs. What makes this situation even worse is that there are so many different types of workplace harassment that even the most diligent of supervisors can miss the signs. However, as an employee experiencing this type of harassment, you should not just have to deal with it.

To help you better understand if you are getting harassed at work, we have prepared the following blog post, which will explain the most common types of harassment found in the workplace, and what you can do about it.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment refers to the physical or verbal conduct that shows hostility towards another individual based on their race, gender, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, or other protected personal characteristics. Such workplace harassment is considered illegal under both state and federal law.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment involves harassment due to your skin color, ancestry, citizenship status, or race. This harassment can include racist jokes, insults, slurs, racial disgust, and even degrading comments.

Gender Harassment

Gender harassment results from discrimination against another individual because of their gender. This harassment often involves stereotypes indicating how a man or a woman should act.

Religious Harassment

Religious harassment is more focused on an individual’s religious beliefs. However, it can sometimes overlap with harassment based on race. Religious harassment can involve comments or jokes about religious traditions, holidays, clothing, and customs. Or it can be in the form of pressure to convert an individual into a different religion.

Age Harassment

Age harassment often includes any teasing, unfair criticism, insults, or being left out of activities because of an individual’s age. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers 40 years or older.

Disability Harassment

It is illegal to discriminate against another employee because of their real or perceived disability, their relationship to a disabled person, or their use of disability services. This type of harassment is often experienced through patronizing behavior, crude jokes, or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations.

Personal Harassment

Personal harassment is a type of harassment that is not based on one of the protected classes. But rather, it is the most basic form of bullying that is not illegal. Often this behavior creates an offensive or intimidating work environment for the victim, that includes

  • Crude Jokes
  • Offensive Comments
  • Personal Humiliation Tactics
  • Critical Remarks
  • Intimidation Tactics
  • Excluding Behaviors

Physical Harassment

Physical harassment, often referred to as workplace violence, is harassment that involves physical threats or attacks. In some instances, it can even be regarded as an assault. Physical harassment needs to be taken very seriously in the workplace and explained clearly to make the actions more defined.

Some examples of physical harassment include the following:

  • Threats of direct harm or an intent to inflict this harm
  • Physical Attacks that include shoving, kicking, or hitting
  • Threatening Behavior (such as shaking your fist angrily)
  • Destructive Behavior that is meant to intimidate another employee

Depending on the industry (health care, social services, law enforcement, education), the employees may be at a higher risk of workplace violence.

Power Harassment

When there is a power disparity between the harassed and the harasser, it is often referred to as power harassment. The harasser who has a higher status in the workplace hierarchy bullies someone in a lower rank, making excessive demands of them, intruding into their personal life, providing verbal intimidation, demeaning comments, or physical threats.

Psychological Harassment

Psychological harassment often involves specific actions that hurt an employee’s mental wellbeing. Victims of this harassment feel belittled or put down on a professional and personal level, and this harassment can quickly escalate into impacting their health, social life, and work product.

Psychological harassment can include actions such as:

  • Isolating the victim
  • Ignoring the victim
  • Trivializing the victim and their ideas or thoughts
  • Spreading rumors about the victim
  • Challenging anything the victim says

Online Harassment

Technology has significantly improved our working environment. However, as more employers embrace technology’s power, online harassment or cyberbullying is continuously on the rise. This type of harassment often includes:

  • Spreading gossip or lies about the victim through social media channels
  • Sharing humiliating information about the victim by mass chat or mass email
  • Sending harassing text messages or other instant messages to the victim

Retaliation Harassment

Retaliation harassment is a form of harassment used in retaliation against another employee for participating in a lawfully protected activity. For example, if employee A files a complaint against employee B, and employee B finds out, and they start harassing employee A as revenge for filing the claim- this type of harassment is called retaliation harassment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is sexual in nature and includes unwanted sexual conduct, behavior, or advances. Not only is this type of harassment always on the news, but what makes it so prevalent is that it can happen on any worksite, affect both men and women, and impacts the victim’s life immediately. Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Sharing sexual photographs
  • Making sexual comments or jokes or posing sexual questions
  • Posting Sexual Posters
  • Inappropriate sexual touching or gestures
  • Sexually invading another employee’s space.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment also translated to “this for that” is a form of exchange-based sexual harassment. It is often experienced when a supervisor or manager conditions work benefits in exchange for some sexual favor. It can also occur if the harasser turns to blackmail to coerce another employee into a sexual act. This type of harassment can be either explicit or implicit, meaning the harasser can outright ask for the sexual exchange or hint at it.

Third Parties Harassment

Third-party harassment is a type of harassment in the workplace instigated by a third-party or someone outside the organization, such as a customer, supplier, or vendor. The victims of this type of harassment are often low-status workers or low-power jobs (such as a sales associate or cashier). And even though this type of harassment does not fit the typical workplace harassment narrative, it still is the employer’s responsibility to stop this behavior.

Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is often the result of personality conflicts that have escalated into something serious. Even though this harassment is not illegal, a verbal harasser usually involves a consistently unpleasant individual who is constantly throwing insults, swearing, yelling, or making public and private threats. These insults can be particularly damaging since they often go unnoticed by supervisors. It is also important to remember that if this harassment is based on a protected class, it is illegal.

How Can an Experienced Employment Lawyer Help?

If you are getting harassed at work, and you have taken the necessary actions to get this behavior to stop. Yet, your employer has not appropriately responded. You need to contact an experienced employment lawyer today. The legal team at Perkins Asbill is ready to provide you with the legal representation that you need and the help that you deserve. Do not wait any longer; call our office at 916-446-2000.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAS EMOTIONAL CONSEQUENCES

We recently discussed how victims of sexual harassment might have trouble coming forward regarding the accusations. There are several reasons for this; however, these victims need to come forward if they want the harassment to stop. We understand how hard this is to speak out but we can stand by your side.

Sexual harassment impacts victims in more ways than just physical issues. In fact, not all sexual harassment involves touching. The emotional impact of the events is what has a real impact on the victims. It is also what makes it so hard to handle the aftermath. Physical injuries will heal over time, but you might have to work hard to overcome the mental impacts.

One of the first things that you have to do when you are being harassed at work is to let the person know that their behavior isn’t wanted. Tell them to stop. You also need to file an official complaint with the appropriate person at the company. Oftentimes, companies will have one person who takes these complaints; however, you should be able to file it with any person in authority with whom you feel comfortable.

We can help you find out what other actions you need to take. Escalating things beyond the local company might be in order, especially if the company isn’t doing anything to address the issue. We know that you might want to just put this behind you, but you might be able to receive some compensation for the event. This could help you get medical care and mental health care to help you learn to live your life.

VICTIMS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT MIGHT NOT WANT TO FILE A REPORT

Being sexually harassed at work is never a pleasant experience. These situations often come with a lot of uncertainty. People don’t always realize that the mental and emotional turmoil can often be greater than the physical impacts. This is one of the reasons why some people never speak up.

Oftentimes, it takes victims of sexual harassment time to work through their own feelings so they are able to speak up about what happened. This is difficult for some people to understand because they haven’t been through it themselves. In many cases, the victim simply doesn’t want to have to relive the incident through having to discuss it over and over again.

A victim of sexual harassment might feel like they are inferior to their attacker. The attackers usually try to make power plays to ensure that their victim doesn’t feel like they have any options for addressing the harassment.

Sometimes, victims of sexual harassment will try to avoid the harasser and forget about the incident. Unfortunately, this might mean that they are at risk of it happening again. This sets them up for repeated emotional and mental turmoil.

Even though it is difficult, victims of sexual harassment should speak up as soon as possible. Most employers have established a set of rules about who you need to discuss these matters with. While there might be one employee who is charged with handling all reports of sexual harassment, workers should be able to make their report with any supervisor, manager or executive with whom they feel comfortable and who can take action on the report. In some cases, filing a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is also necessary.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS CAN COME FROM WITNESSES

Being sexually harassed at work can mean more than just someone touching you in a sexual manner. In fact, many instances of sexual harassment are verbal. This can make the entire workplace uncomfortable. They are all completely unacceptable. We realize that a hostile work environment has a negative impact on you.

Many people don’t realize just how large the scope of sexual harassment is. They think that the person who is making the complaint has to be the person who is being harassed. This isn’t the case. You can file a complaint about sexual harassment even if you only hear another worker having to deal with unwanted advances. We are here to help you learn about the forms of sexual harassment that might occur and to learn how you might address them if they happen to you.

We know that it is often scary to file these complaints. People sometimes worry that they will face retaliation for reporting this type of behavior. We want people to know that retaliatory employment measures are against the law if the complaint that was made is factual. This means that employers can’t take negative actions for making the report.

Whether you are the victim of sexual harassment or someone who has seen it happen, you have options. One thing to consider is following the established chain of command for the complaint. The other is to take immediate legal action. You should learn about the options you have and move on from there. We are here to help you assert your rights from the start of the case through the final resolution.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK DEMANDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION

Being sexually harassed at work can make you not even want to return to your job. This is a difficult position to be in, because you know that you need to go to work to earn an income. Without an income, you can’t support yourself.

We understand that the impacts of sexual harassment can go far beyond the workplace seeming hostile. We are here to help you determine what options you have for handling these situations. The top priority is making sure that you don’t have to deal with the sexual harassment in the future.

Every workplace should have clear guidelines addressing this type of atrocious behavior. It shouldn’t ever be allowed by anyone who you come into contact with during the course of a shift. Customers and clients, vendors, coworkers and supervisors all have to be held to a high standard.

There must also be an established procedure for handling these matters. If this isn’t set or if the company doesn’t do anything, you might need to take action beyond just alerting your superiors of the issues. We can help you to evaluate the options so that you can resolve this serious issue.

We realize that you probably never thought you would be in this situation. We are here to help you through it all. One thing that you might have to consider is getting mental health help so that you can work on moving past the issue. This might not be easy to do, but it can assist you in finding ways to cope so that your future isn’t marred by the incident.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE MILITARY MUSTN’T CONTINUE

Nobody should ever have to deal with sexual harassment while they are at work. It doesn’t matter what job they do, the workplace should be free of this atrocious behavior. This is true even in traditionally male-dominated professions. Unfortunately, some high profile individuals don’t realize that they are encouraging sexual harassment.

It has recently come to light that White House’s deputy chief of staff for communication’s wife believes that women who join the military should expect to be sexually harassed. While this is an older comment, the fact that it is now making headlines shows just how far women still have to go in their fight for hostile-free workplaces.

In her comment, she notes that the women who are taking assignments in a mostly male space, such as on a submarine, should basically prepare for this type of harassment. This is simply wrong because the men should be able to control themselves when they are working.

Women in the military have the right to expect to be able to do their jobs without having to worry about males behaving inappropriately. In bootcamp, members of all branches are taught to have military bearing. Just because a man is working in close proximity to a woman doesn’t mean that he should forget his military bearing.

Any servicewoman who is harassed in a sexual manner should find out her options for handling the situation. Some women might feel wary of standing up against this behavior, especially when the person is a superior. Still, not taking any action is an almost surefire way to ensure the behavior will continue.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT AWARENESS IS HEIGHTENED DUE TO #METOO MOVEMENT

The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior into the limelight. Even though some people might be watching what is going on and thinking that the only place this happens is in Hollywood or with wealthy people, this isn’t the case. There is a chance that sexual harassment will occur in any setting. We don’t think that any person should have to work in a place where he or she is being sexually harassed.

We know that you never went to work with the intent of being sexually harassed. When you do go through this at work, you might be in disbelief at first. There is a chance that the harassment starts with just some seemingly innocent mistakes, but then it might progress to even more serious and frequent events.

It is imperative that you try to stop the sexual harassment as soon as it starts. Right from the start, you can clearly state that you aren’t willing to be part of this type of behavior. From there, you will need to let your employer know what is going on.

The atrocities that can occur with sexual harassment can range from comments to actual assaults. If you think that the situation warrants it, you might need to contact the police department to file a report.

If your employer isn’t doing anything to prevent the harassment or to stop it, you might decide that you need to do something. We are here to help you take legal action. We realize that it might be difficult to stand up to your employer, but we can help you do what needs to be done.

KNOW WHAT CONSTITUTES SEXUAL HARASSMENT

No employee should have to deal with sexual harassment of any sort. What many people don’t realize is that not all sexual harassment involves actually touching. In fact, there might not be any physical contact present at all.

In all situations of sexual harassment, the key point is that the gestures aren’t welcomed. This means that you can’t ask a co-worker for a kiss and then scream sexual harassment when you get that kiss. It usually helps if you make a clear statement that lets everyone know that the behavior isn’t acceptable. Simply telling the person to quit might be sufficient.

While it is true that physical harassment, such as an inappropriate squeeze on your body, is one of the most noticeable forms of sexual harassment, there are other forms as well. You can be the victim of sexual harassment for having to listen to co-workers have a sexually explicit conversation or from seeking materials that are geared toward sexual information.

You can also be the victim of sexual harassment if you witness another person being sexually harassed. For example, if you watch a manager grope on one of your co-workers, you can report the behavior as long as it wasn’t welcomed.

All companies should have a clear chain of events to follow when sexual harassment is reported. This can include a list of representatives who you can file the initial complaint with. It is necessary for businesses to take these complaints seriously and to implement an immediate measure to address the current state of affairs. If they don’t address the issue, you might opt to pursue further legal action.

Source: FindLaw, “What is Sexual Harassment?,” accessed June 08, 2018