Do You Need a Sexual Harassment Lawyer?

DSCN2322Sexual harassment can manifest itself in different forms, which makes it difficult for a sexual harassment victim to accurately assess the strength of their harassment claim and/or retaliation claim and what the next steps ought to be. An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help you navigate the complications involved in employment law.

In California, the courts have recognized two main theories of actionable sexual harassment based on the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  The first is quid pro quo harassment, which means “this for that” in Latin. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when an employer or supervisor makes submission to unwelcome sexual advances a condition for either favorable employment terms or to avoid adverse employment consequences.

The second main theory of sexual harassment is hostile work environment.  In order to be actionable in court, sexual harassment of the hostile work environment type must be sufficiently severe or sufficiently pervasive.  Generally speaking, the courts have defined severe sexual harassment of the hostile work environment type as a sexual assault or sexual battery, meaning an offensive sexual touching or threat thereof.

The legal interpretation of pervasive sexual harassment of the hostile work environment type is when the harassment alters the conditions of the victim’s employment and creates an abusive working environment.  In determining what constitutes sufficiently pervasive harassment, courts have held that acts of harassment cannot be occasional, isolated, sporadic or trivial. The plaintiff must show a concerted pattern of harassment of a repeated, routine or generalized nature.

Retaliation against employees who make sexual harassment claims is prohibited by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  An employer cannot retaliate against an employee who makes a claim for sexual harassment or against an employee who supports another’s claim for sexual harassment, such as a supportive witness for a victim of sexual harassment.

Another subtype of sexual harassment includes spreading rumors about sexual behavior, which is akin to defamation as a method for sexual harassment.  Another subtype of sexual harassment is when gender discrimination is manifested through yelling or other abusive behaviors at work directed toward a particular gender, even if the yelling or abusive behavior does not have sexual content.

Also, sexual harassment is not limited to the workplace.  California Civil Code Section 51.9 prohibits sexual harassment in business, service and professional relationships where the victim is unable to easily terminate the relationship. Other legal claims that may accompany a complaint for sexual harassment are infliction of emotional distress, sexual assault, sexual battery and, in some cases, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy and stalking.

Regardless of whether or not your situation falls into one of these categories, you may find yourself confused as to what to do next.  Researching and knowing your rights is a great first step.  Contacting a sexual harassment attorney is another positive step forward.  At Broderick Saleen (based in Palo Alto, California but also serving San Jose, California and San Francisco, California), sexual harassment attorneys are here for you and can help you through this difficult process.  Feel free to browse this informational site that our sexual harassment lawyers have created to help you through this process.  Please do not hesitate to give us a call at (650) 857-1600 to immediately speak with our sexual harassment lawyers or email us at brodericklaw@brodericklaw.com for a consultation with a sexual harassment attorney on how to best approach your particular situation.  We are here to serve you and help stop sexual harassment.