Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment:

A sexual harassment claim can stem from verbal comments by co-workers and/or management, or can come from unwanted touching from sexual
advances or physical attacks.  This sort of behavior can create a negative and stressful work environment and you do not have to put up with it.  If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should consult with an attorney immediately to ensure that the behavior stops immediately.  The Law Offices of Zev Weinstein can advise you of your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

Sexual Harassment claims are not limited to the workplace or between opposite sexes.  Anyone who experiences sexual harassment in the context of a business, service, or professional relationship can assert a claim.  A sexual harassment claim can be asserted against a doctor, psychotherapist, dentist, attorney, social worker, real estate agent, accountant, banker, contractor, executor, trustee, landlord, property manager, or teacher.  Sexual harassment often occurs in an environment where the aggressor hold a position of authority over the victim, however, a claim can be asserted whenever the victim is unable to easily the terminate the relationship.  Typical conduct includes, but is not limited to, overt or subtle sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, demands for sexual compliance, or any other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature or of a hostile nature based on gender, that were unwelcome, pervasive or severe.  A claim for sexual harassment can be asserted under Civil Code Section 51.9 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and the victim is entitled to personal injury damages, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

Sexual Harassment claims can generally be divided into two categories: 1) hostile work environment; and 2) quid pro quo.  Under a hostile work environment theory of liability repeated sexual advances make the conditions of the victim’s employment intolerable.  Under a quid pro quo theory of liability a victim loses their job, or certain benefits, if they do not submit to sexual advances.  Quid pro quo is Latin and means “this for that.”

Same-sex sexual harassment is also actionable.  In Mogilefsky v. Sup.Crt. (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1418, the Court held that a cause of action for sexual harassment in violation of Government Code Section 12940(h) may be stated by a member of the same sex as the harasser based on either the hostile work environment or the quid pro quo theory.  In Mogilefsky, a male producer pressured a subordinate male employee, to sleep with him in his hotel room bed on two occasions.  Id. at 1412.  The employee was told by other employees “that another male employee had been fired for not going to [the producers’] suite when ordered to do so, and that [the editor] should consider the consequences before refusing.”  Id.

Under Government Code Section 12940(k), an employer has a duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.  Additionally, supervisors have a duty to report any allegations of sexual harassment to management.  See State Department of Health Services v. Sup.Crt. (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1026, 1040-1041.  Any time your employer or supervisor advices you not to report instances of sexual harassment to human resources they are violating the law.

The California Supreme Court has held “that under the FEHA, an employer is strictly liable for all acts of sexual harassment by a supervisor.”  State Department of Health Services, 31 Cal.4th at 1042 [emphasis in original].  In State Department of Health Services, the Supreme Court recognized the vulnerability of employees who are sexually harassed by their supervisor:

Sexual harassment in the workplace by a supervisor is a nightmarish experience for any employee. The employee wants a prompt end to the harassing conduct, but being known as a harassment victim can be personally humiliating, and reporting acts of harassment by a supervisor carries risks that are both professional and economic. When deciding whether to report a supervisor’s harassment to an employer, the harassment victim, who may already feel vulnerable and defenseless, is likely to wonder: Will my employer believe me? Will my employer fire me, demote me, label me a troublemaker, or transfer me to a position with no future?

Id. at 1048.

The “nightmarish experience” so eloquently articulated by the Court is often realized by any victim of sexual harassment.  If you have suffered from sexual harassment by a co-worker or supervisor, please contact a West Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Zev Weinstein for a free, confidential consultation so that we may advise you of your rights.