What You Need to Know About Harassment at Work

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Workplace harassment remains an all-too-common occurrence that impacts employees across California daily. However, workers have legal protections against unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. If you face a hostile work environment, familiarize yourself with your rights and options for pursuing justice.

What Constitutes Harassment at Work?

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits two primary forms of workplace harassment:

  1. Quid pro quo – When a supervisor demands sexual favors as a condition for gaining or keeping job benefits. This constitutes clear workplace sexual harassment.
  2. Hostile work environment – When severe or pervasive harassing conduct based on gender, race, age, disability, or other protected classes creates an abusive, intimidating, or offensive workplace. This can include offensive jokes, slurs, intimidation, ridicule, or circulation of demeaning imagery.

Isolated minor incidents generally don’t qualify as harassment under the law. However, any pattern of hostile, derogatory, or threatening behavior targeting protected groups should be reported.

Types of Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment

While sexual harassment garners significant attention, many other types of bias persist in workplaces statewide:

  • Age discrimination – Stereotyping, undervaluing, or forcing retirement of older workers over 40.
  • Disability discrimination – Failure to provide reasonable accommodations or harassment targeting disabilities.
  • Racial discrimination – Biased hiring choices, segregated assignments, or circulation of racist imagery.
  • Pregnancy discrimination – Firing pregnant employees rather than providing accommodations.

No form of discrimination, bullying, or harassment should be tolerated. Employers must take complaints seriously and investigate promptly.

Employer Responsibilities Regarding Workplace Harassment

Under California law, employers carry certain obligations:

  • Implement and enforce anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies.
  • Thoroughly investigate any claims of workplace harassment or discrimination.
  • Take immediate and appropriate corrective action if misconduct occurs, such as disciplinary measures.
  • Provide mandatory harassment prevention training to supervisors and employees.

Employers who know about harassment but fail to respond appropriately can face liability. Workers should formally report inappropriate behaviors to start documentation.

How to File a Workplace Harassment Complaint

If you experience harassment at work, take the following steps:

  1. Report Internally – Inform your manager, HR department, or other authority at your workplace. Getting harassment on record is crucial.
  2. File with the EEOC – For discrimination, you must submit a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California’s Civil Rights Department before filing a lawsuit.
  3. Contact an Attorney – Speaking to an experienced harassment lawyer ensures you understand your rights and navigate legal complexities. They can also negotiate settlements or file lawsuits if needed.
  4. Document Everything – Keep detailed records of incidents, including dates, times, locations, witnesses present, behaviors, and your reports to employers. Evidence bolsters claims.

No one should endure a hostile work environment or discrimination. Violations of harassment laws have real legal consequences.

What Remedies Exist for Workplace Harassment?

Remedies for proven harassment or discrimination may potentially include:

  • Compensatory damages for lost income and emotional distress
  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Recovery of attorney’s fees
  • Punitive damages in aggravated cases
  • Injunctive relief like anti-bias training

Experienced lawyers can pursue the full scope of remedies available. No legal fees are owed until a settlement or judgment is awarded.

Harassment Outside of Work

While this article focuses specifically on unlawful actions within workplaces, harassment can occur in other contexts too with legal repercussions:

  • Stalking and criminal threats
  • Elder abuse
  • Domestic violence

Victims can file for restraining orders and bring civil or criminal charges against perpetrators.

Workplace Fairness Is Your Right

If you face any form of discrimination, bullying, or sexual harassment at work, contact our office today at 855-TONG-LAW for dedicated legal guidance. The team at TONG LAW brings years of combined experience exclusively representing employees to protect your rights. We provide compassionate support and vigorous representation to fight for the justice you deserve. Employees should never have to endure hostility – together, we can take action.

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