In October 2017, Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Other actresses and regular Jane Does soon began sharing their #metoo moments, and they haven’t stopped since. The number of women that have spoken up is staggering, and the real-world impact their stories have had is inspiring.
Here in California, and around the world, we have seen more abusers outed, and more concrete action taken to prevent harassment and abuse in the past three years than in the past three decades. We still have a long way to go, but the #metoo movement has been an amazing catalyst.
The Rankin Law Firm is proud to have helped some California victims of sexual harassment and abuse take their story from the Twittersphere to the courthouse. Lawsuits are one of the best tools we have to hold abusers accountable and make it less likely they will strike again. However, not every #metoo moment is actionable. The following is a quick overview of federal and California sexual harassment law, which will hopefully answer some common questions we get about turning a #metoo story into a lawsuit.
What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like?
There are two main forms of sexual harassment — quid pro quo and hostile work environment:
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase literally translated as “this for that.” Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or person in a position of authority demands sex, or submission to sexual advances, either as a condition of employment or in return for work-related benefits (e.g. raises, bonuses, promotions). This is the most obvious type of harassment.
A hostile work environment is not as clear-cut, but it can be just as devastating. A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is subjected to a pattern of unwelcome conduct, comments, or displays of a sexual nature by anyone in the workplace — superiors, coworkers, vendors, clients, or customers. To file a successful legal claim, the harassment must be severe or pervasive enough to interfere with your ability to perform your job. A single incident or offhand remark typically does not rise to the level of harassment.
It is important to note that reading a blog post like this and trying to figure out if what you experienced was illegal harassment isn’t the same as getting legal advice from an experienced sexual harassment attorney. These cases are very fact-dependent. If you want to know if you should bring a lawsuit, you should contact our office to schedule a free consultation.
The Road To Your Employment Rights Starts Here
The #MeToo Movement isn’t over. It’s just getting started. Sexual harassment lawsuits can a long time to work their way through the legal system, and many settle quietly, but we will not let this moment fade away. The Rankin Law Firm continues to advocate for victims and is always working to hold abusers accountable. If you are ready to talk to an attorney about the harassment you experienced, the Rankin team is ready to hear your story, and help you figure out a path forward.