Harassment in the workplace is often thought of in the context of sexual harassment. However, workplace harassment in California can involve far more than unwelcome sexual advances. Harassment based on protected characteristics other than sex is considered a form of unlawful employment discrimination under state and federal law. If you have been subjected to on-the-job harassment, turn to The Rankin Law Firm.
Our experienced employment lawyers have the skills and experience to protect your employment rights, the know-how to fight back against harassment, and a proven history of achieving positive outcomes in litigation, mediation, and arbitration. When you consult with us, we will take the time to determine whether you have a valid harassment claim and consider all your legal options.
Above all, we believe that all employees have a right to a work environment free from harassment and dedicate our practice to holding responsible parties accountable. Contact our office to learn how we can help you recover meaningful compensation.
What is workplace harassment in California?
Workplace harassment, or non-sexual harassment, involves unlawful physical or verbal conduct based on legally protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, national origin, age (40 and over), and disability. This form of harassment is prohibited under federal laws such as:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
It is important to note that the definition of protected characteristics under Title VII was expanded by a landmark 2020 Supreme Court ruling to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, workers in California have legal protections under state law — the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) — which covers most employers and includes additional protected characteristics (e.g. mental/physical disabilities, medical condition, natural hairstyle).
In short, workplace harassment occurs when someone makes unwelcome conduct or comments that are severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment and interfere with the victim’s job performance. Examples of offensive conduct include:
- Inappropriate jokes
Workplace harassment may involve gestures, displays, or demonstrations that offend a particular racial or ethnic group as a whole or disparaging comments about an individual employee’s skin color, ethnic characteristics, religious beliefs, or other protected characteristics. In addition, harassment can occur when a supervisor or manager changes the conditions of employment by taking an adverse employment action (e.g, firing, demotion, failure to promote, a change in benefits, or work assignments) against the victim.
Do I have a valid California workplace harassment claim?
To have a valid harassment claim, you must be able to show that (1) you are a member of a protected class and (2) you were subjected to unwelcome comments or conduct due to your protected status. You must also be able to show that the conditions of your employment were adversely affected, or that the comments or conduct interfered with your job performance or created a hostile work environment.
Ultimately, determining whether a workplace was hostile or abusive involves factors such as:
- The frequency of the comments or conduct
- The severity of the offenses
- The degree to which the comments or conduct was humiliating or threatening
Before pursuing a lawsuit under federal law, you must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the claim is not resolved through the EEOC’s conciliation process, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against your employer. Similarly, if you intend to pursue legal remedies under the FEHA, you must first file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to obtain a right to sue letter.
Ultimately, it takes a skilled employment lawyer to handle your workplace harassment claim and get you the compensation you deserve whether through an administrative proceeding or litigation. Trust the team at The Rankin Law Firm to fight for your rights in and out of the courtroom.
Harassment, Retaliation, and Wrongful Termination
Workers who complain about harassment are also protected from retaliation. It is unlawful for an employer to take an adverse employment action (firing, demotion, suspension of employment benefits/privileges, negative performance evaluation, salary reduction) against an employee who complains about harassment. If you were fired after complaining about workplace harassment, you may have a legal basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Contact Our Experienced California Workplace Harassment Attorneys
At The Rankin Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing clients in workplace harassment claims. We are keenly aware that taking legal action against an employer can be intimidating. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to protect your rights and your reputation and fight for the compensation you deserve. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to recover damages that include back pay, lost benefits, liquidated damages, attorney fees, and costs. And you will not pay any attorneys’ fees until we recover for you. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can start working on your workplace harassment claim.