Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, including visual, physical or verbal. If someone utilizes sexuality to intimidate you or to create a hostile work environment, you may be the victim of sexual harassment. In California, the conduct does not need to be sexually motivated to be sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can include harassment based on sexual orientation, gender-based medical conditions or pregnancy and discrimination. There are steps you may take if you think someone at work has sexually harassed you.
Speak with your employer
Your first course of action if dealing with sexual harassment from other employees or supervisors is to inform your employer. In some cases, if you do not report the conduct, it can be difficult to pursue the case later on.
File a complaint
In the state of California, the Civil Rights Department, or CRD, is the agency that offers processes and resources for filing a discrimination or harassment claim. You can file a complaint online, over the phone or by mail. It is important to keep in mind that the statute of limitations for such a claim is three years from the date the event or harm occurred.
Once you file a complaint, you may request a Right-To-Sue notice immediately if you plan to file the lawsuit yourself, or you may have the CRD investigate your claim. In that scenario, the CRD investigates whether a violation of civil rights laws occurred in your case. If there is a determination that a civil rights violation did occur, the case may either move on to dispute resolution or a lawsuit as deemed appropriate.
Submit an appeal
If you received a closure letter from the CRD and you are not satisfied with the results of the investigation, you may appeal the decision up to 10 calendar days after you receive the CRD’s closure letter. For greater success in having your case reopened, it is important to file an appeal with the correct information and exact details about what you are appealing.
If you fear a hostile work environment because of gender-based harassment or discrimination based on actual or perceived gender, you may have the right to file a complaint against your coworkers or supervisors. Taking the necessary steps now may not only protect you but also other employees who may be experiencing a similar situation.