It is always a good idea to address the issue with your employer first. But if your employer fails to address the harassment, you must then file a charge with California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA) or file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before you have the right to file a lawsuit in court. Either FEHA or the EEOC will follow up with your claim and conduct an investigation. After an investigation has been conducted, an aggrieved employee will typically receive a Right to Sue letter.
With a Right to Sue letter in your hands, you are free to file a lawsuit against your employer. Below is a step by step guide to filing a sexual harassment claim in California.
- What Should I Do First?
- Who Should I Report The Harassment To?
- Can I Go Straight to the Department of Fair Employment And Housing?
- Can I Be Retaliated Against For Complaining?
- Filing A Complaint With The Department Of Fair Employment And Housing
- Suing Your Employer
What Should I Do First?
It may not always be easy, but the first step is to be clear about how offensive the harasser’s behavior is. Say no if you are uncomfortable with any sexual propositions and firmly refuse all invitations and any forms of harassment. Make sure to put any complaints in writing and keep copies of all communication in a safe place, and preferably not at work.
Who Should I Report The Harassment To?
Inform your direct supervisor or your Human Resources (HR) department about the harassment you have suffered. It is always best to make your complaint in writing. Be very clear when you describe the problem and offer a solution for how you want the issue resolved. As mentioned, make sure to keep copies of all communication you send and receive from your employer in a safe place.
It is also useful to familiarize yourself with your employer’s policies for reporting and dealing with harassment. This is crucial because most employers have policies and procedures in place to address sexual harassment complaints. If you don’t already have a copy of your employer’s policies, ask for it.
You must follow your employer’s complaint procedures, at a minimum. Complying with your employer’s procedures proves that you followed their written policies when you made them aware of the harassment. The ball is essentially in their court from that point on and they must investigate your claim.
Can I Go Straight to the Department of Fair Employment And Housing?
It’s a good idea to make an effort to address the harassment with your employer first. In many cases, bringing up the issue with your employer may put an end to the harassment. Most employers are aware and committed to their legal responsibilities and will make an effort to keep their employees safe from harassment.
However, it’s entirely possible that your internal complaint will not be resolved and may even go ignored. Even if your complaint doesn’t achieve anything and the harassment persists, your claim will still be strengthened because:
- You have written documentation that your employer was aware of your complaint and didn’t take any reasonable steps to investigate or stop the harassment.
- You can counter any argument that you failed to take advantage of your employer’s anti-harassment policies.
Can I Be Retaliated Against For Complaining?
Absolutely not. The law is very clear that California employers may not retaliate against any employees who complain about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Everyone has the right to be free of harassment in the workplace and retaliation should not discourage you from complaining of harassment to your employer. However, if you are retaliated against for speaking up, you will likely have a wrongful termination case against your employer, as well.
Filing A Complaint With The Department Of Fair Employment And Housing
The next step for an aggrieved employee is to file a charge of harassment with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Filing a charge with the DFEH or EEOC is a requirement before an employee may file a lawsuit for harassment in the state of California.
In the majority of instances, a charge of harassment must be filed with the DFEH within one year of the harassment.
Suing Your Employer
California employees may file a sexual harassment lawsuit against an employer only after receiving a Right To Sue letter from the DFEH.
Once an employee has received a Right To Sue letter, he or she has one year from the date of the notice to file a lawsuit over the workplace harassment he or she has suffered.
What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?
If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The sexual harassment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.
We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in California, contact our office at 213-927-3700.
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