If you’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this type of harassment still happens. But know that you have rights, and there are steps you can take to address and rectify the situation. However, many affected workers wonder how to prove sexual harassment in the workplace. The lawyers of Boucher LLP offer this guide to help you through the process of proving such abuse and resolving the situation in a way that benefits you and everyone who works with you. 

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can create a hostile or intimidating work environment, affecting your well-being and productivity. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits sexual harassment and provides legal protection for employees. 

How Can You Prove Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

You can use a variety of evidence to prove sexual harassment at work. As you will see, it is important to save documentation, find and speak with witnesses, and learn about employer policies that address harassment.


Keeping a record of incidents is crucial. This can include emails, texts, or notes detailing the harassment, including dates, times, and locations. For example, if someone repeatedly makes inappropriate comments or advances, documenting each instance can strengthen your case.

Witness Statements

Statements from coworkers who witnessed the harassment can provide important corroborating evidence. For instance, if a colleague saw inappropriate behavior or heard offensive remarks directed at you, their statement can support your claims.

Physical Evidence

Any physical items or traces of the harassment can be valuable evidence. This might include inappropriate gifts, offensive materials, or graffiti. For example, if there are explicit messages written on your desk or belongings, documenting and preserving these can serve as proof.

Employer Policies

Reviewing your company’s policies on sexual harassment is important. If the employer has clear policies but fails to enforce them or to take appropriate action upon receiving complaints, it can strengthen your negligence claim. This can be demonstrated through email exchanges, policy manuals, or HR communications.

Medical and Psychological Records

If the harassment has had a negative impact on your health or well-being, medical and psychological records can provide additional evidence. For instance, if you sought counseling or medical treatment due to stress, anxiety, or other effects of the harassment, these records support the claim that you suffered harm.

Patterns of Behavior

Demonstrating a pattern of behavior can also be evidence of harassment. This can include repeated incidents over time or a series of actions that create a hostile work environment. For example, if multiple employees have similar experiences with the same harasser, it suggests a pattern of misconduct.

Comparative Treatment

Comparing how the harasser treated you versus others can be revealing. If they treated you differently based on your gender or engaged in behavior toward you that they didn’t exhibit toward others, it supports claims of harassment. For instance, if they made lewd comments only to female employees or promoted based on favoritism linked to sexual advances, it indicates discriminatory behavior.

Holding the Employer Liable

Employers can be held liable for sexual harassment in various circumstances, depending on factors such as their response to complaints, enforcement of policies, and the severity and persistence of the harassment. You may be wondering, How can an employee prove sexual harassment against an employer? Understanding liability is an important first step. 

The circumstances listed below highlight the legal responsibilities employers have regarding sexual harassment prevention and response. Employers must:

  • Create a safe and respectful work environment, 
  • Take complaints seriously, 
  • Conduct thorough investigations, and 
  • Take appropriate disciplinary action to address harassment promptly and effectively.

Let’s look at things an employer might do that would indicate liability.

Failure to Address Complaints

If an employee reports sexual harassment to their employer and the employer fails to take prompt and appropriate action to investigate and address the complaint, they could be held liable. This includes situations where the employer ignores or dismisses the complaint, conducts a superficial investigation, or takes no disciplinary action against the harasser.

Hostile Work Environment

Employers are responsible for maintaining a work environment free from hostility and intimidation. Suppose sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment, and your employer knew or should have known about it. Under those circumstances, if the employer fails to take action to stop the abuse, they may be held liable. Failure to maintain a healthy work environment can include situations where management tolerates, condones, or ignores offensive behavior.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment is where employment benefits or conditions are explicitly tied to submitting to unwelcome sexual advances or conduct. If that happens, the employer is automatically liable. Even if the employer claims ignorance of the harassment, you can still hold them responsible for the actions of their employees, supervisors, and agents.


If an employee reports sexual harassment and faces retaliation or adverse consequences as a result, the employer is liable for illegal retaliation. This can include actions such as demotion, termination, harassment, or other forms of retaliation against the employee for speaking out against harassment.

Negligent Hiring or Supervision

Employers can also be liable for sexual harassment if they were negligent in hiring or supervising employees. For example, suppose the employer knew or should have known about a history of harassment or misconduct by an employee but failed to take appropriate action or precautions. In that case, they can be held accountable for any subsequent harassment.

Failure to Prevent Harassment

Employers have a legal obligation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. If they fail to implement adequate policies, training programs, or mechanisms for reporting and addressing harassment, and this failure contributes to harassment occurring, they can be held liable.

Don’t Second-Guess Yourself

It’s essential to come forward even if you don’t feel like you have enough proof to make a case on your own. Understanding what is required to prove sexual harassment may provide comfort, or it may make you feel like you do not have enough evidence to build a case. Please do not let that stop you from coming forward. 

By reaching out to a knowledgeable attorney, you can get an assessment of your chances of a successful outcome. If you decide to pursue a civil case, your attorney can help you gather evidence, understand your rights, and navigate the legal process. It is not your job to determine how to prove sexual harassment in your specific case. That is what your attorney is for. They will certainly need your cooperation, but you should not feel like you have to build your case alone. 

Contact Us

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and want to take action, don’t hesitate to reach out to Boucher LLP for a consultation. Our experienced team understands the complexities of sexual harassment cases and will provide you with compassionate support and expert legal representation. Your voice matters, and we’re here to help our clients seek justice. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward resolving your situation.