Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment in California
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.
Frequent or severe sexual harassment resulting in a hostile work environment or an adverse employment action is a civil rights violation. At Boucher LLP, we help sexual harassment victims stand up against employers who allow sexual harassment to continue in California.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Is Employment Discrimination
Every California employee deserves to feel safe and respected at their workplace. In the U.S., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment at the federal level. Additionally, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) outlines the sexual harassment law at the state level. In both Title VII and FEHA, sexual harassment is considered employment discrimination. However, FEHA often protects workers’ rights beyond the federal anti-discrimination laws.
The FEHA makes harassment illegal in all California workplaces, including those with fewer than five employees. Any employee, applicant, unpaid intern, volunteer, or contractor who experiences frequent and severe sexual harassment has the right to file a discrimination complaint. You may also file a complaint if the harassment resulted in an adverse employment decision, such as being fired or demoted.
A California employer is strictly liable for harassment by the entity, an agent, or a supervisor. Further, employers have an affirmative duty to prevent harassment. The employer is responsible if the employer or supervisor knows of harassment by another employee and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. Employers may also be liable for the conduct of non-employees if the employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take action.
The Complaint Process and the Statute of Limitations to Sue an Employer in California for Sexual Harassment
When you experience sexual harassment, you should take action right away. Start by documenting the harassment, including recording the incident dates and collecting witness statements. Next, engage your employer’s sexual harassment complaint process. If your employer fails to take appropriate action to stop the harassment, you have a right to file a complaint for unlawful employment practices.
Before filing a lawsuit, you must file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which enforces FEHA, or the EEOC for Title VII violations.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in California for a Sexual Harassment Suit?: EEOC
You will file with the EEOC to make a complaint based on a Title VII civil rights violation. EEOC has a very short period from the time of the last incident for you to file a complaint—only 180 days (six months) in most cases. However, because California has anti-discrimination laws, the time limit for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC is extended to 300 days.
When you file an EEOC complaint, DFEH automatically receives a copy, although EEOC will most likely investigate. EEOC has 180 days to investigate, after which it may file a lawsuit on your behalf or issue you a “right-to-sue” notice. The right-to-sue notice authorizes you to file a complaint in court. You have 90 days to file a lawsuit once EEOC issues your right-to-sue notice.
How Long Do I Have to File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?: DFEH
As mentioned earlier, California’s anti-discrimination laws protect workers’ rights more than federal laws. Thus, DFEH has a longer statute of limitations for sexual harassment in California than the EEOC. As of January 1, 2020, victims have three years from the last incident of harassment to submit a complaint to DFEH.
Even if you want to take your case directly to court, you must first file a complaint with DFEH. When you file your complaint, you will request an immediate right-to-sue notice or a DFEH investigation. If you request an investigation, DFEH has 150 days to investigate and initiate a lawsuit on your behalf. If it chooses not to, you may request a right-to-sue notice to pursue a lawsuit at that time. You have one year to file a lawsuit once you receive your right-to-sue notice from DFEH.
Boucher LLP: Helping You Meet the Statute of Limitations in California for Sexual Harassment
We know the strength it takes to come forward and speak up about your experience with sexual harassment. When you reach out to an attorney at our firm, we meet you with compassion and understanding. We care deeply about our clients and handle their concerns as those of a family member. You may feel intimidated and isolated by your harasser or adverse employment action. By telling your story, you can bring the harasser to justice and encourage any others harmed to come forward. You are not alone. The dedicated, experienced attorneys at Boucher LLP are here to help you stop unwanted sexual harassment and regain control of your life. Contact us today to learn more.