San Francisco Sexual Harassment Attorney
Sexual harassment is illegal under both state and federal laws. Those who have experienced sexual harassment have a right to pursue legal action against the offender, and potentially also others. Indeed, everyone has a right to feel safe in a working or learning environment.
That kind of behavior should never be tolerated. Many people in this position are unsure of their legal rights and how to assert them. A knowledgeable San Francisco sexual harassment attorney can help you understand your options to seek justice and fair treatment.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can take many different forms, some of which include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. The harassment can also pertain to comments or behaviors against one’s gender or sexual orientation. These are some specific examples of sexual harassment.
- Conditions of employment or advancement are dependent on sexual favors (explicitly or implicitly),
- Unwanted touching or physical contact,
- Inappropriate discussions of a sexual nature,
- Pressure to engage in sexual behavior
- Physical acts of sexual assault,
- Verbal harassment of a sexual nature,
- Rude gestures or suggestive postures,
- Negative comments about one’s gender or sexual orientation,
- Dirty jokes, lewd comments, and similarly inappropriate commentary,
- Unwelcome sexual advances, and
- Exposure to visuals such as photos or videos of a sexual nature
If you are unsure whether a behavior you are experiencing constitutes sexual harassment, it is important to reach out to a qualified San Francisco sexual harassment attorney who can talk to you about your experience and help you understand your legal rights.
Elements of a Valid Sexual Harassment Claim
Sexual harassment can take on a number of forms, but there are a handful of elements that are consistent, making a claim actionable. Your San Francisco sexual harassment lawyer can help you walk through the circumstances of what you have experienced to determine whether your claim is actionable and the best legal strategy going forward. These are the general elements of a sexual harassment claim.
The working or learning environment must be objectively or subjectively offensive to a reasonable person. Though the plaintiff considers the environment hostile and abusive, it should also be clear that the behavior they are experiencing has grounds for being considered offensive when evaluated by others.
Harassment Based on Sex
The harassment was based on sex, which could include gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. The harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual desire or interest. Keeping a detailed record of the harassment and any witnesses present can help you prove the behavior and help your sexual harassment attorneys in San Francisco build a strong case.
Severe or Pervasive Conduct
The plaintiff must demonstrate that the conduct was severe or sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create a hostile or abusive work environment because of an employee’s sex. The conduct does not need to be both severe and pervasive. A single incident can be extremely impactful depending on the behavior, or the behavior can be less abrupt in a single instance, but repeated to create a hostile environment.
Basis For Employer/Institutional Liability
The plaintiff must have a contractual relationship with the defendant. In many cases, this is an employee working for an employer or a supervisor. They could also be a student who is attending an educational institution where the harassment is taking place. The employer or learning institution may be liable for sexual harassment conducted by a person of authority if they knew or should have known of the behavior and failed to take immediate corrective action. California employers with five or more employees are also required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory and nonsupervisory employees.
The Plaintiff Was Harmed
Unlike many personal injury cases, the plaintiff does not have to suffer bodily or financial harm in order to have a valid claim. Mental and emotional distress are also forms of damage to the plaintiff. In some circumstances, the harassment may impact the plaintiff’s ability to work, in which case, lost wages and benefits may be a form of compensable harm. Lawyers that handle sexual harassment cases will be able to help you determine the value of your claim.
Laws Against Sexual Harassment in San Francisco
If you have experienced sexual harassment in California, there are two organizations charged with protecting your right to harassment-free working and learning environments. Sexual harassment in either situation violates both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal organization that oversees claims of harassment discrimination and the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) is the state organization. The two organizations collaborate on harassment claims, so you need only file your claim once to be addressed by both organizations. Filing a claim does not bar you from taking additional legal action, depending on the results of the agency investigation and the nature of your claim.
Differences Between Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Assault
Sexual harassment can make it impossible to work or learn effectively, but it is not the only form of inappropriate behavior that you may encounter and it is worth knowing the difference. Sexual assault and discrimination can often accompany sexual harassment claims. Though sexual harassment and sexual assault both fall under the umbrella of sexual misconduct, they do not all have the same legal process. Your San Francisco sexual harassment attorney can help you take the appropriate actions.
It is illegal at both the federal and state level to discriminate on the basis of sex which includes gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Unfavorable treatment such as lower wages, denied advancement, and or opportunities based on factors mentioned constitutes discrimination. If you have been treated unfairly based on sex by an employer or educational institution despite being a qualified applicant, employee, or student, you may have a claim for discrimination.
Unlike sexual harassment and discrimination which are civil offenses. Sexual assault is a criminal offense. California Penal Code Section 243.4 defines sexual assault as touching another person’s intimate part against their will for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse. Sexual assault might be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the crime. A criminal case for sexual assault could be filed
at the same time as your civil case for sexual harassment or discrimination.
Do You Need a San Francisco Sexual Harassment Attorney?
Sexual harassment claims can be complex and experienced sexual harassment lawyers in San Francisco can make the process a lot simpler by explaining your options and guiding your legal strategy. Having the courage to take legal action may help you get out of a hostile situation, and may also help prevent others from being put in that same toxic environment.
A San Francisco sexual harassment attorney can help you recover both economic damages for any tangible financial losses and pursue compensation for the emotional distress you have incurred.
At Boucher LLP, we understand how devastating sexual harassment can be. Everyone deserves a safe environment, especially at work or school where there is an expectation to perform tasks efficiently. It takes a lot of courage to speak out against a harasser, especially if they are someone in a position of authority. Our sexual harassment attorneys in San Francisco are here to listen and provide compassionate legal representation. Contact us to schedule your free case consultation.