reporting workplace harassment in California

As an employee in California, you have the right to be treated with respect, and to work in an environment free of harassment.

You, your employer, and your work colleagues must foster a working environment that promotes a sense of well-being for all.

Unfortunately, not all employers treat their employees well and some fail to properly address harassment and discrimination. If you have been the victim of workplace harassment, California law allows you to file a complaint and recover damages. 

Can You Sue for Workplace Harassment?

Yes, you can sue for harassment in the workplace in California. The first step in your suit is to identify the harassing behavior, and the second step is to report it.

How to Identify Workplace Harassment

The California Department of Justice recognizes harassment as verbal, visual, or physical conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.

The harassing party’s actions do not have to be motivated by sexual desire to be considered harassment. If the conduct creating a hostile work environment is based on your actual or perceived gender identity or sex-related characteristics, it is unlawful harassment.

Hostile conduct based on any of the following characteristics could be harassment:

  • Actual gender identity;
  • Perceived gender identity; 
  • Actual sexual orientation;
  • Perceived sexual orientation; 
  • Pregnancy; 
  • Childbirth; or 
  • Other Medical conditions.

Do not be afraid to report harassment that doesn’t look exactly like the scenarios you have seen on television or heard about from coworkers. In California, the finding of a hostile work environment depends on the totality of the circumstances.

This means that the presence of harassment depends on the unique facts in your case and not whether your harassment case looks like someone else’s. 

How to Report Workplace Harassment

You should report harassment to the company’s Human Resources department or your supervisor to put your employer on notice of the harmful conduct.  

Reporting Workplace Harassment to Your Employer

To maximize your rights, report any instances of harassment to your employer immediately.

Under California law, your employer can be liable for harassment of a non-supervisory employee or a non-employee if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

If your employer does not know about the harassment, you can still hold a harassing employee personally liable for their actions. 

Your employer should have a policy in place for reporting and investigating harassment claims. You should review, understand, and follow this policy so you know when your employer has not taken appropriate action to handle your harassment complaints.  

Reporting Workplace Harassment to the Government

Your next report of workplace harassment should be a complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You can file your complaint online, by mail, or over the phone. If you want DFEH to investigate your complaint, you must gather information about your complaint including:

  • Specific facts about the incident;
  • Specific records regarding the incident;
  • Name and contact information for the person who harassed you; and
  • Names and contact information for any witnesses to the incident.  

You can use the DFEH complaint system to file complaints about workplace harassment, and other forms of workplace discrimination

The lawyers at Workplace Rights Law Group can help you file this Complaint.  

Remedies for Victims of Workplace Harassment

If you are a victim of workplace harassment, you could be entitled to many remedies including:

  • Hiring;
  • Front pay;
  • Back pay;
  • Job reinstatement; 
  • Job promotion;
  • Out-of-pocket expenses;
  • Policy changes;
  • Training;
  • Reasonable accommodations;
  • Damages for emotional distress;
  • Punitive damages;
  • Attorney’s fees and costs; and 
  • Witness fees.

An experienced workplace harassment attorney can maximize your remedies and help you navigate the system during this stressful time. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Each harassment case is unique and comes with its own set of challenges, but answers to the following questions can help you get started.

Who Can File a Harassment Complaint?

You do not have to be a traditional, paid employee to file a harassment complaint. The laws against harassment apply to the following people:

  • Employees; 
  • Job applicants;
  • Unpaid interns;
  • Volunteers; and 
  • People providing services pursuant to a contract by an employee. 

Also, you do not have to be a documented worker to file a complaint with the DFEH.

Is a Complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing My Only Option?

No. You can also file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you file a complaint with the DFEH and it determines there is a potential violation of federal harassment laws as well, the DFEH automatically files your complaint with the EEOC.

If you file your complaint with the EEOC first, it automatically files your complaint with the DFEH. 

The lawyers at Workplace Rights Law Group can help you file this complaint as well. 

How Long Do I Have to File a Complaint?

Generally, you have three years to file a complaint with the DFEH. If you suffered harassment before you turned 18, you have either three years from the date of harassment or one year from your 18th birthday to file a complaint, whichever is later. If you want to file a complaint with the EEOC, you have 180 days to file. 

Contact a Lawyer Today for More Respect in the Workplace

The lawyers at the Workplace Rights Law Group have the experience, focus, and dedication to win you justice in workplace disputes. We know how employers operate in discrimination cases, and we can anticipate and thwart their next moves before they make them.

Our focus is on the unique facts of your case and personalizing a trial strategy to achieve the best outcome for you. Reach out to us online or call us at 818-290-8904 for a free case review. 

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