Coyle Browne Law

San Diego Sexual Harassment Lawyer

San Diego Sexual Harassment Lawyer

When your source of livelihood is threatened because of sexual harassment at work, you need an experienced legal team that understands the law, and will handle your case with the required passion and sensitivity. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by both federal and state laws. Notwithstanding the protections of the law, sexual harassment is still prevalent in different work settings. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature can result in a hostile work environment for the victim. Sometimes, victims feel powerless to take action or they do not even know where to begin. At Coyle Browne Law, our experienced San Diego sexual harassment lawyers are passionate about protecting victims of sexual harassment, no matter in what work setting it occurs.

Why Choose Our Law Firm?

Coyle Browne Law is an employment law firm dedicated to representing employees and individuals who have been discriminated against, harassed, or retaliated against because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, or other protected characteristic. We aggressively and honestly represent our clients, and have established ourselves in the list of Top 10, Top 50, and Top 100 settlements in the U.S. and California.

At Coyle Browne Law, our focus is on you–the employee or victim of sexual harassment. We do not represent employers, landlords, property owners, or corporations. Although our founding and senior partners have diverse experience that includes representing employers and insurance companies, we believe that our collective experience and our balanced approach to each of our cases is what sets us apart from other law firms.

We pride ourselves on our honesty and aggressive advocacy for our clients. Every member of the Coyle Browne Law team works together to ensure that our clients’ interests remain top priority at all times. We leave the lines of communication open so that our clients feel like they are being listened to and their objectives are considered in our case strategy.

We are passionate about obtaining justice for those who have been wronged, which is why consultations with our employment team are free. If we represent you in your case, we do not charge up-front fees or costs. You only pay if we win. If we cannot help you, we do our best to provide you with valuable resources that may be useful in your situation. We believe in fast and honest feedback and will not take advantage of your vulnerability.

How Can a San Diego Sexual Harassment Lawyer Help?

When you experience harassment at work, you may be confused about what action to take. You may have questions about what type of conduct legally qualifies as sexual harassment and whether what you have experienced meets the legal definition. You may also be reluctant to take action because of the fear of retaliation, termination, or other adverse work actions. There are many things to consider when faced with unwanted sexual misconduct, and a sexual harassment lawyer can help give you clarity about your legal position and your legal options.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or in any other environment, you should speak with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer who can assess the facts of your case and advise you accordingly.

Sexual Assault Laws in California

Sexual assault and battery is a criminal offense under California Penal Code. Sexual assault /battery can be defined as the unwanted touching of another person’s intimate parts. The Penal Code defines intimate parts as the victim’s “sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.” And, touching is “any physical contact with another person, whether accomplished directly, through the clothing of the person committing the offense, or through the clothing of the victim.”

California workers are protected from sexual assaults under federal and state law. Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protect workers from sexual harassment in the workplace. FEHA prohibits against discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based on statutorily protected characteristics including sex. The broad purpose of FEHA is to protect an employee’s right to seek, obtain, and hold employment without experiencing discrimination on account of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical handicap, medical condition, marital status, age, or sex. FEHA applies to any person or business employing five or more persons.

FEHA defines “sex” as including, but not limited to the following:

  • Pregnancy or medical conditions related to pregnancy.
  • Childbirth or medical conditions related to childbirth.
  • Breastfeeding or medical conditions related to breastfeeding.
  • “Sex” also includes a person’s gender, gender identity and gender expression.

Types of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, demands for sexual compliance, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. What you may consider offensive may not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment, which is why it is important to speak with a sexual harassment lawyer to get clarity in your case.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment involves unwanted sexual advances or unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, where the terms of employment, job benefits, or favorable working conditions are made contingent, by words or conduct, on the victim’s acceptance of the alleged harasser’s sexual advances or conduct. The harassment must have caused the victim harm and the alleged harasser’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the victim’s harm.

Hostile Work Environment

Hostile work environment harassment involves harassing conduct that creates a work environment that is hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, or abusive. The conduct must be such that a reasonable person in the victim’s circumstances would have considered the work environment to be hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, or abusive. To sustain a hostile work environment claim, the defendant engaged in the conduct or their supervisor must have known or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. The victim must have been harmed, and the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the victim’s harm.

For both quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment, the conduct must be severe or pervasive. This means that generally, except in limited circumstances such as a sexual assault, a one-off incident may not be enough to sustain a claim for sexual harassment. Conduct which is isolated, sporadic, or trivial is not enough.

To determine whether a conduct is pervasive or severe, the following factors are considered:

  • The nature of the conduct;
  • How often, and over what period of time, the conduct occurred;
  • The circumstances under which the conduct occurred;
  • Whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating.

The victim does not have to prove that their productivity declined because of the harassing conduct. What is important is that they can prove that a reasonable person subjected to the same conduct they suffered would also find that the conduct changed their working conditions such that it was more difficult for them to do their job.

Examples of Conduct that May Qualify as Unlawful Sexual Conduct

Offensive behavior that falls under unlawful sexual conduct is not limited to physical contact. And, sexual harassment does not necessarily involve sexual conduct. The following is a non-exhaustive list of unlawful conduct that can be actionable sexual harassment:

  • Physical conduct: unwanted touching, assault, physically interfering with or blocking normal movement.
  • Verbal conduct: using obscene language, making or using demeaning comments, slurs or threats, whistling, catcalling.
  • Visual conduct: displaying offensive posters, cartoons, drawings, or objects, making sexual gestures, leering, staring, or excessive looking at someone’s private body parts.
  • Offering employment or other beneficial employment action such as a promotion or pay raise, in exchange for sexual favors.
  • Threatening or taking retaliatory action in response to rejected sexual advances.

Retaliation

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you may face retaliation when you decide to take action against the defendant. Under the law, employers are prohibited from taking retaliatory actions in response to a complaint for sexual harassment. To succeed on a retaliation claim, the victim must prove:

  • They engaged in a protected activity;
  • They were subjected to an adverse employment action such as termination, demotion, pay reduction, or no promotion;
  • Their engagement in said protected activity was a substantial motivating reason for the adverse employment action they were subjected to;
  • The victim was harmed; and
  • The employer’s or defendant’s adverse employment action was a substantial factor in causing the victim’s harm.

Under the law, protected activity or conduct can take many forms including filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting in any investigation into the violation of the law. In essence, the employee must have engaged in protected activity, the employer subjected the employee to adverse employment action, and the employee can establish a causal link between the protected activity and adverse action.

An employee can be successful in a retaliation claim even without proving their harassment claim. What is required is that the employee opposes conduct that they reasonably and in good faith believe to be harassment, and suffers harm for it.

Duty of Employer to Create a Workplace Free From Sexual Harassment

Employers have a duty to ensure that their workplace is free from sexual harassment. To achieve that objective, employers are required to implement certain statutory requirements including:

  • Posting a copy of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)’s poster relating to the illegality of sexual harassment in a prominent and accessible location in the workplace.
  • Posting a copy of the DFEH’s poster relating to transgender rights in a prominent and accessible location in the workplace.
  • Providing accessible sexual harassment training to all employees.
  • Distributing information sheets on sexual harassment obtained from the DFEH to all employees. Employers may create their own information sheets for distribution amongst their employees. Information sheets must contain the following information:
    • The definition of sexual harassment
    • A description of sexual harassment with relevant examples
    • Details about the employer’s internal complaint process for employees and who to contact when there is an issue
    • California Code of Regulations Title 2 protections against retaliation
    • Internet links to the DFEH’s training courses

What To Do if You Have Been A Victim

  • If you have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, the first thing you should do is consult your company’s sexual harassment policy, if they have one, and follow the stated procedure for making a report.
  • It is important to keep detailed notes about the harassing incidents including the name of the person(s) involved, and the date and time of the incident.
  • Document any actions taken in response to your complaint.
  • If your employer fails to take any action or the action taken does not yield any positive outcomes, you can file a complaint with the DFEH.
  • You may also want to speak with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer who can guide you through the process and ensure that you do not make any mistakes that can jeopardize the outcome of your case.
  • If you have been sexually assaulted, that is a criminal offense and should be reported to law enforcement as well.

What Types of Damages Can You Recover?

Sexual harassment in the workplace can result in emotional damage that affects the victim’s entire life outside of the workplace. The emotional stress may affect their relationship with their spouse, children, or other members of their family. They may suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress related to their experience. The stress may also lead to physical health complications such as weight gain and hypertension. In such cases, damages would include the cost of therapy and other medical expenses.

If the victim suffered adverse employment action such as withholding of benefits, demotion, or termination, they may also be entitled to damages for the value of the wages and benefits lost as a result of the employer’s action.

In addition to compensatory damages for actual damages suffered, the victim may also be awarded punitive damages if the employer’s actions can be characterized as malicious or reckless.

Contact Our San Diego Sexual Harassment Lawyers

If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, you deserve justice. Coyle Browne Law can help you get justice. To speak with one of our San Diego sexual harassment lawyers, call us today at 800-421-2594 or email team@coylebrownelaw.com to schedule your free consultation.

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