California Sexual Harassment Laws & Employee Protection.
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California Laws Against Sexual Harassment.

California Laws Against Sexual Harassment.

California sexual harassment laws are some of the strictest anti-harassment laws in the country. Learn about the following three laws protecting employees in the state:

# 1 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”).

This is a federal law. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The term “sexual harassment” is not used in Title VII. But Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex. Courts interpret this to include sexual harassment.

# 2 The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), Government Code 12940.

This is a California state law that applies to all private, state, and local government employers in California. FEHA expressly prohibits sexual harassment. This law protects not only employees but also unpaid interns, applicants, and independent contractors.

# 3 The California Constitution.

This is California’s organizing law. It prohibits discrimination in employment based, among other things, on sex. In California, you can choose to file a sexual harassment lawsuit under any of these laws. In most cases, FEHA provides the best protection. Unless otherwise stated, the law described in this guide refers to FEHA.

What is the legal definition of sexual harassment in California?

According to the FEHA, “harassment” based on sex is illegal. This explicitly covers:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Gender harassment
  • Harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions.

But what exactly is “sexual harassment”? A type of harassment in which sexual desire is necessarily the motivator. Courts typically recognize two types of sexual harassment: Quid pro quo (when a supervisor or someone superior implicitly or explicitly requests a sexual favor in exchange for a work-related benefit) and hostile work environment (a workplace in which you feel offended, humiliated, or intimidated).

When is your employer liable for sexual harassment in California?

For a case of harassment to be considered Quid pro quo, your supervisor must be involved. The reason is that the harasser must be able to make decisions about your employment.

Hostile workplace harassment, on the other hand, can involve supervisors, co-workers, and even non-employees.

Who your harasser is will affect your employer’s legal liability. 

Do you need a lawyer?

If you have been through this terrible situation, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. Just remember that California has robust laws to protect you.

The majority of the time, it is best not to handle a sexual harassment claim alone. An experienced employment attorney can help you:

  • organize the facts of your case
  • know all your options
  • explain the legal procedures
  • make strong legal arguments
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