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If you experienced sexual harassment in your workplace, you might be wondering what to do next.

These situations can be scary and overwhelming. You might be afraid of retaliation or of the behavior getting worse.

This short guide should help you answer the question, how do I pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit in California?

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Many behaviors can be sexual harassment in the workplace in California. Generally, sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances or other unwelcome sexually based conduct.

The conduct must be such that a reasonable person would find it offensive or abusive and that causes the victim some sort of emotional distress.

Examples of this include:

  • Leering or sexual gestures,
  • Derogatory comments,
  • Touching or assault, and
  • Retaliation for rejection.

It also includes discriminatory actions based on an employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Sexual harassment can be quid pro quo, meaning the harasser conditions some term of employment on the employee’s submission to the sexual conduct.

This can involve one event if the action is serious enough, or it can be persistent pervasive conduct.

Sexual harassment can also arise from a hostile work environment where the actions are so severe that they unreasonably interfere with the employee’s work or create an uncomfortable work environment. 

How to File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in California

If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work and considering filing a sexual harassment lawsuit, there are several steps you must take first:

  • Make it clear the conduct is unwelcome. You do not have to confront the harasser, but you must not encourage their actions.
  • Make a record in writing of all the incidents and details.
  • Report the conduct to your employer or human resources. Follow their sexual harassment policy, if they have one.

Once you report the incident to your employer, you would next file a complaint with the applicable state or federal agency responsible for addressing sexual harassment.

For the State of California, this is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. At the federal level, it’s the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

You need to file only once, as the complaint is automatically cross-filed with the other agency.

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing

The DFEH will evaluate your complaint and decide whether to initiate an investigation. It will review the facts and legal issues, including the harasser’s responses.

If the DFEH proceeds with the investigation, it will try to settle the matter through dispute resolution or mediation.

Possible remedies could include financial compensation, an injunction to stop the conduct, or civil penalties and punitive damages.

If a resolution is not possible, the DFEH may also initiate its own lawsuit in court. Before initiating a lawsuit in court, either on your own or through the DFEH, you need to obtain a Right to Sue notice. 

Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

If you choose to file with the EEOC, you will file a “Charge of Discrimination.”

Either the EEOC will conduct an investigation and issue a final decision or the complainant can request a hearing before an administrative law judge.  

The Farzam Law Firm Can Help You with Your Sexual Harassment Claim

The Farzam Law Firm has helped many people with their employment matters. We understand how difficult it can be for people to come forward with their sexual harassment claims.

We can help answer your questions about the process and help protect your rights.

With experience taking cases to trial in 19 states, we have the expertise to see your claim through to the end. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Author Photo

Joseph Farzam

Mr. Farzam attended Santa Monica high school and worked at McDonald’s and local coffee shops to support himself. Although he worked 2 or 3 jobs, he valued education greatly and earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge in biology, and attended the prestigious Pepperdine University School of Law. He graduated with high marks and passed the California bar exam on the first try. Mr. Farzam has received the coveted titles of Super Lawyer, Los Angeles Magazine’s Top Lawyers, and has received The Litigator Awards.  He is a proud member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA).

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