Both state and federal laws protect your legal right to be free from harassment in the workplace. If you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment or harassment based on your gender or race, it is important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles workplace harassment lawyer as soon as possible.
If you have a legal claim against your employer, you will not get objective advice about your legal rights from the company’s legal staff or human resources department. You have the right to hire your own attorney to advise you about your legal right to be free from harassment in the workplace.
The Types of Harassment That Are Prohibited
There are many different types of harassment that are protected by law. It can sometimes be difficult to prove the difference between inappropriate joking and illegal harassment. In general, harassment must be based upon your membership in a protected class. The law has special workplace protections based upon gender, race, and other protected classes.
When most people think of workplace harassment, they think of sexual harassment. The law recognizes two types of sexual harassment: first, quid pro quo, in which a supervisor requests sexual favors from a subordinate in exchange for preferential treatment at work. (The sexual favors can even be in exchange for simply retaining a job.)
The second type of sexual harassment is creating a hostile work environment. Here the employer either creates a hostile work environment or allows your coworkers to maintain a hostile work environment. In order to qualify as a “hostile” work environment, the harassment must be severe and pervasive. It must be so offensive that any reasonable person would consider it abusive, intimidating or hostile.
This can be a difficult case to prove. Often, a single isolated instance will not be enough to prove a hostile work environment. You should consult with a lawyer to determine whether your work situation qualifies as a “hostile” work environment under this legal definition.
Sexual harassment is not limited to sexual comments or inappropriate gestures. Sexual harassment is any harassment that is based on gender, including gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and pregnancy. California has enacted some of the most comprehensive protections in the country for gender identity and expression in the workplace. You have the legal right to be free from any type of harassment that is based on your gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or being pregnant.
You also have the legal right to be free from harassment based on race. This includes your national origin, the color of your skin, or even your religion. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) reports that verbal conduct (such as offensive jokes, the use of racial epithets, and name-calling) can create a hostile work environment. Physical conduct (such as threat, intimidation, or mockery) can also create a hostile work environment. As with sexual harassment, the harassment must be severe and pervasive. Racial harassment must also be abusive, intimidating, or hostile to a reasonable person.
In 2013, the Supreme Court clarified employers’ responsibilities in responding to workplace harassment. The opinion in Vance v. Ball State clearly stated that employers are liable for harassment from other coworkers, even if they are not supervisors with authority over the victim, when the employer is negligent in failing to prevent harassment from taking place.
This means that employers can be held liable for a hostile work environment if they are notified of harassment and fail to take appropriate steps to prevent it from taking place again. This is an important legal standard that allows victims to hold their employers responsible for a hostile work environment - even if it is not created by managers or direct supervisors.
How To Prove Harassment
It can be very difficult to prove that harassment is severe enough to qualify as a “hostile” work environment. Employers will often claim that the situation is merely a few bad jokes that have been blown out of proportion. They may claim that the victim never notified the employer about the harassment. If the employer was not notified and not given a chance to remedy the problem, it cannot be held legally responsible (“liable”) for your harassment.
This is why it is so important to get advice from your own employment lawyer about any harassment you experience at work. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best way to protect your legal rights. Your attorney will also notify your employer and handle communications with their legal team in order to protect you from accidentally saying something that could hurt your case. Contact an experienced Los Angeles employment law attorney as soon as possible.
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