Workplace Harassment Attorneys in Oakland Protect Your Rights
You take pride in your work and rely on your employment for income, but workplace harassment can rob you of these benefits, personal job satisfaction, and much more. Inappropriate language, gestures, or actions in the work environment not only demeaning, it is also illegal under California law. Unfortunately, too many employers overlook various types of harassment and do not take action to prevent it. Plus, the targets of workplace harassment may not understand their rights or know how to enforce them. You may feel humiliated, yet powerless to address the actor’s conduct. In addition, you may be reluctant to file a claim for fear of retaliation by your employer.
Our workplace harassment attorneys at the Dolan Law Firm, empathize with the difficult position you are in as the victim of improper on-the-job behavior. You should never suffer humiliation in the place where you strive to earn a living, and that is why we aggressively pursue those responsible for acting and those who allow it to continue. Our legal team has decades of combined experience fighting on behalf of workplace harassment victims in Oakland, San Francisco, Marin County, CA and throughout the Bay Area, and we can help you, too.
Overview of California Law on Workplace Harassment
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the California statute that provides victims with rights when they experience workplace harassment based upon their membership in a protected class.
- Types of Harassment in the Workplace: Victims may sue for damages in a court of law if the conduct falls under one of forms of workplace harassment, including:
- Quid Pro Quo: This type of harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor requests that an employee engage in sexual relations as a condition for receiving a work-related benefit, such as a promotion, raise, favored position, and similar perk. Quid pro quo is only actionable in claims for sexual harassment.
- Hostile Work Environment: When remarks, conduct, gestures, or other actions create an intolerable atmosphere, a person may claim hostile work environment as the basis for a workplace harassment action. This type of harassment may be based upon:
- Race or ethnicity;
- Sexual orientation;
- Marital status;
- Medical condition; or,
- Any of the other protected classes designated by California law.
- Harassment in the Work Environment: It is important to note that the rights granted by FEHA are not limited only to employees: Job candidates, unpaid interns, volunteers, and independent contractors are covered by the law. However, the law may apply differently depending on the perpetrator:
- For quid pro quo harassment, it is necessary to show that the harasser is a supervisor, manager, or other person with authority to provide the victim with the benefits.
- Almost anyone can create a hostile work environment harassment for a victim, including workers in lateral positions, higher up executives, or lower level employees. Even non-employees can be perpetrators, such as clients, business partners, or contractors. Still, liability of the employer is different when the offender is a supervisor as compared to an employee in a non-supervisory role.
In addition, bear in mind that the conduct claimed as harassment must be severe and/or pervasive to be actionable as a hostile work environment. A single incident of inappropriate behavior may not be sufficient, but acts over a period of weeks or months might give rise to a claim. At the same time, one extremely egregious incident could be so intolerable that a victim could take action.
Harassment as Distinct from Workplace Discrimination
The concepts of workplace harassment and discrimination are closely intertwined under California law, and both are unlawful under FEHA. Still, these claims are distinct. Harassment involves a perpetrator going outside his or her normal job duties to engage in inappropriate behavior. Discrimination occurs when the improper conduct is linked to the offender’s official work duties.
- Harassment Example: A supervisor offers a worker a promotion if he or she engages in sexual activity. Because sex is not part of the actor’s official duties, the claim would be harassment.
- Discrimination Example: A supervisor neglects to promote an employee on the grounds that he or she is a member of a protected class. Hiring and promotions are part of the offender’s official job duties, so the claim is discrimination.
For practical purposes, an employee may have a claim for workplace harassment and discrimination. Our Dolan Law Firm attorneys can assist with both types of cases where the circumstances support it.
Your Rights as a Victim of Workplace Harassment
The law allows individuals to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFHE) or the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). It is important to understand how your claim works under the regulations of these agencies:
- Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies: Before you can file a lawsuit, you must go through the proceedings of either the DFHE or the EEOC under a concept termed “exhausting” your administrative remedies. Failure to do so may result in a workplace harassment suit being thrown out of court.
- Filing Deadlines: Another requirement is complying with the filing deadlines for each agency. Measured from the date of the alleged harassment, you have one year to file with DFHE and 300 days to file with the EEOC.
- Your Rights After Exhausting Administrative Remedies: If your case is resolved to your satisfaction through proceedings before the DFHE or EEOC, your claim concludes and you accept the agency findings. Where you claim is denied or does not fully resolve the dispute, you may file a lawsuit in court to recover damages.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Oakland Workplace Harassment Lawyer
Workplace harassment cases in California are extremely complex and strict compliance with legal regulations is critical. It is essential to retain knowledgeable attorneys to assist with your claim, so please call the Dolan Law Firm toll free at 1-888-452-4752 to schedule a free, no-obligations consultation. You can alsovisit our website to learn more about our legal services for victims of workplace harassment.