California Sexual Harassment Frequently Asked Questions

Potential clients in a San Francisco or Santa Barbara Sexual Harassment case often ask similar questions about how the case works and what they can expect.  The following are some of those questions and brief answers in order to assist someone who is considering getting legal help.  As with all of the information contained on our website, please understand that every case is different.  We urge anyone who has been the victim of sexual harassment in San Francisco or Santa Barbara, or anywhere in California, to reach out to us to discuss their case.  We will set up a confidential, free consultation to answer any questions about your specific case.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination that occurs in a workplace.  It is unlawful to harass an applicant or employee based upon that person’s sex.  Sexual harassment includes any of the following:

  • unwelcome sexual advances
  • requests for sexual favors
  • sexual jokes
  • unwanted touching
  • suggestive sexual speech or actions
  • depiction of sexual material
  • other verbal harassment of a sexual nature
  • other physical harassment of a sexual nature

Sexual harassment can include receiving text messages, Facebook messages, emails or voicemails from another employer that is sexual in nature.  Also, it is important to remember that the sexual harassment must be unwelcome.

Does a victim or the harasser have to be a certain sex?

No.  Both the victim and the sexual harasser can be either a man or a women.  Also, the victim and the harasser can both be the same sex.

Does the sexual harassment have to be sexual in nature?

Not necessarily.  Harassment does not have to be sexual in nature and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex or sexual orientation.  One example given on the EEOC’s website is that it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Is one comment enough to file a sexual harassment case?

Although the nature of the comment might change this, typically an offhand comment or an isolated incident that is not very serious is not enough to move forward with a sexual harassment case.  The harassment usually has to be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or that it results in an adverse employment decision such as the employee being fired or demoted.

Do I need to make a formal complaint with my employer before filing a case?

Usually to make out a case of sexual harassment or hostile work environment against an employer, the employee needs to show that the employer was on notice of the harassment.  There are exceptions to this such as when the sexual harassment is being done by a manager or by the owner of a business or the harassment is being done in front of the a manager or the owner.

We do suggest that an employee send an email to a manager or owner describing the harassment and asking that it stop prior to filing a case.

Does the harasser have to be an employee?

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee such as a client or customer.

Do I have to be terminated before filing a sexual harassment case?

No.  You can file a sexual harassment case against an employer while you are still working for that employer.  The law protects an employee from any adverse employment action if a case is filed.

Does the harasser’s conduct have to be unwelcome?

Yes.  A harasser’s conduct has to be unwelcome and usually the victim cannot have willingly participated in the conduct that leads to the filing of the case.  It is important for an employee to put the employer on notice that the harassment has occurred and to directly tell the harasser to stop.  An email documenting this can be useful if the harassment continues and a case is pursued.

Can I be terminated for filing a sexual harassment claim?

It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee or to retaliate against them by demoting them if they make a complaint based upon sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  If an employee is terminated or retaliated against they could have a claim for unlawful employment retaliation against the employer.

What is the statute of limitations for a California Sexual Harassment Case?

A case must be filed within one year of the unlawful conduct.  This time period could be shortened to 300 days if the case is pursued under Title VII.  Either way, it is important to seek help as soon as possible with a sexual harassment case.

What damages can be recovered in a sexual harassment case?

An employee can recover past and future medical bills (including treatment for psychiatric expenses), past and future lost wages and damages for emotional distress.  Punitive damages could also be recovered in certain cases.

Are there any administrative remedies for a sexual harassment case?

Yes.  Before filing suit a plaintiff is required to exhaust administrative remedies by filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Our office can assist with this requirement.

Do you charge a fee for a consultation on a sexual harassment case?

No.  There is never a fee to speak to someone about a sexual harassment case.  Also, the consultation will be kept strictly confidential.

How do I contact you to get help with my sexual harassment case?

For more information or to speak to a San Francisco or Santa Barbara Sexual Harassment Lawyer about your case, call us at (805) 618-2924.