Both federal and California law considers sexual harassment a form of gender discrimination that is illegal. An employer has an affirmative duty to provide a workplace free of sexual harassment. An employer must also respond to reports of sexual harassment with expedient and corrective action. Sexual harassment is punishable by various remedies.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. This includes laws prohibiting sex discrimination, which includes sexual harassment. The EEOC investigates worker complaints and files lawsuits against employers in violation of federal law.
Sexual harassment in employment is also illegal under California state law, which is enforced by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). This California agency is armed with the same investigatory and enforcement powers as the EEOC.
Employees who pursue a claim for sexual harassment under state law generally may not go to court and file a lawsuit without first filing a written complaint with the DFEH. Because the law considers sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination, the procedure for filing a sexual harassment claim with the DFEH is the same as the process for filing a discrimination complaint with the DFEH.
Every sexual harassment case is unique and consulting with an employment law attorney may be crucial to success. Moss Bollinger offers the opportunity to engage in an informed consultation with an experienced employment law attorney at no cost.
The following is a list of remedies that may be available for workplace sexual harassment.
Lost wages in this context refer to the income loss resulting from acts of sexual harassment. This typically arises from the loss of a job either because of termination or being forced to quit. Any job loss for any time may allow the recovery of both back pay and front pay.
This remedy includes the payment of back pay, contributions to the employee’s retirement funds, or other amounts as compensation for the harm caused by the unlawful acts of sexual harassment. Damages based on lost wages include those equal to the amount of money the employee may have lost from an unfair firing, unequal pay, or the failure (refusal) to promote the employee.
Backpay includes wages lost from the time of termination or quitting up to the time that new employment was acquired. Employees must mitigate their damages and seek other employment in this situation. To “mitigate damages” means to minimize damages by looking for new work. Front pay is the difference in pay between your old and new jobs.
*Damages for Emotional Distress
Federal and state laws recognize that the harm caused by sexual harassment may be more than financial. Victims of sexual harassment may experience various psychological and emotional effects that result from the acts of sexual harassment. These include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sexual desire
- Marital issues
- Reputation loss
These may also flow from the feelings associated with the loss of a job and income if forced to resign.
Punitive damages are only awarded when a defendant commits an egregious act. These damages are beyond those that are compensatory and are awarded specifically to punish the wrongdoer who engaged in the acts of sexual harassment. They may also be assessed against the company.
Although it may seem unlikely, a worker may want to return to a job after the sexual harassment is properly resolved. Courts may award reinstatement as a remedy for sexual harassment. Most victims of sexual harassment will rarely want to return to the place where they were harassed, especially if the company has done little or nothing to change company policies, practices, or personnel. If reinstatement is not feasible, the employee may recover future projected earnings. There are instances when an employee wants to return to a job because they have accumulated service time toward a pension. This is often the case when a worker is employed by a government entity.
*Change in policies and practices
Companies must have in place a policy covering harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention. Business enterprises that fail to implement policies and practices that prevent and discourage sexual harassment are subject to the remedy of a court-ordered change in such policies and practices.
California employees have the legal right to compensation if their employers violate federal and state sexual harassment laws. Sexual harassment cases typically provide a victim and plaintiff with the ability to recover an amount for attorney’s fees and costs. This also includes the recovery of the employee’s litigation expenses and expert witness fees.
The experienced and knowledgeable employment law attorneys at Moss Bollinger will help ensure that your rights as a California worker are protected if your employer has engaged in any illegal conduct under federal or California law. Contact Moss Bollinger today at 866-942-7974 or reach us online