Wrongful termination claims may result from complaints of harassment or a hostile work environment.
Harassment at work can be become a nightmare, especially if your boss is the harasser. You can bring harassment claims against your employer, your supervisor, and coworkers if they commit the harassment. Many forms of workplace harassment are illegal. You may be entitled to monetary compensation from a court of law if you endured harassment at your place of employment. If your employer terminated you for objecting to harassment, you may also sue for wrongful termination and retaliation. When harassment becomes so intolerable that you are forced to resign, you may bring a constructive discharge claim to court. Constructive discharge claims are in many respect like wrongful termination claims and permit the same remedies, such as damages for emotional distress and lost wages. The harassment laws generally permit you to seek attorney’s fees from your employer if you prevail in the lawsuit.
Sexual harassment is by far the most prevalent form of actionable harassment that individuals experience in the workplace. Sexual harassment violates the law when it is so severe or constant that it alters the conditions of the victim's employment and creates an abusive working environment. Sexual harassment is illegal under both federal and California law. The California Fair Employment & Housing Act (also known as “the FEHA”) has always prohibited sexual harassment at work. The FEHA applies to all private employers, many public employers, recruitment agencies, labor organizations, state licensing boards & state and local governments that have 1 or more employees. The FEHA provides protection against sexual harassment for persons who provide services pursuant to a contract. Federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, offers protections to employees of companies of 15 or more employees.
In California, sexual harassment is prohibited for employers of any size. Sexual harassment takes many forms:
- Being the butt of sexually-charged jokes or pranks
- Spreading rumors about the victim
- Being grabbed, groped, fondled or whistled at
- Sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Leering or staring
- Blocking the victim’s movements at work
- ·Invasion of the victim’s person space
- Unfairly disciplining the victim
- Stalking the victim
- Flashing the victim
- Texting and emailing the victim
- Denying promotions or pay raises to the victim
- Invasion of privacy
- Verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature can qualify as sexual harassment
Sexually charged conduct need not be directly aimed at victim for a lawsuit. For example, if the harasser exposes the victim to pornographic pictures, the victim may have a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor demands sexual favors from you in exchange for his assistance in promoting, hiring, or retaining you ("Do this... or else!"). The demand for sexual favors can be express, like "If you go to bed with me, I will make sure you keep your job," or it can be implied from unwelcome physical conduct such as touching, grabbing or fondling. In "quid pro quo" cases, a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it involves the denial of an employment benefit (such as a raise) in exchange for sex.
Sexual assault and rape are the most egregious forms of sexual harassment. Victims of such crimes may bring civil suits against the perpetrator and, in many instances, against the employer is responsible for occurrence of the incident.
However, your employer can defend against a sexual harassment claim with proof that you permitted or consented to the “harassment.” In order to prove a hostile work environment claim, you may also have to show that the sexual conduct was without your permission. If you consented to the sexual conduct, you may be unable to maintain a sexual harassment lawsuit. Even if you once had an intimate relationship with someone who later sexually harasses you, you may still have a sexual harassment claim if you can show that you clearly indicated that the sexual attention was no longer welcome. For example, by having written a letter to the harasser that you are no longer interested in continuing a relationship with him and that his sexual attention is no longer welcome or appreciated, you may be able to establish that any sexual conduct that follows is harassment.