Sexual harassment occurs when someone makes unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments or physical advances to another person with whom they have a working or professional relationship. Not only does sexual harassment interfere with a person’s dignity, but also it may affect someone’s ability to work, earn a living, and support their family. Under state and federal laws, all employees are entitled to a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. While sexual harassment often occurs in the workplace, it also can occur in a professional relationship outside a formal employer-employee relationship. In many contexts, sexual harassment continues to be a serious problem across California. At Krolikowski Law, Orange County sexual harassment lawyer Adam J. Krolikowski diligently works on behalf of employees who have experienced sexual harassment to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.Sexual Harassment Under California Civil Code 51.9
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex-based discrimination, prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). However, sexual harassment routinely occurs outside the workplace, and when it does, it is every bit as traumatizing. Under California Civil Code 51.9, protections against sexual harassment are broadly applicable to the traditional employer-employee relationship and to many situations outside it. For example, the following relationships are covered under Civil Code 51.9: doctor-patient, therapist-patient, lawyer-client, landlord-tenant, and teacher-student.
Sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome behavior creates an environment that a reasonable person would feel is offensive. To rise to the level of sexual harassment, the unwelcome behavior must be either “severe” or “pervasive.” A sexual harassment attorney in Orange County can advise an employee on whether their situation meets this standard. Pervasiveness refers to repetitive instances of inappropriate conduct. Severe conduct typically involves the use of physical force, or a threat of physical force. Thus, while one instance of inappropriate conduct is not generally enough to support a claim of sexual harassment, it may be enough if that single instance is severe.
When considering the type of behavior that can give rise to a claim of sexual harassment, courts look for patterns such as these:
- Inappropriate sexual gestures
- Crude or inappropriate jokes
- Unwelcome physical contact
- Name-calling or ridiculing
- Threatening remarks
- Invading a worker’s personal space in a sexual manner
In addition to establishing the relationship and conduct elements, to succeed in a sexual harassment claim under Civil Code 51.9, a plaintiff must also prove that they suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s behavior. Many instances of sexual harassment do not involve a physical injury, and it is enough for an Orange County sexual harassment attorney to show that the harassment caused the plaintiff emotional distress. A plaintiff also can prove damages by establishing that they were deprived of a constitutional right, such as the right to be free from sex-based discrimination in the workplace.
One important difference between sexual harassment claims brought under Civil Code 51.9 and other workplace sexual harassment claims is the way in which the plaintiff initiates the claim. With an ordinary employment claim, an employee begins the process by filing a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In contrast, with a claim under Civil Code 51.9, the plaintiff will file a claim directly with the Superior Court of California. Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or in a professional relationship should reach out to a dedicated employment attorney to discuss their situation.Contact an Experienced Employment Lawyer
No one should feel like they are forced to endure a threatening or unsafe employment or professional relationship. Attorney Adam J. Krolikowski has over 20 years of experience representing Orange County employees in many types of employment matters, including sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims. To learn more about how Attorney Krolikowski can help you with your situation, call us at (949) 274-9915 today and discuss your case with a sexual harassment lawyer in Orange County.