Sexual Harassment

California Workplace Sexual Harassment: Know Your Rights

Employers are required to have policies that essentially condemn all forms of sexual harassment and disclose the consequences for engaging in sexual harassment. California employers who employ at least 50 employees must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training every two years to each supervisory employee.

If harassment does occur, employers must have clear reporting procedures for employee. Employers must investigate all sexual harassment complaints, and the investigation must be thorough and objective.

If the investigation reveals that an employee was sexually harassed, the employer must stop the harassment. This may involve suspending, re-assigning, demoting, or terminating the harasser.

Understanding Employer Liability for Supervisor Harassment in CA

In California, if a supervisor harasses an employee, there are grounds for a strict liability claim against the employer. This means that if the employee can prove that the harassment occurred, the company is automatically liable for damages. This is true regardless if the company knew about the harassment or attempted to stop it.

When Employers Are Liable for Non-Supervisor Harassment

Employers may also be held liable for harassment by a co-worker, customer or independent contractor. This is true if the employer should have known about the harassment, but failed to immediately stop it.

Steps to Take When Confronting Sexual Harassment at Work

If you are being sexually harassed in your workplace, it is important to take several specific steps. These steps can help you build a stronger case later if the situation leads to litigation.

If feasible, you should tell the harasser to stop. State that you do not accept the harasser's behavior, specifically say what the offensive behavior is, and demand a stop to the behavior. Confirm this conversation in writing, and keep a copy of this conversation for your records.

If demanding the harasser stop their behavior does not work or is not feasible, report the harassment. See if your employee handbook provides procedures for reporting harassment. If it doesn’t, report the harassment to the human resources department. If your company doesn’t have a human resources department, report the harassment to your supervisor or upper management. Report the harassment in writing, preferably via email so there is a record of the report being sent to the appropriate persons.

It is vitally important to document everything regarding your sexual harassment case. Write a detailed description of what happened and your response, as well as the date, time, location, and names of any witness, Record any retaliation you received for rejecting the harassing behavior, or any retaliation you experienced after filing a claim.

Consider filing a lawsuit, particularly if you suffered retaliation or if your company failed to investigate the harassment, stop the harassment, or take steps to prevent the harassment from happening again. Employers are absolutely prohibited from retaliating against anyone who complains about witnessing or being a victim of sexual harassment.

Legal Remedies for Victims of Sexual Harassment in California

Employees that sue under California law may recover damages for:

  • Past and future medical
  • Psychiatric expenses
  • Past and future wage loss
  • Damages for emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

At AMartin Law, we fight for maximum compensation for every client in workplace sexual harassment cases. Many cases can be negotiated during settlement, but we are prepared to go to trial when necessary.

Contact AMartin Law for Your Sexual Harassment Claim

Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Verbal & Written Harassment

Some examples of verbal and written sexual harassment include:

  • Asking intrusive and explicit questions, including questions about orientation or history
  • Making inappropriate jokes
  • Making sexual comments or innuendos, including graphic comments about a person’s body
  • Using sexually degrading words to describe someone
  • Using derogatory comments, slurs, or nicknames
  • Rating a person’s sexuality or appearance

Physical Harassment

Some examples of physical sexual harassment include:

  • Making sexual advances
  • Giving or asking for kisses, hugs, or massages
  • Touching, patting, punching, stroking, squeezing, tickling or brushing against a person
  • Leering or staring at body parts
  • Making sexual gestures
  • Impeding or blocking a person’s movement
  • Attempting to or actually physically/sexually assaulting a person

Visual Harassment

Some examples of visual sexual harassment include:

  • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos with co-workers
  • Displaying or discussing sexually suggestive materials, objects, pictures, calendars, cartoons, or posters

Harassment Through Intimidation

Some examples of sexual harassment with an intimidation element include:

  • Spreading rumors about a person’s sexuality or sexual activities
  • Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
  • Threatening or bribing a person to succumb to sexual activity
  • Retaliating against a person for rejecting sexual advances or objecting to harassing conduct
  • Stalking a person

Suggested Reading:


Contact us online or call our San Diego law firm at (619) 268-6585 to request your free initial consultation.


Schedule A Free Consultation

Contact Us Today

Employer’s Duties to Prevent Harassment

Employers are required to have policies that essentially condemn all forms of sexual harassment and disclose the consequences for engaging in sexual harassment. California employers who employ at least 50 employees must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training every two years to each supervisory employee.

If harassment does occur, employers must have clear reporting procedures for employee. Employers must investigate all sexual harassment complaints, and the investigation must be thorough and objective.

If the investigation reveals that an employee was sexually harassed, the employer must stop the harassment. This may involve suspending, re-assigning, demoting, or terminating the harasser.

Employer Liability and Harassment by Supervisors

In California, if a supervisor harasses an employee, there are grounds for a strict liability claim against the employer. This means that if the employee can prove that the harassment occurred, the company is automatically liable for damages. This is true regardless if the company knew about the harassment or attempted to stop it.

Employer Liability and Harassment by Co-Workers or Customers

Employers may also be held liable for harassment by a co-worker, customer or independent contractor. This is true if the employer should have known about the harassment, but failed to immediately stop it.

What to Do if You Are Facing Sexual Harassment at Work

If you are being sexually harassed in your workplace, it is important to take several specific steps. These steps can help you build a stronger case later if the situation leads to litigation.

If feasible, you should tell the harasser to stop. State that you do not accept the harasser's behavior, specifically say what the offensive behavior is, and demand a stop to the behavior. Confirm this conversation in writing, and keep a copy of this conversation for your records.

If demanding the harasser stop their behavior does not work or is not feasible, report the harassment. See if your employee handbook provides procedures for reporting harassment. If it doesn’t, report the harassment to the human resources department. If your company doesn’t have a human resources department, report the harassment to your supervisor or upper management. Report the harassment in writing, preferably via email so there is a record of the report being sent to the appropriate persons.

It is vitally important to document everything regarding your sexual harassment case. Write a detailed description of what happened and your response, as well as the date, time, location, and names of any witness, Record any retaliation you received for rejecting the harassing behavior, or any retaliation you experienced after filing a claim.

Consider filing a lawsuit, particularly if you suffered retaliation or if your company failed to investigate the harassment, stop the harassment, or take steps to prevent the harassment from happening again. Employers are absolutely prohibited from retaliating against anyone who complains about witnessing or being a victim of sexual harassment.

Damages You Can Recover in a Sexual Harassment Case

Employees that sue under California law may recover damages for:

  • Past and future medical
  • Psychiatric expenses
  • Past and future wage loss
  • Damages for emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

At AMartin Law, we fight for maximum compensation for every client in workplace sexual harassment cases. Many cases can be negotiated during settlement, but we are prepared to go to trial when necessary.

Tailored Legal Solutions Served with Unwavering Focus

Want a Client-Focused,
Accessible Attorney?

Schedule a Free Consultation

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
  • By submitting, you agree to be contacted about your request & other information using automated technology. Message frequency varies. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Acceptable Use Policy