State and federal laws protecting individuals against inappropriate, gender-related conduct at their places of employment cannot be effective unless the victim is willing to report it. If you are subjected to sexual harassment at your workplace, you might be unsure of the legal rights and remedies available to you. A consultation with an attorney experienced in handling sexual harassment cases provides legal guidance and advice about the options available to you. It is important to know what the lawyer needs to know about what happened and how to prepare for the consultation.
Did Sexual Harassment Occur?
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII makes it illegal for someone to discriminate against you on the basis of race, color, religion national origin or sex. Retaliation taken against a person who complains about discriminatory conduct is also unlawful under Title VII.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency authorized to enforce the protections granted to workers under Title VII. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as including the following:
• Requests made for sexual favors
• Sexual advances that are unwelcome
• Offensive remarks directed at another person’s gender
California enacted its own law prohibiting sexual harassment reference Title VII. The Fair Employment and Housing Act specifies that offensive conduct need not have sexual desire as a motivating factor for it. Under the state law, prohibited sexual harassment can be motivated by or directed at any of the following:
• Actual or perceived gender-identity of the victim
• Actual or perceived sexual orientation of the victim
• Medical conditions related to childbirth or pregnancy
Under both the federal and state statutes, sexual harassment includes conduct directed at a person of the opposite gender or someone of the same gender as the harasser.
What the Lawyer Needs to Learn During the Consultation
As you relate the facts about the conduct and activities that caused you to seek legal advice, your lawyer will be assessing them to determine whether sexual harassment as defined under state and federal law took place. For example, under federal law, the offending conduct must be proven to be severe or pervasive to be actionable as sexual harassment. This has generally been defined as activities that are frequent and ongoing.
California recently changed the Fair Employment and Housing Act to reject the federal standard for proving sexual harassment by making even a single act sufficient to warrant the filing of a claim on behalf of an employee. The facts must show the conduct caused an unreasonable interference with the employee’s job performance or resulted in a work environment that was hostile, offensive or intimidating.
Preparing for the Consultation
It is important for the information you share with your attorney be accurate and contain details about dates, times, locations, parties involved and witnesses. Remember facts and details can be difficult unless you prepare a written account of what took place. It is helpful to both you and the lawyer to present the events in chronological order.
Other documents to bring to the meeting with your attorney should include the following:
• A list of the names and titles of the individual or individuals at your place of employment who engaged in the harassing conduct and activities.
• If you reported the incidents, provide the date, time and the name and title of the person to whom you made the report along with a copy of the report if it was in written form.
• Copies of employment contracts or agreements, employee handbook and other documents you received when you were hired by your employer.
• If you have been with your employer long enough to receive a performance review, provide the attorney with copies of them.
• Copies of pay stubs and other records showing your compensation and benefits with this employer.
• Diaries, journals or documents you prepared and retained in which you documented the incidents that occurred at your place of employment that prompted you to seek the advice of an attorney.
You should bring with you any document or other evidence you believe will be helpful to provide the attorney with a clear understanding of what occurred at your place of employment. The goal is to provide your attorney with enough information from which to make an informed assessment of your claim for compensation for sexual harassment.
Our Dedicated Lawyers Can Help
The attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, have devoted more than 25 years in the aggressive pursuit of justice and compensation for the victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against individuals, businesses, and organizations responsible for causing them harm. If you are a victim or the parent of a child who has been victimized, contact us now by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.