Sexual Harassment

Are you being sexually harassed at work in Orange County or Los Angeles?

Our Southern California employment lawyers can help you report the harassment and get the damages you deserve.

A national survey found that 27 percent of women and 14 percent of men have experienced sexual harassment at work. Of those people, the majority of them agreed that the harassment hurt their career.

Workplace sexual harassment in California is more than an annoying coworker or an off-color joke. It’s a serious issue that has impacted the lives and earning potential of thousands of people.

If you count yourself among these victims, you deserve compensation—and your harasser and employer deserve to be held accountable. You don’t need to suffer harassment in silence.

At Hochfelsen & Kani, we believe that no one should feel uncomfortable or fearful at their job. That’s why we’ve been representing victims of workplace sexual harassment for more than three decades.

Our attorneys have handled cases involving retail, restaurant, office-based and other employers across Southern California, each time lending a compassionate ear to the victim while aggressively pursuing maximum damages.

If you’re ready to file a report against your employer, it’s important that you find a lawyer you can trust. Based in Newport Beach, our office can offer assistance to clients in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Contact our office today for a free, confidential case evaluation, and we’ll discuss your legal options. In most cases we take sexual harassment cases “on contingency”, meaning we advance litigation expenses and are paid a percentage of your recovery. 

There is no fee unless we win your case.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment was defined under the law with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s covered in Title VII, the section that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VII, defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature” that “explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

In plain terms, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that targets someone based on their gender and makes it difficult for them to work. Perpetrators usually demonstrate a pattern of harassment and have multiple victims over a long period of time.

Sexual Harassment Creates a Hostile Work Environment

In many cases, a harasser creates what’s known as a “hostile work environment”: a workplace where it’s difficult to do your job because the harasser’s behavior is making you uncomfortable.

 This type of harassment is common but it often goes unreported, either because employees don’t recognize the seriousness of it, or because they don’t want to seem prudish or fussy. Usually, a hostile work environment affects many people in the workplace, even those who aren’t direct victims of the discrimination.

A sexual harasser may create a hostile work environment by:

  • Touching coworkers inappropriately;
  • Talking about their sex life or asking coworkers about theirs;
  • Putting up sexual photos or posters in their workspace;
  • Sending emails with sexual jokes, images or videos;
  • Making discriminatory jokes or comments about a coworker’s gender;
  • Staring or looking at coworkers in a sexual way;
  • Commenting on a coworker’s body or clothing; or
  • Any other behavior that makes people feel singled out for their gender.

Harassment Can Be “Quid Pro Quo”

The other type of workplace sexual harassment is called “quid pro quo.”

This is when the harasser, usually a supervisor or higher-up, offers a coworker a benefit in exchange for sexual favors. That benefit could be a raise, a more favorable project, or mentorship—or it could be that the victim gets to keep their job.

Unlike hostile work environment harassment, quid pro quo harassment usually happens in secret. Although there may be multiple victims, they may not know about each other, and their coworkers often have no idea what’s happening. This can make it much more difficult for victims to come forward.

If you have experienced quid pro quo sexual harassment, you are not alone. We can help you break the silence, hold the harasser accountable and recover the damages you are entitled to.

Call or email our office to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Sexual Harassment Myths

  • Only women are victims, and only men harass them. It’s true that women are more likely to be affected by sexual harassment, but that doesn’t mean there are no male victims. Women are equally capable of harassing their coworkers, and harassment can happen between people of the same sex.
  • Only the victim can report harassment. Anyone who witnesses sexual harassment can report it, even if they are not the target. You don’t need the victim’s permission to report on their behalf, although it’s a good idea to talk to them about it first.
  • Workplace harassment only happens at work. It’s still workplace sexual harassment if your coworker is harassing you off the clock, either in person or through electronic communication. Even if the harassment happens outside of your workplace, your employer is still responsible for it.
  • Sexual harassment has to be sexual and/or physical. Inappropriate comments, emails, photos and gestures can all be considered sexual harassment, and they don’t necessarily need to be sexual in nature. For example, a coworker making derogatory comments about women falls under sexual harassment.
  • You can only be harassed by a coworker. You can be harassed by anyone you come in contact with because of your job, including customers, clients, vendors, freelancers and interns.
  • If your employer finds no wrongdoing, there’s nothing else you can do. If you are not happy with your employer’s investigation, your next step is to file a claim with the EEOC. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you choose the best legal option and increase your chances of a good outcome.

Don’t let misinformation prevent you from pursuing a claim. If you have even a small sense that sexual harassment is happening at your job, contact our Newport Beach office to learn about your options.

How to Report Sexual Harassment

  1. Gather evidence.Save proof of the harassment and take notes about when and where it happens. Find witnesses and other victims, if any, who would corroborate your story.
  2. Talk to a lawyer. Before taking any action, find an experienced lawyer. Your employer may not have your best interests in mind, and filing a report with the EEOC can be confusing, so it’s important that you have someone on your side to advise you.
  3. Report internally. There are certain procedures you must follow before you can file a federal lawsuit. Many employers may require you to report harassment internally and/or mediate first, and not doing so could jeopardize your chances of a successful case.
  4. File with the EEOC. If you are not satisfied with your employers investigation and efforts to end the harassment, you have 180 days to file a report with the EEOC. They will look into your employer’s findings and make a determination on your claim.
  5. File a lawsuit. If the EEOC determines that there was harassment and your employer failed to address it, they will give you the opportunity to file a lawsuit. The EEOC will either take up your case, or it will give you a “right to sue” letter which will allow you to file your own lawsuit.

Although these are general reporting guidelines, every case is different.

The most important thing you can do is work with a lawyer, starting before you take any action, who can give you personalized advice about your situation.

Victims Are Entitled to Significant Damages

Although no court can erase the pain of sexual harassment, you may receive substantial money damages. Common remedies include:

  • Compensatory damages for pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages against your employer
  • Back pay
  • Lost earning potential
  • Reinstatement to your position (if you were wrongfully terminated)
  • Counsel fees

In many cases, the court will also order your employer to strengthen its sexual harassment policies.

Why You Need a Lawyer on Your Side

Filing a sexual harassment claim is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do.

Unfortunately, in-house lawyers and HR professionals at many companies have one goal: to protect their employer. They will do everything they can to silence, discredit and scare you. Statutes of limitations, red tape and confusing legal procedures can derail your case. Meanwhile, the sexual harassment at work is likely still happening.

A sexual harassment lawyer can help you overcome these challenges and reduce your anxiety. We will answer your questions, set you up for a successful case and become your trusted advocate.

The best thing you can do for yourself is select a compassionate attorney who will protect and fight for your rights. For sexual harassment cases we will take on your case on a percentage or “contingency” basis – you owe us nothing unless we win.