Workplace Harassment in California: What to do

Aug 27, 2021 | Workplace Harassment

Harassment in the Workplace

The workplace is supposed to be a place where people can work in a safe and friendly environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Harassment in the workplace can come in many different forms and its effects on employees can be devastating. This blog post will discuss workplace harassment in California, the legal definition of harassment, what types of harassment there are, how you can deal with workplace harassment, and who to talk to about workplace harassment.

Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment

What is Harassment?

The legal definition of harassment is as follows: “Unwelcome conduct that is directed at an individual because of his or her protected status and that exists in the workplace, educational setting, other institution or location where the work is being performed. Harassment also includes offensive conduct based on a person’s protected category such as race, gender, religion, etc.”

There are 3 types of harassment that an individual can experience.

The 3 Types of Harassment

The three types of workplace harassment that an individual can experience are:

  • Quid pro quo
  • Hostile work environment
  • Retaliation

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo is an environment in the workplace where individuals feel that they have to give in to the demands or requests of their superiors. Quid Pro Quo can include a superior demanding sexual favor from an individual, promising you employment benefits like promotions and raises if you do something for them, or withholding employment benefits such as not letting you work overtime unless certain conditions are met by the employee.

A common type of workplace harassment that employees suffer from is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is when a fellow employee or superior makes unwanted sexual advances towards you or makes comments of the sexual nature that is unwanted. Sexual harassment is also physical harassment of a sexual nature such as unwanted touching.

How do you know if someone is sexually harassing you?

There are many different ways that people can tell if they are being harassed. If somebody makes sexual comments about your body parts, asks for sex or other favors in exchange for workplace benefits like promotions and raises then this might be a sign of harassment.

Another way to find out whether or not you are being sexually harassed in the workplace is to speak with a co-worker or superior about their opinion on the conduct in question.

If the sexual harassment becomes increasingly severe or pervasive then you need to file a complaint with HR and document all of the severe or pervasive conduct that you have experienced.

Hostile Work Environment

Another type of workplace harassment is called a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment happens when an employee’s workplace becomes offensive, intimidating, and extremely uncomfortable for the victim because they are constantly exposed to sexual comments, inappropriate conduct, or other forms of harassment from their coworkers or superiors.

National origin discrimination
Hostile Work Environment


Retaliation is another form of harassment that many employees experience in the workplace. Retaliation is when an employer takes action against a worker who has filed a complaint or report workplace harassment.

Many workers don’t know that they have protected rights as employees, which makes retaliation, Quid Pro Quo, Harassment, or other intimidating hostile or offensive conduct, illegal acts.

Harassment laws in the State of California

California is one of the most employee-friendly states in the whole United States. In California, workplace harassment is illegal and therefore punishable by law.

This includes sexual harassment in the workplace, including acts of verbal or physical conduct that are based on sex or gender stereotypes.

Bullying or discrimination based on an employee’s race color religion sex or disability is also illegal and punishable by law. Quid Pro Quo and Retaliation are also illegal in the state of California.

To read more about the California laws that protect workers against harassment in the workplace then please click here.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 

There are also federal laws (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) and a commission (EEOC) in place that are meant to protect you from workplace harassment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

The VII of the Civil Rights Act outlaws workplace harassment based on race color religion sex and national origin. It also provides legal protection for employees that are discriminated against in the workplace due to their gender or pregnancy status.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC also offers legal advice to employees that are experiencing workplace harassment and discrimination.

Harassment prevention tips for employees

Here are some valuable tips that could help you if you are ever experiencing harassment in the workplace:

  • You should always document every instance of workplace harassment that you experience.
  • If you are uncomfortable confronting the harasser, then file a complaint with your employer and/or HR rep right away.
  • Always make sure that you stay aware of your surroundings and speak with people that you trust about the harassment in the workplace that you have been experiencing.
  • Speak with a representative at the EEOC about the harassment that you are experiencing and about the intimidating hostile or offensive work environment that you work at.
Workplace Harassment

How to recognize and prevent workplace harassment

It is important to be aware of your surroundings when you work in an intimidating hostile or offensive work environment. If you are aware of your surroundings then you will be able to recognize and prevent workplace harassment from happening to you or your co-workers.

If you can identify and recognize conduct that leads to harassment then you’ll be able to report the harassing conduct early on. The key is to look for signs of verbal harassment, sexual advances, offensive jokes, physical harassment, or any other types of severe or pervasive conduct.

Identifying these behaviors early on can ensure that your workplace doesn’t become an offensive work environment where harassment of sexual nature and other forms of harassing conduct continue to be tolerated.

We are now going to discuss what to do if you experience any of the different types of workplace harassment:

Sexual Advances

If you experience unwanted sexual advances in the workplace then you should address the harassing conduct with the harasser and immediately report the situation to your manager, human resources representative, or other workplace authority figure.

Physcial Harassment

If you experience unwanted physical harassment in the workplace then you should address the harassing conduct with the harasser and immediately report the situation to your manager, human resources representative, or other workplace authority figure.

Verbal Harassment

If you experience unwanted verbal harassment in the workplace then you should address the harassing conduct with the harasser and immediately report the situation to your manager, human resources representative, or other workplace authority figure.

Being proactive in these situations will ensure that your workplace doesn’t become an offensive work environment. It will also let the harasser know that they are exhibiting unwelcome conduct that could be classified as harassing behavior.

How to Report an Incident of Sexual Harassment at Work

If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, then it is important that you understand your rights. You should know what types of behaviors can be considered workplace sexual harassment and how to report an incident of workplace sexual harassment.

Reporting the incident to HR or a Superior

There are many different ways for reporting workplace sexual harassment including filing a complaint with HR or directly with management if there isn’t someone within Human Resources who takes care of such complaints. If this doesn’t work out, then speak with higher-ups or even people outside of your company about the workplace sexual harassment that you have been experiencing at work.

EEOC or Legal Help

In some cases, going to human resources can prove to be fruitless for many different reasons, but that just means you need to take further action such as getting legal advice from the EEOC, speaking with management, and even speaking with a law firm that deals with workplace harassment and sexual harassment.

Preventing Future Incidents of Harassment

Preventing future incidents of harassment can be difficult to achieve since we don’t have control over other human beings. The best ways to prevent future incidents of harassment are as follows:

  • Attempt to change company culture with the help of your peers.
  • Openly address your harasser about their conduct.
  • Ask management to enforce new rules or policies against workplace harassment.
  • Take legal action if necessary.

Resources for victims of workplace harassment

Here are some valuable resources that we have gathered for anyone who might be experiencing workplace harassment:

  • EEOC Website – Click here
  • Sexual Harassment Hotline – 800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • Harassment Prevention – Click here
  • Therapy – Click here

Should I speak with an attorney about workplace harassment?

If workplace harassment continues to occur, you should definitely consider speaking with an attorney about your options. There are several ways that we can help if workplace harassment occurs:

  • Provide you advice on how to deal with the incident of workplace harassment.
  • Help determine whether there is a valid legal claim based off of the workplace harassment you experienced.
  • Assist you in filing for damages.

What type of attorney handles workplace harassment cases?

There are several types of attorneys who handle workplace harassment cases, including employment law attorneys and civil rights lawyers.

An employment or labor lawyer is typically the best option as they are well versed in all areas of employment law including harassment law.

How Crosner Legal can help you with Workplace Harassment

Crosner Legal can give you a 100% FREE consultation about your protected rights in the workplace, listen to your harassment claims, and give you proper legal advice on the situation. We can also represent you in the court of law if you have valid workplace harassment claims against a co-worker or employer.

What other types of cases can Crosner Legal help me with

Crosner Legal is an employment and labor law firm that can help employees with the following issues:

  • Wrongful Termination
  • Workplace Discrimination
  • Workplace Harassment
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Wage and Hour Violations

Harassment is one of the main issues that Crosner Legal has helped employees within past cases. A reasonable person would think that harassment doesn’t happen too often and that people know what is offensive conduct and what isn’t. Unfortunately, sexual, verbal, or physical harassment happens on a daily basis. This is why Crosner Legal represents employees and fights for their protected rights.

For a 100% FREE consultation about your harassment claims, click here.