Sexual harassment can take many forms, such as unwelcome sexual comments, unwanted touching, promotions or other job benefits offered in exchange for sex, sexual teasing, inappropriate sexual gestures, sexual looks, unsolicited phone calls and text messages of a sexual nature, and pressure for dates or sexual favors. These are some of the many ways that perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct target their victims.

If you feel that you’ve been a target of sexual harassment in the workplace, on a college campus, or by a person in a position of power, you may be able to bring claims against the perpetrator and other responsible parties in California state or federal court. This article explains some of the rights that victims of sexual harassment have in California, but it is not a substitute for talking to an experienced sexual harassment lawyer about your case.

California Sexual Harassment Law

Under California law, victims of sexual harassment have different rights depending on where the harassment took place, the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, and other factors.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act is a California statutory scheme used to combat sexual harassment and other forms of illegal discrimination in employment and housing decisions. Enacted in 1959, this was a progressive piece of legislation which has proven to be a powerful tool for victims of sexual harassment.

Under California law, there are two categories of prohibited sexual harassment in the workplace. One type of harassment is called “quid pro quo” harassment. This occurs when one employee offers another professional incentives or advancement in exchange for sexual favors, or threatens that an employee’s career or professional reputation will suffer if the employee does not concede to pressure to date or engage in sexual intercourse.

The other type of sexual harassment is known as “hostile work environment”. In this scenario, the harasser engages in pervasive or severe unwelcome conduct, is based on gender, which in turn creates a workplace that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

Federal law also protects victims of sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act imposes the legal responsibility on private and public employers, as well as labor unions and employment agencies, to prevent or stop sexual harassment in the workplace. Title VII requires California employers to take reasonable steps both to prevent sexual harassment and to put a stop to sexual harassment about which the employer learns.

These state and federal statutes give victims of sexual harassment the right to bring claims against their harasser in California state court or federal court, depending on the facts of the case. Because an employer is only liable for sexual harassment under certain circumstances, it is critical to talk to a California sexual harassment right away if you feel that you’ve been victimized in the workplace. Hiring an aggressive sexual harassment employer is the best way to protect your legal interests.

Sexual Harassment on College Campuses

Under California state law and federal law, California students have the right to be free from sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. There are California state law protections for victims of sexual misconduct, as well as federal constitutional and statutory protections for students at state-run and certain federally-funded college and university campuses.

Because university administrators are tasked with protecting the reputation of their school, many survivors of campus sexual harassment and assault find it difficult to successfully hold perpetrators of sexual misconduct accountable through school-administered investigations. In addition, there is a growing movement to protect the due process rights of abusers, which may make it more difficult in some cases for survivors to secure fair outcomes.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or other misconduct on a California college or university campus, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the college, university, or school administrators. You may be able to hold other people or entities accountable, such as the abuser himself or herself, athletic associations, or third-party service providers with which the college or university contracted. For some survivors of campus sexual assault, pursuing justice through the civil court system is a powerful way to make their voices heard.

A recent high-profile lawsuit filed against former student health center gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall and the University of Southern California may prove to be a landmark case for victims of sexual harassment and abuse on college campuses. The shocking allegations of institutional sexual abuse at the private Los Angeles, California University underscore the fact that sexual assault on campus is not always perpetrated by other students, and that many vulnerable college students can be subject to sexual misconduct by people in positions of authority.

Sexual Harassment by People in Positions of Authority

Under California law, there is a special statute designed to protect victims of sexual harassment committed by people in positions of power. California Civil Code Section 51.9 allows victims to bring claims against doctors, teachers, attorneys, landlords, and other people in positions of authority. This statute requires that the relationship be one that would be difficult for the victim to terminate. These claims were among the many raised in the multiple lawsuits that have been filed against Dr. George Tyndall and USC.

Contact an Experienced California Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today

If you have been forced to endure sexual harassment in your workplace, on a college campus, or by someone else in a position of authority, you have certain rights under California state law and United States federal law. To speak with one of the California sexual harassment lawyers at GJELL, call 1 (866) 290-1656 today.

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