Legal Tidbit on Supervisory Sexual Harassment in California – Who is a supervisor for the purpose of binding a company for sexual harassment is an interesting question. The level of authority of the employee to bind the company for sexual harassment at work is different in California than under Federal law.
Companies are Liable for Unwitnessed Sexual Harassment if the sexual harassment, or one of the incidents of sexual harassment, was reported to supervisors, managers, or human resources. Companies are also liable for sexual harassment at work if another coworker reported the sexual harassment to supervisors and higher level employees, or they knew of the sexual harasser’s tendency to engage in sexual harassment.
Information on Off Premise Sexual Harassment – Employers are liable for sexual harassment that occurs at company seminars off premises, required trainings, or in the car when employees are driving together on their way to make sales or service the employer’s clients.
It is also important that the employer have 5 or more employees. Workplace sexual harassment is made illegal by the Fair Employment and Housing Act if the employer has 5 or more employees. However, workplace sexual harassment may also be prohibited by the California Constitution regardless of the employer’s number of employees. The Fair Employment and Housing Act is an important law in combating sexual harassment at work because the employer is responsible for the workplace sexual harassment victim’s attorney fees if they win the case. The threat the employer will be liable for the sexual harassment victim’s attorney fees often leads to a lump sum settlement of the workplace sexual harassment case in which the employer’s potential exposure to the sexual harassment victim’s attorney fees is factored into the settlement.
Presuming the sexual harassment occurred at work, or at an event an employee was required to be at because of their employer, and the sexual harassment was done by a supervisor or higher, or was reported to a supervisor or higher, the next question is whether the sexual harassment was severe or pervasive. One act of workplace sexual harassment is generally not enough for there to be a sexual harassment case. However, one very severe act such as rape could make the employer liable if the employer knew the sexual harasser was likely to engage in the type of sexual harassment being sued for.
In evaluating workplace sexual harassment cases, once it appears there is legal liability for the workplace sexual harassment, the next issue an experienced workplace sexual harassment lawyer moves onto is whether there are witnesses to the sexual harassment. However, our firm takes many workplace sexual harassment cases in which the sexual harassment was not witnessed. Sexual harassment, in general, is often done by a harasser outside the presence of persons other than the victim of sexual harassment.
If witnesses exist we can find them. Upon the filing of a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit the employer, in written discovery, is required to provide the addresses of any witnesses to the workplace sexual harassment being sued for. We can also make sexual harassment witnesses appear at a deposition or trial by using the power of subpoenas and deposition notices.
Other issues of interest to victims of workplace sexual harassment are whether they can sue for sexual harassment if they are still employed. We strongly suggest you consult with one of our experienced workplace sexual harassment lawyers at 1-877-525-0700 to explore your legal rights to sue for sexual harassment at work.