In California, workplace harassment can result in a hostile work environment. This type of harassment can take any number of different forms too, and it’s not unusual to have supervisory personnel participate in it. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace harassment is “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability or genetic information (including family medical history). “
When Does Harassment Become Unlawful?
To be unlawful, the behavior must create a work environment that becomes “intimidating, hostile or offensive to reasonable people.” Petty slights or annoyances aren’t actionable. Unless an isolated incident is extremely serious, those aren’t actionable either. Behavior becomes actionable though when you must endure offensive conduct that becomes a condition of continued employment, or the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive. A harasser can be a manager, direct supervisor, another supervisor in a different area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker or even a non-employee on the business premises.
Employer Liability for Harassment by a Supervisor
An employer might become automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor when the supervisor’s conduct results in negative employment action like failure to promote, termination, failure to hire or loss of income. If harassment by a supervisor indeed causes a hostile work environment, an employer might avoid liability if it can prove:
- It reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing conduct, and
- The employee or supervisor unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities that the employer provided.
Non-Supervisory Employees and Non-Employees
If the employer knew or should have known about harassment by a non-supervisory employee or even somebody who wasn’t an employee, who it has control over, and it failed to take prompt corrective action, the employer can also be held liable. This might occur with an independent contractor, customer or sales person on the business premises. Take note that any employee might be affected by workplace harassment, even if that employee wasn’t the target of the conduct but witnessed it.
Compensation for Your Damages
Upon a finding of harassment and creating a hostile work environment, you’re likely to be eligible to seek the following damages:
- Back pay if you were fired or had to resign as a result of the hostile work environment.
- Future lost earnings if you cannot or should not return to your former position with the company If the hostile work environment caused you physical or mental illness or injury, you can pursue medical costs.
- Physical and mental pain and suffering.
- The legal fees and court costs involved in bringing your claim.
Report the Behavior
Is your boss bullying you? Are sexually provocative remarks made to you or about you? Are you receiving frequent and persistent requests for a date or being grabbed or otherwise experiencing unwanted touching? Are jokes made about your race or religion? Are you being referred to by a derogatory or unwanted nickname? If your answer to any of these questions is in the affirmative, you have limited time to take appropriate action. You’ll likely be required to complain to your human resources department before you can even take legal action, but you should arrange for a consultation with us before doing so.
Contact a Thousand Oaks Employment Lawyer Today
In nearly all cases, it’s far better to consult with our Thousand Oaks Employment Lawyers at Quirk Accident & Injury Attorneys, APC in Ventura County before you take your harassment concerns to human resources. By doing so, we can discuss the strategies available for addressing your claim, especially if the employer chooses to retaliate. Don’t tolerate and perpetuate workplace harassment, especially if it’s from somebody who is working in a supervisory capacity. Upon being retained to represent you, we want to ensure that workplace harassment doesn’t happen again.