Under California law it is unlawful for an employer to harass an employee or applicant on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status. An employer must also take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment from occurring. An employer may, therefore, be liable for failing to do so.
Definition of Workplace Harassment
Workplace Harassment consists of behavior that takes place outside the scope of what is necessary for job performance. It is the kind of conduct engaged in by the harasser for personal gratification, out of meanness or bigotry, or for other personal motives. (Rehmani v. Superior Court (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 945, 951.) Harassment focuses on situations in which the social environment of the workplace becomes intolerable due to verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a harasser that communicates an offensive message to the harassed employee. Harassment can be in the form of discriminatory intimidation, ridicule or insult that alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment. (Serri v. Santa Clara University (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 830.)
Laws Prohibiting Harassment
Employees are protected under both state and federal law against workplace harassment. Federal law remedies for workplace sexual harassment are based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. State law remedies are based upon the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Victims of workplace harassment can recover various types of damages. These include lost wages, future lost wages, emotional distress, attorney’s fees and in some cases, punitive damages.
Retaliation by an employer for opposing harassment, filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting in any proceeding against an employer for harassment is unlawful. (Gov. Code, § 12940(h); 29 U.S.C.A. § 623(d); 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-3(a); 42 U.S.C.A. § 12203(a).) An employer who engages in retaliation may be subject to higher penalties or damage awards.
Workplace harassment is a serious offense. If you believe you are a victim of workplace harassment, it is important to contact a knowledgeable employment attorney. The attorneys at Kaplan Weiss LLP are committed advocates of employee rights. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case.