Proudly Accepting Cases Througout California
99% Win Rate!
Millions Recovered
No Fees Until We Win

Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Los Angeles


Your Rights Under California State Law Prohibit Sexual Harassment in Employment

Updated 2022

California state law prohibits employers from harassing any employee, applicant, independent contractor, or unpaid intern or volunteer on the basis of their sex or gender.  If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (Govt. Code § 12940), also called the “FEHA,” may give you the right to file a civil lawsuit for monetary damages against your employer.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to act quickly, as your time to pursue your civil remedies in court is limited.  California law requires claims for sexual harassment to be filed within three (3) years of the most recent incident of sexually harassing behavior, and other, shorter administrative deadlines also may apply in your particular case.

What Kinds of Sexual Harassment Are Prohibited?

In general, California law prohibits certain kinds of inappropriate and unwanted sexual conduct directed at a worker or job applicant.  Unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace is generally divided into two categories: (1) quid pro quo sexual harassment; and (2) sexual harassment that creates a “hostile work environment.” Persons of any sex or gender can be victims of sexual harassment, even when the harasser is a member of the same sex or gender, or identifies as the same sexual orientation as the victim. 

Not every comment or incident of a sexual nature will rise to the level of prohibited sexual harassment under California law.  Isolated or infrequent sexual remarks in the workplace may not be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment.  Sexually charged comments must also be unwelcome to constitute either quid pro quo or hostile work environment sexual harassment, and sexual remarks that are welcomed or reciprocated by the employee to whom they are directed are not unlawful. 

Hostile Work Environment

Sexual harassment creates an unlawful hostile work environment when it is unwelcome and so sufficiently “severe or pervasive” that it alters the worker or applicant’s “terms and conditions of employment.” 

A variety of inappropriate and unwelcome conduct in the workplace may constitute sexual harassment, such as:

  • Sharing sexually suggestive or explicit photos, videos or images;
  • Touching, bumping into, or brushing against an employee in a sexually suggestive manner;
  • Telling sexually charged jokes or stories;
  • Sharing provocative or sexually explicit personal experiences;
  • Making lewd comments;
  • Asking an employee to go on a date or to have sex;
  • Asking questions about, or making jokes or offensive comments about a person’s sexual orientation;
  • Making gender or sexual orientation-related comments about a person’s appearance; or
  • Recurring and pervasive flirting, winking or staring, or obviously “checking out” a co-worker in a way that a reasonable person would consider offensive.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can result from unwelcome and offensive conduct by any employee, whether they are your manager, your supervisor, or a co-worker, as well as from unwelcome and offensive sex and/or gender-based comments or conduct by an employer’s clients, customers and certain other non-employees.

“Severe and pervasive” harassment is conduct that changes the victim’s conditions of employment and creates a work environment that a reasonable person would consider hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, or abusive. To decide whether sexual harassment is “severe or pervasive” enough to create a hostile work environment, a judge or jury considers all of the available facts and circumstances, such as:

  • The nature of the harassment alleged (e.g., verbal remarks, inappropriate touching, sexual advances, etc.);
  • How often, and over what period of time, the harassment occurred;
  • The circumstances under which the harassment occurred; and
  • Whether the harassment was physically threatening or humiliating.

Depending on how offensive or egregious it is, even a single incident of sexual harassment can be sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment.

In the context of a hostile work environment claim, sexual harassment alters a worker or applicant’s terms or conditions of employment if a reasonable person subjected to the same conduct would find that the harassment changed their working conditions in a way that makes it more difficult to perform their job.  Because your employer can use poor work performance as a reason for termination, it is extremely important to document and report sexual harassment to your employer when it occurs.  If you are being sexually harassed by a co-worker, client, customer or other person who is not one of your employer’s managers or supervisors, documenting and reporting the harassment you are experiencing is also very important in order to put your employer on notice of that inappropriate conduct. 

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

California law also prohibits employers from subjecting workers or applicants to quid pro quo (e.g., a “favor for a favor”) sexual harassment.  Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or boss makes unwanted sexual advances towards a worker or job applicant, and either directly or implicitly conditions a term of employment, a job benefit, or favorable working conditions on the worker or applicant’s acceptance of the supervisor’s unwanted sexual advance.  Examples of prohibited quid pro quo sexual harassment include:

  • Making the decision to hire an applicant contingent on his or her acceptance of an unwanted sexual advance (e.g., a request for sex, a date, or some other sexual favor);
  • Communicating to an employee that he or she will be promoted, receive a raise, or obtain some other job benefit if they accept an unwelcome sexual advance; and
  • Communicating to an employee that he or she will be fired, subject to reduced working hours, or experience some other negative employment consequence if they do not accept an unwelcome sexual advance.

What if My Employer Retaliates Against Me for Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

In addition to prohibiting workplace sexual harassment, California’s FEHA also prohibits employers from retaliating against any worker or applicant for reporting or complaining about sexual harassment.  Under this law, California employers are barred from firing, demoting, suspending, or otherwise subjecting an employee to negative employment consequences because they made a good faith report or complaint about sexual harassment.  Employers are also prohibited from refusing to hire a job applicant for reporting or complaining about sexual harassment. 

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace and are concerned about the consequences of reporting that misconduct, we can assist you with the process of reporting harassment to your employer, taking steps to minimize the possibility of unlawful retaliation, and if need be, pursuing your civil remedies in court.  

Contact Labor Law PC for a Free Consultation

Labor Law PC’s experienced team of lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of California workers and ensuring that their voices are heard. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, whether as an employee, an independent contractor, or a job applicant, we can assist you.  Our attorneys value and respect your privacy, and will work tirelessly to help you get the justice that you deserve.  Call us today at (877) 77-LABOR for a free consultation.     


Contact Los Angeles’ Labor and Employment Lawyer

Labor Law PC exclusively represents employees in employment-related matters throughout California. We work for you.