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Sexual harassment, whether it’s from a manager, the owner of the company, or a co-worker, can make going in to work every day a nightmare. A victim will not just be extremely uncomfortable, they may fear for their safety, hurting productivity, self-confidence, and morale.

Do you believe you are facing sexual harassment at work? You need to know your legal rights and how to assert them. You might have the legal grounds to file a sexual harassment lawsuit.

At Alan Burton Newman, PLC, you can join forces with a counselor well-versed in California employment law. Mr. Newman is backed by over 35 years of experience of obtaining justice for workers throughout Los Angeles, CA. He has recovered millions for clients on a contingency fee basis. You don’t pay any legal fees unless we win your case.

For a free initial consultation, call an experienced sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles at (310) 986-2792 today!

What Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Workplace sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. California law offers a broad definition of sexual harassment. This definition includes forms of offensive conduct and behavior with and without a sexual desire.

Sexual harassment is generally filed into two main categories:

  • Hostile Environment
  • Quid Pro Quo

Sexual harassment is an umbrella term because it can involve many types of offensive behaviors, including but not limited to:

  • Making unwanted sexual advances towards the victim
  • Offering an employee work-related benefits if they perform sexual favors
  • Making sexually graphic comments towards the employee
  • Making derogatory jokes or comments towards the employee
  • Making sexual comments about the worker’s body
  • Physically touching the employee
  • Blocking the victim’s movements
  • Sexually assaulting the employee
  • Making obscene gestures toward the employee
  • Threatening to retaliate against the employee

How is Sexual Harassment Defined in California?

Sexual harassment according to California law is conduct so serious that it creates a hostile working environment. Physical assault is also considered to be sexual harassment. More commonly sexual harassment is considered to be multiple acts such as comments/jokes that can lead to an abusive workplace environment.

What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment is created when behavior is sexual, severe, and pervasive.

"Sexual" means that the conduct is based on sex. It does not require that the harasser seeks sexual favors, but only requires that the conduct is sexual.

"Severe" means the conduct is more than just bad manners. For example, rape is severe whereas complimenting someone on the way they look may not be considered severe. However, even bad manners when repeated enough may rise to the level of sexual harassment.

The more severe the unwanted sexual advances, the less repetitive they must be. The less severe the conduct, the more repetitive it must be.

What Is "Quid Pro Quo"?

Quid pro quo translates to "this for that." It occurs when the harasser asks for sexual favors in return for some benefit to the victim, even in implication. It also occurs when the harasser threatens to revoke an employment benefit if a sexual favor is not performed.

Unlike hostile environment, a single instance is sufficient to be legally considered sexual harassment.

The Effects of Sexual Harassment on Employees

Hostile work environments can make it difficult for employees to perform at their best and stay focused. Sexual harassment in the workplace has become more common and the effects on an employee are being:

  • Publicly Sexualized

  • Objectified by scrutiny and gossip

  • Decreased work performance

  • Effects on sexual life/personal relationships

  • Wrongful termination

  • Having to Relocate (city/state)

  • Loss of References/recommendations

  • Loss of Trust in Work Environments

  • Loss of Trust in People in Similar positions

  • Health Impairment

Our team Alan Burton Newman, PLC understands the physical/emotional hardships of dealing with a hostile work environment. We are here to help guide you in the next steps of the process for your specific situation. Call us today to review your case and schedule a consultation!

What Are the Damages for Sexual Harassment?

The damages for sexual harassment may include loss of income, emotional distress, medical expenses, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. The more severe the conduct, the greater the amount of awarded damages.

Read our blog post to learn more about determining how much your sexual harassment case is worth.

Mr. Newman won a verdict for quid pro quo sexual harassment for $1.125 million for a woman with a felony. This is one of the largest verdicts for a single victim of sexual harassment in California. In this case, the boss threatened to tell the employer of the employee's felony conviction unless she would have sex with him. The large verdict was due in part to the employer's human resources policy that even in the case of rape, the appropriate action would be for the harasser and the victim to sit together in the same room and work it out.

Who Is Liable for Sexual Harassment in the Los Angeles Workplace?

Liability in a sexual harassment case is largely dependent on the harasser's relation to the victim. The harasser is always liable—or responsible—for their actions.

The company will be liable if the harasser acts as a supervisor. The company would also be liable if they were aware of the harassment but did not protect the employee. If the employer retaliates against the employee for reporting the conduct, the employer will be liable for damages. This applies even if the conduct did not qualify as sexual harassment under the statute.

The company will also be liable for the conduct of its independent contractors. This includes vendors like the security guard service hired to protect the employees. If the employer is notified of the independent contractor's conduct and does nothing to prevent it, the employer will be liable.


Does sexual harassment have to be violent or intense to be harassment?

Not necessarily. Even a gentle confession of love can lead to a hostile work environment—especially if your boss retaliates. When a superior (or a co-worker) declares their love for you, that's uncomfortable, but when they resent you or hinder your career for not returning their love, that's a form of employment discrimination.

Reporting Sexual Harassment

Report the sexual harassment to Human Resources. If there is no Human Resources department, report it to the highest level of management that you can reach. You cannot be disciplined or terminated for reporting sexual harassment, even if the company’s investigation cannot substantiate your claim.

When reporting sexual harassment, you must be very aware that Human Resources is interested in protecting the company and that they will try to prove your claim is without merit. I suggest that before you make a report, you confer with a highly knowledgeable sexual harassment attorney who can evaluate your claim and prepare you for your interview. Remember that Human Resources is not your friend and will try to trick you.

A typical question they’ll ask is “what do you want us to do about it?” You cannot possibly answer this question without prejudicing your claim. If you have an attorney, the answer is, “I can tell you all the facts of the sexual harassment, but this question needs to be answered by my attorney.”


The three-year statute of limitations starts when the last act of sexual harassment is committed. For example, if an employee works for a company but the sexual harassment stopped, the employee has three years from the date the harassment stopped to bring an action against the company. However, before the employee can sue the company, they must obtain a Right-to-Sue letter from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

If an employee was last sexually harassed on December 31, 2018, they must get a Right to Sue letter before December 31, 2019. The Agency that grants the Right to Sue will automatically do so upon the request of the employee. This process may extend the termination period from one year to two years. This is because the employee has one year to get a Right to Sue and three years to file the lawsuit. The complexity of the law makes the use of an experienced employment law attorney a good idea.

Have more questions? Call our sexual harassment lawyer serving Los Angeles at (310) 986-2792 or complete an online contact form.

Related Reading

  • Cornell University
  • Bar Of California
  • United States District Court
  • California Employment Lawyers Association
  • Harvard University
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