Who You Could Sue under California Sexual Harassment Law

California employment attorneys could help sexual harassment victims file claims against abusive employers or supervisors. California law prohibits different forms of sexual harassment explained in this article. The law suggests that not everything sexual in the workplace results in sexual harassment cases.

Because of many lawsuits, the state keeps refining what rises to sexual harassment. In 2018, The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) was revised with SB passage under California Government Code 12940. In this article, learn about California sexual harassment laws.

The Meaning of Sexual Harassment in California

Under California law, sexual harassment falls under the ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘hostile work environment’ categories. In both categories, sexual conduct must be unwelcome. At times, workers welcome the conduct of coworkers or bosses. If you welcome sexual conduct, there is no sexual harassment.

Proving that an employee welcomed sexual conduct is challenging since it centers on intentions instead of outward actions. Depending on circumstances, employees could claim to face both types of sexual harassment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Meaning

Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when your supervisor demands sexual favors for workplace benefits. With the help of employment lawyers in California, you could prove an instance of quid pro quo harassment by showing:

  • You applied for a job with the suspect, worked for the wrongdoer, or offered services to the culprit.
  • Your supervisor passed unwelcomed sexual requests to you.
  • Your peace at the workplace was made contingent, by words, on those sexual advances. n
  • Harm was caused to you owing to the sexual harassment.
  • The defendant’s actions caused you harm.

The harassing behavior involves exchanging sexual favors for workplace benefits, including:

  • Not being dismissed from the workplace.
  • Being hired for a particular role.
  • Being assigned a particular task.
  • Being offered a favorable working schedule.
  • Being offered lesser working hours with the same wage.
  • A promotion or pay raise.

Sexual Harassment that Results in a Hostile Working Environment

Sexual harassment is a major ingredient of a hostile working environment. You have a valid claim against your employer if:

  • You receive unwanted comments, conduct, or advances.
  • You are a victim of sexual harassment because of your sex.
  • The harassment was pervasive or severe enough to alter your employment conditions.

Note that cases based on a hostile working environment must be more than just trivial, sporadic, isolated, or occasional. Also, it hangs on 2 things:

  • The pervasiveness of the conduct.
  • The severity of the conduct.

When establishing if the working environment was hostile, the judge assesses the evidence you present and if another person in your position would feel harassed. The court allows indirect harassment evidence.

Who You Could Sue for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

You could be sexually harassed at your workplace by parties including clients, customers, coworkers, supervisors, vendors, or independent contractors. The success of your case largely depends on the aggressor. For instance, your case’s success rate is higher if your boss is the culprit than if it was a non-employee.

Supervisors Vs. Bosses

Your boss or supervisor often has the jurisdiction and power over you. In California, many quid pro quo harassment involves bosses or supervisors. They have the decision-making power to pressure you into a sexual favor.

Filing a claim against your supervisor is different from a non-supervisor. This is because you can hold your employer responsible for your supervisor’s conduct even if the employer was not negligent.


Coworkers are those who you work with in the same workplace. Your coworker does not have power over you in the same way your boss would. Since coworkers do not have a supervisor’s power, they rarely commit quid pro quo harassment. However, you could sue a worker for creating a hostile workplace.

Employers are only liable for damages or your coworker’s conduct if they acted negligently. Negligent acts could include learning about the harassment against you and failing to take disciplinary measures.

Third Parties Like Independent Contractors or Vendors

You could suffer sexual harassment from persons who are your colleagues at the workplace. These include customers, clients, independent contractors, and other personnel interacting with employees, such as a deliveryman.

You could hold your employer responsible for facing harassment from a third party. But you must prove that your employer learned about the harassment and did not take the necessary measures like:

  • Termination of the client’s contract.
  • Sending the aggressor out of the shop.
  • Transferring you to another branch where you will not meet the harasser.

Harassment Between Members Of The Same Gender

In California, you could file a harassment case against someone of the same gender. For example, if you are a man and your homosexual boss or coworker requests a sexual favor in return for a work favor.

If any of the above parties sexually harrases you at the workplace, you want to hire an experienced employment lawyer. You do not have to be an employee to face harassment. You could be an unpaid intern, volunteer, job applicant, or independent contractor. So speak to a lawyer to determine if you have a case.

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