Employment Law


Illegal Harassment on the Job

  • Oct 10 2013
  • Gilleon Law Firm, APC

Sexual harassment cases seem to attract the attention of the press. Ask San Diego’s embattled former mayor, Bob Filner, who is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit from his former director of communications. One of her allegations is that Filner told her that she would work better without panties. In all, nearly 20 women have publicly accused Filner of making sexual advances.  While the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) addresses sexual harassment on the job, it also prohibits workplace harassment of any kind, including age, race, religion, national origin, marital status, gender expression, ancestry or disability.

What constitutes harassment

Harassment includes a range of offensive and illegal behaviors: improper or off-color jokes, name-calling, and tasteless gestures, as well as offensive cartoons, pictures or emails. While not all objectionable behavior is harassment, when an employer engages in a pattern of offensive behavior with an employee who falls into one of the legally protected classes, the employer is vulnerable to a FEHA employment discrimination suit.

Components of workplace harassment

If the harassing behavior is from a supervisor, the employee may file a lawsuit and hold the company liable. When the harassment is from another employee, then the victim must file a written report citing all instances of harassment to supervisors and management. To impose vicarious liability to the company for the conduct of its employees, the company must have knowledge of the behavior and must have a chance to correct the behavior.

Hostile work environment

If harassment continues, it can add up to a hostile work environment. To determine how hostile the workplace is, the courts examine:

  • Frequency of the conduct
  • Severity of the harassing behavior
  • The degree of humiliation and physical threat imposed by the conduct
  • The damage to plaintiff’s productivity at work because of the harassment

If you have suffered harassment at work for any protected status, you may be able to recover damages.  Contact a San Diego employment lawyer for more information.

Free Initial Consultation