Both federal and California law protect workers against being victims of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome advance, crude joke or other behavior that makes a worker uncomfortable. The behavior merely needs to be discriminatory on the basis of sex as opposed to being sexual in nature. Victims can be either male or female, and the perpetrator and the victim may be of the same sex.
There are several steps that workers can take to protect their rights if they have been victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The first step is to determine if the company has a sexual harassment policy. If it does have one, a worker should read and understand it thoroughly. If necessary, the victim report the misconduct to a supervisor or other trusted person within the organization. Failure to do so could make it tougher to pursue a claim or seek damages.
A complaint can be filed either with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. A complaint may also be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Once either agency learns about your case, it will notify the other. Individuals who have been sexually assaulted or otherwise fear for their safety are advised to call the police. Crisis hotlines or other resources may also be available for sexual assault victims.
Individuals who feel as if they have been victims of workplace sexual harassment may wish to meet with an attorney to discuss their situation. If going through workplace channels proves to be fruitless, then the attorney might suggest the filing of a formal complaint with either or both of the agencies.