Cielo & Dei Voluntas Litigation Law Firm
Addressing Workplace Harassment: Legal Protections for California Employees

Addressing Workplace Harassment: Legal Protections for California Employees

Harassment at work isn’t just unpleasant—it can mess with your peace of mind and health, not to mention team vibe and job performance. Good news for employees in California, though: The sunny state has sturdy laws to keep harassment at bay and make workplaces friendlier. Let’s take a closer look at your protections and how employers can step up to the plate.

What is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment is a problem in our world. That makes people feel uncomfortable. It also affects how well everyone works together. In California, workplace harassment is lousy behavior because of things like someone’s race, religion, gender, age (if they’re 40 or older), disability, or genetic background. It’s terrible when someone has to deal with this behavior to keep their job or if the workplace becomes scary or mean to them.

Here’s what workplace harassment can look like:

Sexual Harassment:

Wrong actions like unasked-for touches or comments about someone’s body are clear no-nos. And it’s not just stuff that’s directly about sex—it also includes mean words about men or women that suggest they can’t work as well just because of their gender.

Racial Harassment:

Suppose people make hurtful jokes or comments because of someone’s race or background. That’s really a problem. Using mean names, making jokes about someone’s race, or showing nasty pictures or symbols is also racial harassment.

Disability Harassment:

It’s against the law, and it’s just plain wrong to pick on someone or exclude them for having a disability. This means you can’t make fun of how someone talks or moves or ignore them when planning work activities.

Religious Harassment:

Making fun of someone, not including them, or pressuring them because of their religious beliefs is incorrect. Workplaces are supposed to allow people to follow their faith, like changing prayer schedules or letting people wear religious clothes.

Age Harassment:

You can’t be mean to someone just because they’re older, particularly over 40. This could mean not making unkind jokes about their age or wrongly thinking they can’t use new technology.

National Origin Harassment:

It’s very unfair to mistreat someone, really. Because they’re from a particular country, they may have a unique accent or look like they belong to a specific ethnic group. They were making fun of accents or saying hurtful things. About someone’s homeland counts as harassment.

Remember, harassment can happen anywhere—not just at the office—but in emails, online, or outside of work if it still affects someone when they’re at work. Bosses must keep work safe and take care of harassment problems quickly when they find out.

Legal Protections under California Law

The big gun in California is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)—the rules of the road for keeping workplaces safe. It applies if your company has five or more employees, and it counts for nearly all public and private workplaces. Here’s the run-down:

  • Your Boss Has a Job to Do: Employers must do everything possible to nip harassment in the bud. That means laying down a no-nonsense anti-harassment policy, giving everyone a heads up on how to spot and stamp out bullying, and creating a simple process for reporting concerns.
  • Individuals Can Pay The Price: Unlike nationwide rules, California law says workplace bullies can be taken to task themselves—even if their employer has an anti-harassment policy.
  • You Can Speak Up without Fear: If you call out harassment, back up a claim, or stand up against bullying, FEHA has got your back. No employer can take revenge on you for these actions—it’s against the law.

Filing a Complaint

We’ve all got the right to feel safe at work. If you’re dealing with harassment on the job, it’s tricky, but you’ve got options to make things right. Here’s the lowdown on how to stand up for yourself and get that peace of mind back.

Internal Complaint:

So, someone’s giving you a hard time at work? The first thing you might do is tell your Boss or HR rep. Look in your employee handbook—or the company’s rules—because it lets you know how to report the problem. It’s super important to follow their steps to the letter.

When you spill the details, be as straightforward as possible. Note who bothered you, when, and where it happened—got emails or messages? Witnesses? Bring that to the table, too. Keeping track of everything you’ve done and said about this makes your case strong.

Complaint with the DFEH:

If talking to your company doesn’t cut it, or you don’t want to, you can take it up to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). They’re the go-to folks who ensure all employees get a fair shake in California, and they’ll take a severe look at your situation.

Filing with the DFEH is pretty straightforward. You can zip a complaint online or send them a written form. They’ll dig into it—chat with everyone involved, look at your evidence, and check out your workplace. If they find out you’re right, they can help you and your employer make peace or even take the harasser to court. They also have this excellent option to talk it out with a mediator, which is usually faster and less hassle.

Legal Action:

Absolutely! You can take your employer or the bully to court if you want to go big. These are the major leagues, and it could be faster. You might end up with a hefty compensation if you win.

Are you thinking about a lawsuit? Chat with a lawyer who knows their stuff about work issues. They’ll tell you if you’ve got a good shot, the pros and cons, and how to proceed. If your case gets the green light, your lawyer will be your champion, gather more proof, and discuss it in court.

Tick-tock, though—there’s a countdown on filing complaints and lawsuits. You’ve got three years to holler at the DFEH from when the harassment happened. If they say you can sue, you get one year to bring it to a judge. That’s why you’ve got to move fast!

Wrapping It Up: Workplace Harassment

Standing up to harassment is crucial to keeping the workplace safe, where everyone can do their best work. California has robust laws that allow you to work without fear of bullying. It’s up to employers to ensure bullying never gets off the ground, and they can respond effectively if it does.

Knowing your rights and what to do about harassment makes it easier to take a stand. That contributes to a workplace that respects everyone’s right to do their job, free from harassment.

Are you dealing with a bully at work? It might be worth chatting with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of job protection laws. They can help you understand your rights under California law and how to exercise them.

Skip to content