Written by: John Dalton
| Read Time: 4 minutes

Does your employer treat you poorly because of your sex? Does your supervisor turn the other way when coworkers or customers engage in offensive conduct that is based on sex or gender? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are likely the victim of sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment, and you have the right to seek legal remedy. 

When you are ready to fight workplace sexual harassment, make sure you have an experienced attorney in your corner. With the help of a strong advocate, you can increase your chances of obtaining the justice you are due. At the Law Office of John Dalton, our experienced legal team stands up for employees, and we have been doing so successfully for more than 20 years. 

Can I Sue My Employer for Creating a Hostile Work Environment? 

Yes. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, sexual harassment is illegal, sex-based discrimination that comes in two forms:

  • Unwelcome and offensive, sex-based conduct that an employee must endure to keep their job or receive work benefits; or 
  • Unwelcome and offensive, sex-based conduct that is so pervasive that it creates a hostile working environment. 

Victims of either form of sexual harassment can file complaints with the government or file civil lawsuits in court

Grounds for Suing an Employer for a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment hurts more than your productivity after you clock in. It can harm you mentally, physically, professionally, and emotionally. Research shows that an unjust workplace can increase your likelihood of suffering from a major disease by 35% to 55%. Your job should not hurt you in this way, and your employer should be liable if it does not take proper action in the face of workplace hostility. 

Your employer is liable for a hostile work environment when it does not address the offensive, sex-based conduct of supervisors, non-supervisor employees, or certain non-employees. Sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment includes:

  • Unwanted touching,
  • Offensive jokes about sex or gender,
  • Comments about physical appearance or body parts,
  • Displays of offensive, sex-based images or figures,
  • Insulting comments about sex or gender,
  • Unwanted sexual advances, 
  • Invasions of others’ personal space, and 
  • Exclusion of others because of their sex or gender.

These actions rise to the level of sexual harassment if a reasonable person would say that they create a hostile environment at your workplace. 

You can seek redress for improper conduct if you are harmed as a target or witness of the behavior. To prove that your employer is legally responsible for any sexual harassment that makes your workplace hostile, you must prove the following: 

  • Your employer had control over your perpetrator;
  • Your employer knew or should have known about the harassment;
  • You took advantage of your employer’s workplace complaint procedures to address the offensive behavior (if reasonable); and
  • Your employer failed to respond reasonably to the harassment. 

If you are unsure whether you can prove all of the above, don’t give up on your legal complaint. Legal authorities look at all the circumstances surrounding your case before deciding whether you are entitled to relief.  

How to Sue an Employer for a Hostile Work Environment

To give yourself the best chance of winning a sexual harassment lawsuit, you need to start laying the groundwork before you initiate your complaint. Some of these steps are easier said than done, but you should try to complete as much as possible before formally complaining. 

Tell Your Harasser that the Conduct Is Unacceptable

The first action you need to take as soon as harassment begins is to tell the person to stop. In any sexual harassment complaint, you need to prove that the conduct was unwelcome, so you need to communicate this to your harasser. If it is too difficult to address the person in this way, complain to a supervisor you trust or human resources. 

File a Complaint with Your Employer

After making it known that you do not accept the harassment at your job, file a formal complaint with your employer. If you do not know how to file a formal complaint, review your employer’s policies and handbooks and follow any instructions they have for filing an internal grievance. If you do not properly file a grievance, your employer might be able to avoid liability by claiming you unreasonably failed to notify them and complain. 

File a Complaint with the Government

To have the right to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer, you must first file a complaint with the government. When you file a sexual harassment complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California Civil Rights Division (CRD), one of the agencies will investigate your claim. At the end of its investigations, the EEOC or CRD provides complaining parties with notices that state they have a Right to Sue. You must receive this Right to Sue from one of the agencies before you can sue your employer or harasser in court. 

If you do not want to wait for the completion of an EEOC or CRD investigation, you can apply to receive a Right to Sue immediately. You must file an EEOC complaint within 180 days, and you must file a CRD complaint within three years. 

Initiate Your Lawsuit on Time

Once you receive an EEOC Notice of Right to Sue, you have 90 days to file a civil lawsuit. And once you receive a CRD Right-to-Sue Notice, you have one year to file your lawsuit. In a lawsuit, you can receive multiple remedies to address the harm done, including:

  • Back pay,
  • Job reinstatement,
  • Compensation for financial losses,
  • Job promotions or benefits denied to you,
  • Benefit reinstatement, 
  • Compensation for emotional distress, 
  • Punitive damages, and 
  • Policy changes at work. 

As soon as it becomes clear that there is little chance for resolution through an internal complaint at work, speak to an experienced attorney. A skilled sexual harassment attorney can help ensure you fulfill all relevant procedures to maintain a lawsuit and maximize your recovery. 

The Law Office of John Dalton Is a Protector of Employees

At the Law Office of John Dalton, it is our mission to empower mistreated employees and hold unscrupulous employers accountable. We fight aggressively for the rights of the California workforce. Our success is unparalleled — we have won some of the largest verdicts on behalf of California employees. We are here to protect you and champion your rights. Please call us at 858-720-8422 or visit our website if you need a powerful advocate. 

    “I highly respect John and his dedication and integrity. You will not be disappointed.” John Dalton went to work for me and delivered great results. I wasn’t sure what to do and when I found John, he explained everything nicely and he was able to get me the settlement I truly deserved. He was easy to work with and I always felt like I was kept in the loop - it was really fantastic service all around. - Steve K.
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