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Sexual harassment is a painful and too frequent occurrence in California workplaces. As an employee, you have legal protection against this egregious behavior, but you must seek redress quickly or risk losing your right to pursue justice. This article will help you understand the statute of limitations on sexual harassment in the workplace. And once you are ready to hold your employer accountable, the Law Office of John Dalton can fight aggressively to protect and champion your rights.   

A Brief Overview of Sexual Harassment

Workplace discrimination is illegal under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Sexual harassment is sex-based discrimination, and federal and California anti-discrimination laws have similar definitions of the unlawful conduct.

You can be a victim of workplace sexual harassment if you have had to endure unwelcome, sex-based conduct in one of the following forms:

  • Someone under your employer’s control required you to accept unwanted sexual advances or offensive sex-based conduct in order to receive or keep job benefits; or
  • Someone under your employer’s control engaged in verbal or non-verbal, sex-based conduct that was offensive and pervasive enough to make your workplace a hostile environment. 

Your employer can be liable for the offensive, sex-based conduct of supervisors, non-supervisor employees, contractors, clients, and customers. To hold an employer accountable for the actions of non-supervisors and non-employees, you have to prove that your employer had proper notice and opportunity to address the harassment and had control over the harasser.

For a case of harassment that creates a hostile working environment, you must prove that a reasonable person would view your workplace as hostile. It is often easier to prove this hostile nature if you can present a pattern of offensive workplace behavior. Speak to an experienced sexual harassment attorney about the best ways to prove harassment in your case. 

Filing a Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaint

Victims of workplace sexual harassment can file complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). Victims can also file civil lawsuits against their employers or harassers. Winning a complaint or lawsuit means a victim could recover financial damages and job benefits and win policy changes at work. 

There is a specific statute of limitations on workplace sexual harassment claims in each category of legal action mentioned above. Your deadline for filing a complaint or lawsuit also depends on whether you are an employee of the federal government. 

The Statute of Limitations for EEOC Complaints

In general, you must file an EEOC discrimination complaint (which is called a charge) within 180 days. If the discriminatory behavior you identify in your EEOC charge is also unlawful under state anti-discrimination laws, you have 300 days to file your EEOC charge. 

Keep in mind that these deadlines are not applicable to employers who have fewer than 15 employees. Also, these deadlines do not apply to federal government employees. 

The Statute of Limitations for CRD Complaints

The statute of limitations on sexual harassment claims filed under California law is more forgiving than its federal counterpart. And California law allows you to file a CRD complaint regardless of the number of employees your employer has. You have three years to file a sexual harassment complaint with the CRD. Also, when you file a complaint with the CRD, the state agency dually files your complaint with the EEOC. 

The Statute of Limitations for Civil Lawsuits

There are two deadlines you must meet if you want to file a lawsuit in civil court. You have to meet the deadline for filing a discrimination complaint with the EEOC or CRD. You also have to meet the deadline for filing a lawsuit after you file your EEOC or CRD complaint. 

You must file an EEOC or CRD complaint before filing a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal or state court. After you file a complaint with either agency, the EEOC and CRD conduct investigations of the alleged harassment. At the completion of an EEOC or CRD investigation, you can receive a Notice of Right to Sue/Right-to-Sue Notice. 

You cannot file a civil lawsuit for workplace harassment until you have your Right to Sue. When you receive an EEOC Notice of Right to Sue, you have 90 days to file a harassment lawsuit. And when you receive a CRD Right-to-Sue Notice, you have one year to file a harassment lawsuit. If you want to forgo EEOC or CRD investigation and cut directly to filing a lawsuit, you can apply to obtain your Right to Sue immediately. 

The Statute of Limitations for Federal Government Employees

When you work for the federal government and endure workplace sexual harassment, your first step to seeking justice is to speak to an EEO Counselor about your situation. You have to take this first step within 45 days of the harassment. 

After speaking to your EEO Counselor, you usually need to attempt settlement through alternative dispute resolution or counseling. If attempts at settlement are unsuccessful, you can file a formal complaint — you must file this formal complaint within 15 days of receiving notice from your EEO Counselor regarding how to file. 

Why You Need an Attorney

Sexual harassment is traumatizing. It can leave you in a state of distress that harms your personal and professional life. Handling these devastating effects of an employer’s misconduct while trying to fulfill all state and federal rules for filing sexual harassment complaints can be overwhelming at best. An experienced attorney can satisfy all filing deadlines and present the most convincing case in your favor while you recover from your employer’s mistreatment. You should speak to an attorney immediately after suffering in a sexually offensive or hostile working environment.  

The Law Office of John Dalton Fights for Employees

Attorney John Dalton is an experienced California attorney dedicated to protecting mistreated employees. The Law Office of John Dalton has been fighting employment discrimination since 1998, and John has won some of the largest verdicts against sexual harassment in the State of California. Our office cannot tolerate workplace bullies, and we refuse to let them harm our clients with impunity. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, let us stand up for you. Call us at 858-720-8422 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. 

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