The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects applicants, employees, interns, volunteers, and contractors from harassment based on a protected category. Harassment is prohibited in all workplaces, even those with less than five employees.
Unlawful harassment can be based on sex, or any other protected category, such as gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, reproductive health decision-making, marital status, race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age (40 and over), physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, or veteran or military status.
Harassment can be visual or verbal, or it could involve physical conduct. Visual conduct includes leering, gestures, sexually suggestive or otherwise offensive objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters. Verbal conduct includes making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, jokes, comments about a person’s body, or using words to describe an individual or their body that are degrading and based their protected category. Physical conduct includes touching, assault, or impeding or blocking movements. Sexual harassment also includes offering employment or benefits in exchange for sexual favors, or making or threatening retaliatory action after receiving a negative response to sexual advances.
Managers or supervisors who harass you can be personally liable for harassment along with the employer. Employers can also be liable for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring.
Victims of harassment can recover back pay (past lost earnings), interest on back pay, front pay (future lost earnings), damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs. Non-monetary remedies are also available, such as hiring or reinstatement, promotion, policy changes, and training.