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California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment Cases

Written By: Mo Eldessouky Updated On: April 26, 2023 | Read Time: 6 Minutes

You should never have to choose between keeping your job and dealing with sexual harassment.

In California, employees who are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace have the right to file a claim or lawsuit against their employer as long as the incident occurred within the statute of limitations (the time period in which a legal claim must be filed).

This article will discuss the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment claim in California to ensure victims know when they have legal recourse available to them.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Sexual Harassment in California?

If you file a claim with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) you must do so within three (3) years of the date that the harassment occurred.

After you have submitted your sexual harassment complaint to the regulatory agency, you will be given two options: you may either request a formal investigation into your complaint through the regulatory agency or you may obtain a right to sue letter so you may pursue a private lawsuit against your employer.

Note: If you have a more severe sexual harassment claim, your best option would be to pursue a private lawsuit. One of our California sexual harassment attorneys can help you determine which option is best for your case.

Once you have received a right to sue letter, you will have an additional one (1) year from the date of the letter to file a private lawsuit against your employer.

California’s Statute of Limitations on Sexual Harassment Claims Was Recently Extended

Before the passing of AB-9, California state law allowed sexual harassment victims one year to file a claim with the CRD. However, AB-9 clarified that it does not revive lapsed claims.

So, if the last incident of harassment in your case happened before January 2020, it’s important to treat it as if you have one year to file a complaint with the CRD.

This means you may have missed the deadline, but it’s essential to speak with a California employment attorney before assuming your time has run out. There may be exceptions to the rule that could apply to your case.

What is Considered Sexual Harassment in California?

According to the CRD, sexual harassment is any form of discrimination based on sex/gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

It’s important to note that individuals of any gender can be the target of unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment does not necessitate any kind of sexual desire. Not all sexual harassment is overt or obvious.

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone in any workplace, regardless of their job title or position. It is important for employees to be aware of the behavior that can constitute sexual harassment and what their legal rights are should they ever encounter it in the workplace.

There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a person in authority, such as an employer or supervisor, makes job benefits or opportunities contingent upon an employee’s willingness to submit to sexual advances.

Hostile work environment

Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome, offensive behavior of a sexual nature creates an intimidating and abusive work environment for the victim. This type of conduct can include physical contact, verbal abuse, jokes or comments of a sexual nature, and other offensive behavior.

You may experience sexual harassment even if the offensive conduct was not aimed directly at you. Simply showing up to work and being forced to hear unprofessional and sexually charged comments is enough to succeed in a claim of a hostile work environment. 

Is Sexual Harassment Illegal in California?

Yes, sexual harassment is illegal in California. According to the EEOC:

“It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

In order for the harassment to be considered unlawful (illegal), it must be either 1. severe or 2. pervasive. Even one act of sexual harassment may be considered “severe” depending on the circumstances.

What are Some Common Examples of Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can take many forms. Some common examples of sexual harassment include:

  1. Unsolicited sexual advances
  2. Requesting sexual favors in exchange for job-related benefits
  3. Leering; gestures; or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters
  4. Discriminatory, inflammatory, and derogatory remarks or jests
  5. Graphic comments, sexually degrading words, or suggestive or obscene messages or invitations
  6. Physical touching

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to understand your legal rights and seek experienced legal counsel. The experienced California sexual harassment lawyers at our firm can help you protect your rights and hold accountable those responsible for any unlawful conduct.

Contact us today to discuss your case. We are here to fight for you.

What Should I Do If I Experience Sexual Harassment?

Take action immediately! The longer you wait from the date of the incident(s) of sexual harassment, the greater difficulty you may have in proving your case in court.

Each case of sexual harassment is unique and will require a different course of action. The employment lawyers at Eldessouky Law are experienced in protecting the rights of victims of sexual harassment and will work with you to determine the best course of action.

We’ve helped countless victims of sexual harassment in California fight back against the unlawful conduct they have experienced.

To increase your chances of success in your sexual harassment claim, there are several steps you and your attorney can take, in addition to filing within the one-year or six-month deadline. These steps include:

  • Collecting evidence from witnesses and personnel files
  • Documenting any emotional distress or injuries caused by the harassment
  • Obtaining any discipline files of the harasser, and noting if there are none
  • Identifying any actions by your employer that indicate they failed to rectify the situation or if a supervisor was the harasser

Our attorneys will work with you to build a strong case and ensure the necessary protections are in place to prevent further harassment.

Will I Need to Worry About What My Employer Will Do?

One of the major reasons victims of sexual harassment don’t speak up is the fear of retaliation or retribution from their employer.

Most forms of sexual harassment involve some type of skewed power dynamic where the victim is at a disadvantage. The fear of losing their job, negatively affecting their career, or making a bad situation worse is often enough to keep a victim from speaking up and filing a complaint.

Employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against employees who make a sexual harassment complaint. If you report sexual harassment and your employer retaliates in any way, this is considered “retaliatory discrimination,” which is also illegal.

This means you cannot be fired, demoted, or otherwise retaliated against for filing a complaint or reporting sexual harassment. If you do suffer any adverse action, your attorney can help you take legal action to hold the employer accountable and seek justice.

Speak with a California Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to take action as soon as possible.

The experienced attorneys at Eldessouky Law are here to fight for your rights and protect you from further harm. We understand how difficult it can be to speak up about these issues, but taking action is the only way to protect yourself and ensure the harasser is held accountable.

Our California sexual harassment lawyers can help you:

  • Determine if you have a valid sexual harassment claim,
  • Collect evidence and build a strong case,
  • File your complaint with the best regulatory agency (if you haven’t already),
  • Be an advocate in court or during settlement negotiations, and
  • Take legal action to hold the perpetrators accountable.

We are here to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

We are available for video conference calls

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