Stopping Sexual Harassment in Orange County Workplaces One Case at a Time
Sexual harassment is acknowledged, discussed, and addressed in ways it never has before. While state and federal laws have prohibited sexual harassment for decades, only now is it getting properly understood. This past environment has led to catastrophic lapses in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. The result has left victims unprotected, and the problem has remained largely unaddressed.
Now, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, large scale sexual abuse prosecutions, and other dramatic turning points, the dialogue on sexual harassment in the American workplace has finally changed toward a more productive attitude of striving for improvement. Victims can empower themselves by joining the conversation. The experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Winer, Burritt & Tillis have spent decades representing sexual harassment victims in the Orange County area. We fight hard to hold employers and abusers accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.
To effectively address the problem of sexual harassment, we need to adequately understand the problem. Here are some common misconceptions about sexual harassment that have, in the past, prevented effective change in the workplace cultures of the United States:
- Men are sexually harassed in the workplace, too. When asked to imagine sexual harassment in the workplace, one almost always pictures a leering, predatory male making unwanted sexual advances on a weak, pretty female. Many sexual harassment seminars and training videos have perpetuated this stereotype. While the statistics do report a fair amount of sexual harassment perpetrated by men and aimed at women victims, they also find that many men are victimized by sexual harassment as well. A survey conducted by Marketplace found about 14 percent of men (nearly one of every seven) were victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment of men in the workplace is not well studied or understood. Many men are reluctant to report such conduct. The stigma attached to such reports is not wholly undeserved. Marketplace spoke to one man who was coerced into a sexual relationship with a female manager. The company’s human resources department did not take his report of her conduct seriously. “It was almost like he thought it was a fantasy I wanted to have,” the victim reports. “The HR representative’s attitude was ‘you should be so lucky’.”
This was exactly the attitude with which the manager had threatened her victim. “I’m an attractive, successful woman. Who’s going to believe you?” Such threats are classic behavior used by sexual predators to silence their victims. Unfortunately, for too many male victims, they become a sad reality.
Sexual harassment does not need to rise to the level of sexual assault for a victim to take legal action. The law prohibits lewd comments and gestures, or other persistent actions that create hostile work environments, as well as offers for preferential treatment in exchange for sexual favors. If men do not hold harassers accountable for illegal conduct, it will only continue, and put more victims in harm’s way. Men and women, or those who identify as neither or both genders, can commit sexual harassment. They can identify with any sexual orientation. These factors do not make sexual harassment legal or permissible. Victims must hold perpetrators accountable to make them stop.
(2) The most vulnerable workers are targeted for sexual abuse. As with any type of abuse, sexual abuse is often perpetrated against those workers who are in the most vulnerable situations. Perpetrators may disproportionately target employees with little power within the company, or who have language or learning barriers. The Guardian reports on incidents of sexual abuse by employers right here in Orange County. Often, the victims are undocumented workers with few employment options. This makes them vulnerable targets for abuse by employers who can threaten them with firing, or a report to immigration authorities.
One such case involved violent assault of an undocumented hotel worker. Her supervisor made repeated sexual advances toward her. Eventually, he drove her to a motel, dragged her inside by the hair, and raped her. This was not the only occasion on which he raped her. She was ultimately left pregnant by the time the supervisor fired her on a pretext.
It is hard to imagine how such vile acts can occur—let alone to continue, and escalate. But this is what happens when a predator finds a vulnerable victim to prey upon. The power over the victim is strong, and so is the victim’s incentive to remain silent. A predator will use this power strategically to control a victim.
Not all sexual harassment rises to the level of criminal sexual abuse. But sexual abuse is a serious problem that Orange County employers must also address. Victims need to report sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities to prevent predators from targeting other vulnerable victims. Employers must also diligently address sexual abuse in the workplace. Sexual abuse can expose an employer to even more financial liability than sexual harassment.
An Attorney’s Guidance Can Empower Victims and Enact Important Social Change
The #MeToo movement and similar activism have demonstrated the power of speaking up. Victims have banded together to tell their stories and demand change. This has allowed them to stop their victimization. They are both helping themselves and making important changes in American workplaces. Many attorneys have helped them do this throughout the process.
Victims of sexual harassment may have many different options available to them. The legal system allows victims to file civil lawsuits and criminal complaints (for acts that rise to the level of criminal sexual abuse). The law entitles victims to compensation for their financial losses. Civil lawsuits and criminal restitution orders can help victims access compensation. These legal tools also force accountability upon sexual harassers and the companies that allow harassment to continue unpunished. They can, therefore, form important tools for change.
Victims can also enact change in other ways. Many are speaking to the press. Media reports of egregious sexual misconduct have led to a revolution in the American workforce. Never before has anyone demanded—and created—systemic change—as radically as in recent months. Victims are also becoming involved in advocacy efforts and public awareness campaigns. These, too, are efforts with big impacts.
If you have been victimized by sexual harassment, an attorney can help determine which steps are right for you. Each case is different, and the facts of your particular situation will determine the best way to respond to illegal conduct in the workplace. A sexual harassment lawyer can help you determine which tools are best for remedying your situation. An attorney can also help you report sexual harassment to your employer in formal written legal communications, negotiate a settlement of your claim, determine whether a lawsuit is necessary, file and litigate your sexual harassment claims in court.
As an advocate, an attorney may also help you speak with the media and determine how best to bring your employer’s conduct to light. All of these actions will help hold harassers and employers accountable for sexual harassment, and help prevent it from spreading throughout the workplace.
Experienced Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyers Protecting the Rights of Victims
To hold employers liable for illegal harassment in the workplace, get legal guidance from a skilled attorney. A seasoned sexual harassment lawyer will know how to most effectively present a sexual harassment claim. Call (800) 652-6137 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney at Winer, Burritt & Tillis. In addition to protecting one’s own legal rights, the workplaces of California need the change that comes as a result of holding employers accountable for sexual harassment. Victims need not remain silent any longer.
**We do not represent perpetrators of sexual harassment or those who are accused of sexually harassing behavior.