Q. A male co-worker frequently comes up behind me and massages my shoulders, commenting on how tense I am. I feel very uncomfortable with this and have asked him to stop, but he continues to do it. My friend tells me I’m nuts not to want a free massage and thinks I’m making too big a deal of it, but it feels wrong to me. I’ve started to dread coming to work. Is this sexual harassment, or am I just too uptight?
A. Any unwanted touching can be considered sexual harassment if you have made your feelings known and asked the person to stop. Your next step should be to check your employee handbook to learn the procedure for making a complaint. If there is none, take it to you Human Resources manager. If you can’t get a response, consult a San Diego sexual harassment attorney to learn about your legal options.
Q. My supervisor called me into his office and told me about a position opening up at a much higher salary than I’m now making and said he was considering recommending me for the promotion. He then unzipped his pants and asked me to perform oral sex on him. I refused, but ever since that time he’s given me piles of documents to file in the basement. I have a business degree and am not a file clerk. I need this job. What should I do?
A. This is called “quid pro quo” sexual harassment in which a superior offers you a benefit in return for sexual favors. It is illegal and you have recourse against the company. Contact an employment attorney for advice in how to proceed with a claim.
Q. I applied for a position in a company here in San Diego that I am well qualified for. I was led to believe that I would be hired and was invited back to meet the vice president. He kept asking intrusive questions about my personal life and whether I was looking for a boyfriend. I told him that I do not date men. I was then told that they had decided to eliminate the position, but I later heard they hired someone else whose qualifications were less than mine. It seems clear that my lack of interest in a sexual relationship caused me to lose the opportunity to be hired for a job exactly suited to my abilities and qualifications. What should I do?
A. It is illegal to discriminate against an applicant for a position based on sex. Consult a California employment attorney who will review the facts and advise you on how to proceed.
Q. I am a lesbian and have worked at my current job for six months. I am not in the closet, but I have never been inclined to bring my personal life into the office. Until recently, I enjoyed my job, got good reviews, and got along well with everyone. When my partner and I got married last month, I invited my boss and several coworkers to the wedding. My boss declined the invitation, and now whenever I come near him he mutters a homophobic insult under his breath. I find this extremely demoralizing and have started to dread coming to work. I need this job, as we are in the process of adopting a child and I will be the main breadwinner. Is there anything I can do?
A. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited by California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. It sounds as if the discrimination you’re experiencing is creating a hostile work environment in which it is impossible for you to function. Talk to an attorney to find out your best course of action. In San Diego, Zeldes, Haeqquist & Eck, LLP, is a respected law firm with a substantial sexual harassment practice and an excellent track record of handling sex discrimination cases and recovering damages for their clients.
Q. My female boss has asked me out several times, but I am not interested. She does things like unbuttoning the top buttons of my shirt, squeezing my biceps, commenting on my build, and speculating on the size of my equipment. I dislike being objectified and I want this to stop. Does this count as sexual harassment since I’m a man and she’s a woman?
A. Either a man or a woman, whether gay or straight, can be a perpetrator or victim of sexual harassment, and it is illegal. Tell your boss in unequivocal language that her attentions are unacceptable to you and must stop. If the behavior doesn’t stop, follow your company’s procedure to make an internal complaint. If that doesn’t solve the problem, consult an experienced San Diego area sexual harassment attorney. You can schedule a free case review at the law firm of Zeldes, Haeqquist & Eck, LLP, to get the help you need in filing a discrimination complaint under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and bringing a lawsuit against your company for damages. Remember, your supervisor or your company may not legally retaliate against you in any way for filing a complaint.
Q. I am in the early stages of a male-to-female gender transition and have just started hormone therapy, the effects of which are starting to become apparent. My doctors have advised me to live as a woman for a year before having surgery. I am suffering from extreme anxiety for my job. Can I be fired when I inform my company of my new female name and my intention to transition?
A. No, California law protects any discrimination or adverse employment action based on a person’s gender identity.
Q. What are the steps to filing a sexual harassment lawsuit in California?
A. First, tell your harasser to stop. If that doesn’t help, let your employer know and ask that the problem be handled in accordance with stated company procedure. Next, consult a California employment attorney who handles sexual harassment cases, such as Zeldes, Haeqqquist & Eck, LLP, in San Diego.
Workers in California are protected from sex discrimination and sexual harassment by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Your attorney will help you file a complaint with the appropriate agency, which must be done before you can initiate a law suit.
The state law offers some benefits that go beyond the protections offered by the federal law, so you will probably file with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH); alternatively you can file with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Once you have received a “right to sue” letter, your attorney can put your case into suit.