Everyone has the right to a workplace free from sexual harassment.

Unfortunately, according to some studies, over 80 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment even right here in San Rafael, California...

The #MeToo Movement has significantly empowered employees to stand up against harassment in the workplace. Following the movement's rise, countless employees nationwide have raised their voices, shared their experiences, and taken steps to ensure employers are held responsible for their conduct.

At McCormack Law Firm, we represent employees in sexual harassment cases against their employers. Our legal team brings more than two decades of experience with both state and federal employment laws that govern workplace conduct.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

More than 86 percent of women and 53 percent of men report having experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their career in California.

Without taking action, the unacceptable behavior is unlikely to cease. However, tackling this process independently can be daunting, and understanding what lies ahead is crucial. Our lawyers at our San Rafael office are here to support you in holding accountable those responsible for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Most instances of sexual harassment go unreported

Workplace sexual harassment is often unreported

Between 87 and 94 percent of employees experiencing harassment do not file a formal complaint.

Furthermore, a survey reveals that 80% of lesbian and bisexual women have encountered sexual harassment at work. Cosmopolitan Magazine's investigation into this issue found that, when women were prompted to specify who was responsible for the harassment:

• Seventy-Five percent said it was a male colleague
• Forty-Nine percent said it was a male customer
• Thirty-Eight percent said it was a male manager
• Ten percent said it was a female manager

If you are a victim of sexual assault, contact 911 immediately and report it to the police or call a sexual assault and abuse hotline.

What is workplace sexual harassment in California?

"Sexual harassment" lacks a precise legal definition, as it manifests in various forms and each case is unique. The harasser could be a manager, colleague, client, contractor, or supplier, and the harassment might occur within or beyond the workplace setting. Typical scenarios involve:

Pressure. For sex, physical contact, or romantic involvement.

Personal questions. Inappropriate questions about your intimate life.

Sexual stories. Rumors, gossip, innuendo or jokes of sexual nature.

Inappropriate comments. Making inappropriate sexual comments at a co-worker.

Whistling or catcalls. And inappropriate touching.

Linking employment, raise, or a promotion to sexual activity.

Threats to terminate. Firing or denying opportunities if you report sexual harassment.

Any other form of behavior. You think is sexual in nature and unwelcome.

Do I Have a Workplace Sexual Harassment Case?

Sexual harassment has long been illegal under both state and federal law. Title VII to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act both prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Because every story is different, there is no clear-cut rule to determine what makes a strong sexual harassment case.

To establish if there is sexual harassment, courts often consider these factors:

1 How severe was the harassment?
2 How often did the harassment happen?
3 Was the conduct unwelcome?
4 Did the employee ask the harasser to stop?
5 Did the employee refuse to participate in the behavior?
6 Did the employer know about the harassment?
7 Should the employer have known?
8 Did the employer take steps to stop the harassment from happening again?

Determining whether sexual harassment is sufficiently severe or frequent to constitute a strong case lacks a straightforward guideline.

Even a single incident can form the foundation of a sexual harassment lawsuit if it is of a serious nature, such as physical contact or "quid-pro-quo" harassment, which is considered a particularly egregious form. Other forms of harassment, like derogatory comments, could also lead to a legal claim if they occur frequently enough to foster a "hostile work environment"—particularly if the employer fails to intervene.

However, not every instance of unpleasant, irritating, or offensive behavior will qualify as creating a hostile work environment. According to the EEOC's standards, minor grievances, annoyances, and solitary events (unless they are extremely severe) do not constitute illegal activity.

Given the nuanced nature of these issues, consulting with one of our employment lawyers about your individual circumstances is advisable.

What Is "Quid-Pro-Quo" Sexual Harassment?

Quid Pro Quo Means This for That

"Quid pro quo" is a Latin legal term meaning to exchange "this, for that." Regarding sexual harassment, it means that someone offers a job, raise, promotion or another work opportunity, in exchange for sexual or romantic involvement.

Remedies in a California Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Plaintiffs who prevail in a sexual harassment lawsuit might be able to recover any lost wages due to wrongful termination or missing work, as well as compensatory damages, such as emotional distress, and punitive damages if the behavior of the employer was found to be egregious.


What Is a "Hostile Work Environment?”

In the realm of sexual harassment law, the term "hostile work environment" refers to situations where unwelcome sexual behavior is either so intense or occurs so frequently that it transforms your workplace into a distressing setting. There's no precise guideline regarding the severity of harassment required or the number of occurrences needed. The legal system often employs the "reasonable person" standard to assess whether the sexual harassment experienced would be considered by a reasonable person to have created a hostile work environment.

At McCormack Law Firm, attorney Bryan McCormack has dedicated the last 20 years to successfully advocating for employees in California facing both quid pro quo and hostile work environment harassment. With a compassionate yet assertive approach to legal representation, he aims to ensure that employers are held accountable for their misconduct.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Sexually Harassed at Work?


Do not encourage the harassment

Tell the person to stop if you feel safe in doing so. Do not agree to see the person outside of work or join in on any sexual talk.


Take notes and keep evidence

Write down what happened, the date, and who was present. Keep copies of any pictures, emails, text messages or other evidence.


File a report in writing and keep a copy

Some sexual harassment lawsuits have failed because the employer successfully argued they were not aware of the problem. You can report the issue to your manager, a different manager, a higher-level manager, or Human Resources. Check your employee handbook. Or contact an attorney if there is truly no one you can report to.


Cooperate with the investigation

Your employer should conduct an inquiry and let you know the results. If you do not hear back after a reasonable time, follow-up in writing, and keep a copy.


Seek legal advice

Seek legal advice if there is a problem. If your company does not stop the harassment from happening or retaliates against you, contact an attorney immediately.

What Is My Employer Required to Do After I Report Harassment?

An employer in San Rafael is obligated to carry out an impartial investigation and has a responsibility to put an end to the harassment. If the harassment persists, this could strengthen your sexual harassment claim.

The specific actions an employer must take to halt the harassment are not explicitly defined. Possible responses include issuing a warning to the perpetrator, mandating their participation in sexual harassment training, or reassigning them to prevent further interaction with you. In cases of severe or repeated harassment, firing the offender is often considered the most effective measure. While the law does not explicitly mandate the termination or suspension of employees for sexual harassment, employers are required to cease the harassment and ensure your well-being.

What if an Employer Retaliates Against an Employee for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

Under California law, reporting sexual harassment is recognized as a "protected activity," meaning employers are prohibited from responding with "adverse actions" (like firing, demoting, or stripping away job responsibilities) as retaliation for making such a report.

Should your employer dismiss you without valid reason soon after you've reported sexual harassment, you may have a compelling case for claims of sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, sex discrimination, and failure to prevent discrimination. Even if your employer alleges a legitimate rationale for the termination, such as downsizing or performance issues, these reasons can sometimes serve as a facade for retaliatory motives. Therefore, consulting with a lawyer is advisable.

Consult With a Knowledgeable San Rafael Employment Lawyer

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, reach out to the McCormack Law Firm for prompt support. As seasoned San Rafael sexual harassment attorneys, we are well-versed in the legal obligations of employers to maintain a safe, harassment-free environment, and we apply this expertise to advocate for our clients. We manage a variety of California sexual harassment cases, including those involving hostile work environments and quid pro quo situations, as well as wrongful termination and wage theft issues in California.

To find out more and arrange a complimentary consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call (415) 925-5161.

Client testimonials

This law firm was the only one to answer the phone out of the 15-20 law firms that I called that day. I had a wrongful termination case and Bryan really took the time to listen and understand what happened in my situation, and he knows the law to a T. – Shanic M.

I was owed wages and overtime and my employer refused to pay me. So I hired them to file a lawsuit. Bryan easily understood my very complicated case and I am happy with the results. – Ebi Z.

I didn’t have to pay anything, the firm took the whole risk of managing the case. Through the 14 months, Bryan always kept me updated, was very responsive and patient to questions I had. We achieved a resolution out of court in my favor, making me even happier about the experience. – Peter S.

I can honestly say that my experience with Bryan was all the way positive from day one… We had very high expectations about our case and in the end we got what we hoped for. – Roger J.

I won my trial and I got more than I expected. Everyone in the office is so nice and helpful. Even after everything was finished I could call a few weeks after and ask questions to make sure I was protected and they are more than helpful. – Husain N.

I never had to pay Bryan anything up front, nor was ever pressured to settle early. We ended up settling morning of the trial. Bryan is a really sharp, aggressive, seasoned attorney and knew the law inside and out about whistleblower cases. – Kyle B.