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California Harassment Lawyer

Are You Facing Harassment Charges?

The consequences of a harassment conviction or judgment can vary and be extremely serious, impacting you for the rest of your life, particularly if you did not have a skilled attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney from My Rights Law will defend and protect your rights for any violent crime. Our harassment lawyers have a proven track record of success and will help you navigate the criminal justice system to achieve the best outcome. To learn more about how we can help, schedule a free, confidential consultation by calling us at (888) 702-8882 or reach out through our secure web form.

In California, there are three primary types of harassment (not including stalking) – civil harassment, sexual harassment, and workplace harassment. According to the National Sexual Violence Center, approximately 735,000 individuals were sexually harassed in 2018.

Civil Harassment

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.6 defines civil harassment as abuse, threats of abuse, stalking, sexual assault, or harassment by someone you have not dated and do not have a close family relationship with.[1]

Civil harassment charges may result in criminal punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000 for the first offense. After that, however, civil harassment becomes a “wobbler.” This means that the prosecution may charge an offender with either a misdemeanor or a felony if the offender has already been convicted of civil harassment. It’s important whether the harassment was paired with an act of violence.[2]

Suppose the defendant is convicted of felony civil harassment. In that case, they may receive up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Moreover, a victim may be granted a restraining order, and violation of a restraining order results in more severe punishments. A restraining order can typically stay in effect for up to five years after its issuance. The court will generally issue a temporary restraining order if it believes that the victim requires immediate protection. A temporary restraining order will become permanent if the court thinks the defendant poses a continued threat to the victim.

Sexual Harassment

There are two categories of sexual harassment quid pro quo and hostile work environment in California. However, not everything “sexual” in a workplace rises to the level of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo occurs when a superior demands sexual favors for a workplace benefit. To prove a case of quid pro quo, the victim must show that:

  • The defendant was their superior or someone they had applied for a job under,
  • The defendant made unwanted sexual advances,
  • A favorable working condition was made contingent on the sexual request,
  • The conduct harmed the worker, and
  • The defendant’s actions were a substantial factor in the worker’s harm.

The elements described above can be expressed or implied.[3] For example, the worker may infer that they must go on a date with their supervisor to receive a promotion when everyone who that supervisor has promoted has done so. Regardless of whether the elements are expressed or implied, there have to be repercussions for refusing the defendant’s request for it to rise to the level of quid pro quo harassment.

Hostile Workplace

Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, a hostile work environment constitutes being harassed. An employee has a claim of harassment if:

  • The employee is the recipient of unwelcome advances, conduct, or comment;
  • The harassment is based on the worker’s sex or sexual orientation, and
  • The harassment is enough to alter the conditions of employment for the worker.

The harassment has to be more than occasional, isolated, or trivial to rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment. The court will look at all of the evidence available and whether a reasonable person would feel harassed in the victim’s position.

Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment is harassment that is not sexual.[4] Non-sexual workplace harassment is common and is protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Suppose an individual is being harassed because of any of the following protected classes. In that case, even if it is not sexual, it constitutes a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Immigration retaliation;
  • Ancestry
  • Physical or mental disability;
  • Medical condition;
  • Marital orientation;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Gender
  • Gender identity or expression;
  • Age;
  • Military status.

Employer Liability For Workplace Harassment

Depending on the circumstances of the harassment, an employer may be liable for damages as a result of harassment from supervisors, coworkers, and even third-party independent contractors hired by the employer.

Supervisor Harassment

Suppose an employee is being harassed by their supervisor. In that case, the employer is strictly liable for damages resulting from a harassment case.

Coworker Harassment

If a coworker is harassing an employee, the employer is only liable for damages if there is negligence. For example, suppose the employee informs their boss that a coworker is harassing them, and the boss fails to take corrective action. In that case, the employer will be liable for damages resulting from the harassment. Additionally, suppose the employer should have known or did know even if it was not reported and failed to take corrective action. In that case, they will also be held liable for damages resulting from the harassment case. However, if the company does take corrective action, it cannot be held liable for the harassment.

Third-Party Harassment

An employer may be held liable for damages even if the offender was a third party not employed by the employer. For example, suppose the employee was harassed by an independent contractor, client, or customer of the employer. Like above, the employer knew or should have known about the harassment but failed to take corrective action. In that case, it will be held liable for damages resulting from a lawsuit.


There are several different damages that an individual may be awarded as a result of a successful harassment case, including compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages, and expert witness fees.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages include medical expenses and lost wages. These are considered objective because a number can easily be calculated by looking at your medical bills and salary compared to the days you missed work.

Medical expenses can become slightly more complicated if the injuries require future treatment and rehabilitation because then you must estimate the cost of treatment that has not occurred. To prove future medical expenses, you will generally need an expert witness who can speak to your future medical requirements and the cost. Outside of potential future medical expenses, proving economic damages is straightforward. The issues come in when you begin to discuss non-economic damages.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life. Damages such as pain and suffering are complicated to prove because they are subjective and can differ for every person since people react to circumstances differently.

Attorney Fees

The court may award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. Suppose the employee has to take the employer to court, and instead of the employer settling the case, the employee wins. In that case, the employee will be awarded all of their attorney fees.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not always awarded but can be if the employer has a history of harassment issues. Punitive damages are damages that exceed the actual damage incurred by the victim and are meant to punish and teach the defendant a lesson.

Expert Witness Fees

In some circumstances, expert witnesses are needed to help establish the harassment and the mental damage it did to the victim. Sometimes expert witnesses are used to establish the monetary damages incurred by the victim that are non-economic. If an expert witness was required to prove the case, the prevailing party might be awarded the fees it cost to employ the expert witness for the trial.

Hiring A California Harassment Defense Attorney

As you can see, harassment cases are not only emotional but can be complex and tricky; therefore, you should hire an attorney who understands the legal system and how to protect your rights. My Rights Law has highly experienced criminal defense attorneys with a track record of success. Call (888) 702-8882 or contact us through our secure form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

[1] California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) No. 1301.
[2] California Code of Civil Procedure 527.6(b) CC.
[3] See Mogilefsky v. Superior Court, 20 Cal.App.4th 1409 (1993).
[4] See Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 42 USC 2000e-2(a).

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