When Sexual Abuse and Assault Takes Place at Work woman looking away in discomfort with man over her at the office

Workplaces in California have some of the highest cases of sexual assault claims in the country. According to a 2019 study, California sexual assault rates are higher than the national average. Based on this study by our Orange County sexual assault attorney, there’s a possibility that you may know someone who’s been sexually assaulted or you’re a survivor of sexual assault.

One of the most common reasons sexual assault cases in the workplace mostly go unpunished is that they usually seem like regular interactions in such environments. For example, when your colleague keeps hugging you against your will, it could seem like they’re just being nice. But that’s not always true. This could be the first of the many warning signs of sexual assault.

What to Do If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted in the Workplace

It’s important to know where to start if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted at work. Here are some steps to guide you:

Check Your Company’s Sexual Assault Policies

Most companies have a sexual abuse policy outlining the procedure to follow if you’ve been sexually abused. Make sure you document the entire process, including complaints filed against the abuser. Some of the most important things to remember include:

  • the name of the abuser;
  • the location of the incident;
  • description of the incident;
  • date and time of the incident;
  • any witnesses; and
  • the course of action taken.

It’s also important to note that in California, employers with more than 50 employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training every two years. So if you work for a company with more than 50 employees, there’s a huge possibility the employer has a sexual harassment policy in place.

File a Complaint

The next step is to file a complaint with the appropriate state or agency. If your employer has a sexual assault policy, it should mention the agency that reviews such complaints. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is the agency responsible for reviewing such claims at the state level.

Keep a copy when you file a complaint, including essential details such as reference numbers. This is usually an important step that could determine the trajectory of the legal action you decide to take against the abuser. When you file a charge with a state or federal agency, they’ll review your complaint and grant you a ‘Right to Sue.’ This gives you the green light to seek legal action against your employer following the sexual assault incident.

Call 911 if Necessary

Call the police if you’re in a life-threatening situation. Then, visit your local clinic for a medical exam and care.

Depending on the nature of the assault, you may have been exposed to certain sexually transmitted diseases. Your healthcare provider will conduct several tests and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

It’s also important to note that time is of the essence in such situations. The longer you take to seek medical attention after such an incident, the higher the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.


California Sexual Assault Laws You Need to Know

As an employee in California, state and federal laws protect you against sexual harassment. Here’s how:


Federal Laws Against Employee Sexual Assault

  •  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to allow sexual assault in the workplace
  • Employers have the responsibility to provide a work environment that’s free from sexual assault
  • Employers must act to stop sexual harassment in the workplace once they find out it’s happening
  • Employers cannot retaliate against employees for reporting sexual harassment incidents
  • When taking action against sexual assault, the action must be effective, meaning it must end the assault
  • Employees can sue their employers if the latter fails to take against sexual assault 

California Laws Against Employee Sexual Assault

California follows all federal sexual harassment laws. In addition to the federal laws, the following also apply at the state level.

  • California law protects all workers against sexual harassment
  • This means that whether you’re an independent contractor or employee, sexual assault cannot be tolerated
  • All employers in California must abide by the Fair Employment and Housing Act, not just those with more than 15 employees
  • California law requires employers to take steps to prevent sexual harassment from happening in the first place and not just respond to it
  • California employers with at least five employees must provide sexual harassment training at least once every two years


How a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in California Can Help

Federal and state sexual harassment laws might seem pretty straightforward on paper, but in reality, they’re not. Your attorney can help you understand complex laws and processes you need to follow when filing a sexual assault claim. For example, you have one year from the last time you were sexually assaulted to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Unfortunately, many sexual assault victims fail to hold the abuser responsible for their actions due to missed deadlines and many other mistakes along the way. However, when you consult a California sexual assault attorney, they’ll review your case and give you important legal advice.

An attorney can also help determine the most appropriate ‘remedy’ for your sexual assault claim. For example, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Although monetary compensation may not undo the memories of the incident, it could help settle the financial expenses you had to deal with due to the incident. It can also serve as compensation for non-economic damages you suffered after the assault.


With the help of an experienced season assault victim lawyer, you may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Lost wages
  • Emotional distress
  • Cost of caregiving
  • Medical expenses
  • Physical pain and suffering


In addition, if you lost your job because you filed a sexual harassment claim, an attorney can help you get reinstated.

Contact Case Barnett Law Today

If you’re a sexual assault survivor, the attorneys at Case Barnett Law will review your case for free and advise you on the next steps forward. Our California sexual abuse lawyers bring all the essentials to the table: experience, communication skills, a proven track record, and, most importantly, a commitment to our client's well-being.

You can find out whether you have a valid case at no cost to you. That’s because we offer free consultations. To request a free consultation with our team, reach out by calling 949-409-0055 or filling out the online contact form below. We have been proudly servicing clients throughout Costa Mesa, California, and the surrounding areas.

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