FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Orange County Employment Law

Figuring out your rights at work should not be as complicated as it is. To help you better understand your rights, Harris Grombchevsky is diving into common employment law terms in California. After all, you can’t protect your rights if you don’t know them.

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

When some type of harassment is so pervasive that it turns the workplace into an intimidating place to be, that workplace is considered a “hostile work environment.”

Rampant sexual harassment is one of the most common examples. Harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, and sexual orientation can have the same effect. 

A hostile work environment is grounds for a claim.

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

“Quid pro quo” means “something for something” in Latin. This phrase is used in all types of legal settings. In employment law, quid pro quo sexual harassment is when the harasser tries to “trade” a sexual favorfor a favor at work. This may include a salary raise, special treatment, promotion, or other workplace benefit.

What is Same-Sex Harassment?

Same-sex harassment is when someone harasses a member of the same sex. 

This type of harassment does not have to be sexual; it only has to be based on the person’s sex. For example, if a female harasses another female about their age, that’s same-sex harassment.

What is At-Will Employment?

In California, employment is presumed to be on an at-will basis (as opposed to a contractual basis). At-will employment means that an employer or employee may exercise independent discretion to terminate employment. At-will employment law gives employers the right to fire their employees for any reason, as long as that reason isn’t based on discrimination. They may even fire an employee for no reason. Employees may also leave a job at any time and for any reason. In California, most employment is at-will employment. In California, employers may not terminate employment for discriminatory reasons, for participating in a union or for refusing to violate the law. Wrongful termination based on discriminatory practices extends to a variety of groups. Employers may not terminate employees based on race, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

What is a Whistleblower?

A whistleblower is someone who reports—or “blows the whistle on”—known or suspected unlawful conduct in the workplace. (Fraud, discrimination, and sexual harassment are a few examples.) Such employees are protected under state and federal law.

If an employer punishes an employee for reporting misconduct, that employee may file a whistleblower retaliation claim.

What is FEHA California?

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is illegal to discriminate against and harass employees based on race, national origin, religion, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender, and military or veteran status. (See the full list of protected characteristics here.)

It is also illegal to retaliate against employees who were only protecting their legal rights, such as for reporting workplace sexual harassment.

Under this act, employers are also required to prevent and report any harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or other FEHA violations. 

How Do You Know if You Have Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be experienced in many forms. In general, it is any type of unwelcome sexual conduct that is threatening, hostile, intimidating, or offensive and which makes your work environment unpleasant. Any type of conduct on the part of a supervisor, manager, or co-worker that is sexual in nature which makes you uncomfortable may potentially become a case of sexual harassment. If the behavior occurs once or at random, it may not become an issue. If the behavior continues, is persistent or pervasive, then you may want to seek the legal advice and guidance of a Orange County sexual harassment attorney at our firm.

What are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, sexual harassment may be categorized into two types. One type is committed by someone who has the authority to make or influence employment actions such as firing, laying off, demoting, or denying a promotion. This type of unlawful sexual harassment is usually committed against the victim on the basis of "quid pro quo," meaning "this for that" in which the victim must cooperate with a supervisor in some form of sexual conduct or risk some type of negative action at work. This type of sexual harassment generally includes unwanted sexual advances.

The second type of unlawful sexual harassment is generally referred to as a hostile work environment where the unwelcome sexual conduct is generated by any number of personnel, including supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors, or anyone else that the victim comes in contact with in the workplace. Even behavior which is not sexual but directed against the victim based on his or her gender can be a form of workplace sexual harassment. This is known as gender discrimination and is illegal in California.

What Behaviors are Considered "Sexual Harassment"?

You will know that you have been sexually harassed if you have been subjected to any of the following behaviors:

  • Being offered employment benefits or protection from adverse actions if you cooperate with sexual favors
  • Being subjected to slurs or offensive comments based on your gender
  • Being subjected to sexually suggestive pictures, images, displays, or other material at work
  • Being subjected to unwelcome and inappropriate physical touching
  • Being subjected to comments on your physical attributes
  • Being subjected to sexual jokes
  • Being subjected to crude and offensive language
  • Being subjected to explicit discussions of sexual activity
  • Being pressured either subtly or overtly for sexual favors
  • Stalking
  • Obscene or lurid phone calls

Protecting Workers’ Rights in Orange County, CA

At Harris Grombchevsky, our qualified attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of employees in Irvine and throughout Orange County. If you believe your employer violated your rights, we are here to help. 

Our attorneys have successfully helped hundreds of employees—and we’ve done it without charging any upfront fees. If we lose your case, you won’t have to pay a dime!


Call (888) 427-8064 or contact us online for a free consultation.




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