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I was fired shortly after I made a sexual harassment complaint. Could it be wrongful termination?

Los Angeles, CA |

The conditions at my workplace had become very hostile for me being the only female among a lot of males. Too many remarks, inappropriate jokes and even advances toward me had me feeling very nervous to even be around my coworkers. Once I was actually solicited for sex in exchange for money, I had to make a complaint. The person I complained about was fired.
Even though I've had a recent raise and took on more responsibility, I was fired only 3 weeks after I made the complaint. I have always been a stellar employee who was praised for my performance. No one ever brought a complaint against me for my performance. Could it be wrongful termination?

Attorney Answers 6

Posted

Could it be wrongful termination? Of course, it could. The secret to success in any wrongful termination case is evidence. If there is evidence to prove that the motivating reason for your termination is because you complained of sexual harassment, you have a good case. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who engage in protected activities. Complaining about being sexually harassed is a protected activity.

You need to consult with experienced employment law counsel for a more informed legal opinion and to discuss your legal options. You should spend this Memorial Day weekend putting together a time-line of the key events, the names of witnesses, any documents relating to what happened and start contacting employment law attorneys on Tuesday.

You can find attorneys who handle these kind of cases by either using the "Find a Lawyer" function on Avvo, or by going to the website of the California Employment Lawyers Association located at www.cela.org. Click on the "Member Search" part of the menu and look for attorneys in your area who handle sexual harassment or wrongful terminations cases.

They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.

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Posted

Yes.

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Response is for informational purposes only. Time is of the essence. Do not delay. See a lawyer immediately.

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Posted

Sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination claims are very fact intensive, and can be difficult to prove. Terminating an employee because she or he complained about sexual harassment, or participated in an investigation regarding sexual harassment, violates state and federal law. While it is oftentimes difficult to prove retaliation because you have to prove the employer took the adverse employment action BECAUSE OF your protected activity, when the termination follows shortly after the protected activity the employee will have an easier time proving her or his case.

I highly recommend speaking with an attorney as soon as practical about your matter. You also have the right to file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This response does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Phillip J. Griego & Associates. The use of the Internet or this forum for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this forum and Phillip J. Griego & Associates cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this forum. You are advised to speak with a counsel knowledgeable about your particular matter.

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Posted

Given the timing of the events and your history of good performance, it's quite likely that you have been terminated in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint, which would constitute a wrongful termination. However, more facts and details of your employment and termination are necessary to determine that.

Thanks, and feel free to follow up.

Arkady Itkin
California Employment Lawyer

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Posted

Hello there - I am so sorry you have experienced this. Sexual advances and solicitations by co-workers are definitely not OK!

The law does prohibit employers from retaliating against employees based on exercising their rights, such as making complaints about sexual harrassment, hostile work environment, or other forms of whistleblowing.

You may indeed have a wrongful termination claim, if there is sufficient proof. My suggestion would be to hire an employment attorney who can go over the facts with you in-depth and give you an overview of the law and your legal rights. My firm handles employment claims and I will be glad to speak to you about the specific facts involved in your potential claim. There are many great lawyers on this site and others, too.

Take care, and talk to you soon,

Rabeh

PLEASE READ: ATTORNEY ADVERTISING MATERIAL. I am providing you with general comments, not legal advice. Nothing in this answer creates an attorney-client relationship nor constitutes legal advice, as I do not know the facts of your case well enough to be able to guide you, nor am I making any promises about the outcome of your case, or any guarantees about my capabilities, skill level, or predicted success. If you would like to retain me to provide you with legal advice, please contact me and we can discuss the engagement.

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Posted

I agree with the comments above. To drill down into the details a bit, you appear to have a retaliation claim based upon your termination within three (3) weeks of making sexual harassment complaint. The employers are only liable if they fail to take prompt remedial action. Here, your former employer will likely defend on the ground that it took prompt remedial action by firing the person who solicited sex in exchange for money.

However, the close relationship in time between the complaint and your termination still supports a strong inference of retaliation. In order to analyze your case further, it would be helpful to know: (i) what written evidence of sexual harassment exists through out your employment; (ii) what was the company's stated reason for terminating you; (iii) is there any written documentation to back-up their stated reason for terminating you; (iv) what did management know about the harassment and when; and (iv) are there any witnesses, especially former employees who will support your claim.

If you would like to discuss this further, I would be happy to walk you through the analysis.

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