It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against or harass employees because of their gender. The harassment must be either severe or pervasive. Call an employment law attorney to discuss the facts.
What you are talking about is sex discrimination and sexual harassment. If this treatment is substantial enough, it is against the law. Proof is always an issue in these cases, so do what you can to make a record, which can be used as proof. Keep a log of any comments, adverse actions or other funny business, starting with the day the first adverse action took place. Write down the date, time, what was said or done, who said or did it, and any witnesses. Be sure to include any complaints you made to HR, your boss or anyone. Keep your log at home, not at work, because you never know what will disappear.
Note an employer cannot refuse to hire, refuse to promote, change terms of employment or fire an employee if the reason for the change is against the law (against public policy). For example, an employer cannot increase your workload because of your race, sex, national origin, religion, etc. or because you blew the whistle on safety violations
There are various ways to enforce these rights, depending on the particular public policy involved. For more information on discrimination law, please see my Avvo guide on this subject: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/what-is-unlawful-employment-discrimination--california-law.
Also, regarding the harassment: Unlawful harassment is a form of discrimination. To be unlawful, the harassment must be must be based on a protected category, such as race, sex, religion, disability, age (40 and over), pregnancy, or genetic information. Harassment is also illegal if it is based on whistleblower status, taking or needing family leave, or some other protected category.
Harassment can include verbal conduct, slurs, derogatory comments, comments or questions about a person's body, appearance, religious, or sexual activity, or indication of stereotyping. Harassment can also include offensive gestures, sexually suggestive eye contact or looks, mimicking the employee in an insulting way, and derogatory or graphic posters, cartoons or drawings.
Harassment is unlawful when the conduct is either severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive environment. Severe conduct would include most physical contact and many types of threatening, vulgar or degrading conduct. Pervasive conduct is widespread, happens frequently and/or in many situations. One offensive statement is not pervasive, but the same comment made over and over again may be pervasive.
Employment law is complicated and fact-specific. You may wish to consult with an experienced plaintiffs employment lawyer. To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.cela.org. Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state.
I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.
twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
To answer your specific question, no you do not need to turn solely to an attornety for unlawful conduct by an employer such as you have described.
To familiarize you with some general information, I have attached a link to a very helpful website from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) on "Civil Rights 101" which you can review as well as contact an attorney, many of whom offer free confidential and informative consultation.
The website is very informative and I suggest you take advantage of the information there. If you do end up looking for an attorney you may contact your local bar association or search professional sites (like AVVO and others) where you can see information about the various attorneys such as experience, articles and whether they offer a free consultation.
I hope you find the link useful and wish you find a resolution to this uncomfortable situation.