You absolutely can, and if fact you should. Sexual Harassment at workplace is unlawful and actionable under federal and state laws. You did not specify why you were discharged. Was it in retaliation of the complain you made to the HR for verbal abuse of your supervisor or had any other basis? What happened to the harasser? Was he let go after you made the complain about him? There are so much of analysis that need to be done requiring additional facts. I suggest you contact an employment attorney in your area before the statute of limitation for filing charges for sexual harassment with DFEH/EEOC run out.
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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 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.
If the harassment took place within the last year, you are still timely to file a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which is the state agency that fills the same role as the federal EEOC. If the termination took place within the last year, you are still timely to file a charge with the DFEH. You have 300 days to file a charge with the EEOC. Please look at my guide to unlawful discrimination: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=what-is-unlawful-employment-discrimination--california-law which should help you understand lawful and unlawful discrimination, how to enforce your rights, and time limits.
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.
I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.
*** 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. ***
It is not too late to report the sexual harassment to the EEOC or the DFEH. You also need to report gender discrimination if you were discriminated against because of your gender. What you report to the EEOC or the DFEH is very important. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is the state counterpart to the federal EEOC. You should go see an attorney to find out what other possible causes of action you may have. You need to report all possible causes of action to the EEOC or the DFEH in order to file a lawsuit on that particular cause of action. For instance, if it turns out you were discriminated against on the basis of race and do not say that in your filing with the DFEH or EEOC, then you cannot file a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. In your case you may very well also have a cause of action for retaliation.
I prefer filing with the DFEH over the EEOC because you have a longer statute of limitations after you are issued what is called a right to sue letter. You may want to talk to an attorney in your area to see if there is any reason the attorney may prefer the EEOC or DFEH.
You do not say when you were terminated, but there is a time limit for when you can file for the DFEH or EEOC. You need to contact an attorney who specializes in employee rights. You can find someone in your area by looking on the website of the California Employment Lawyers Association. www.CELA.org.
LAW OFFICE OF PAMELA PITT
22 Battery Street, Suite 1000
San Francisco, CA 94111
In California, your failure to report the sexual harassment does not bar a claim for sexual harassment as long as the time to file the administrative complaint has not yet run. Outside of California, your failure to report could be a basis for barring a claim against the employer. However, in California, your failure to report may affect the amount of damages you would be entitled to receive against the employer. State or federal, you can sue the individual harasser whether or not you reported the harassment.
Good luck to you.
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Criminal charges for harassment Criminal charges for sexual assault Employment Discrimination in the workplace Gender discrimination in the workplace Racial discrimination in the workplace Sexual harassment Employee rights Protections against employer retaliation Termination of employment Wrongful termination of employment Racial discrimination Gender discrimination Discrimination