Women In Film Sexual Harassment Help Line
Call 323-545-0333. 10 AM – 5 PM, Mon-Fri.
Anyone, regardless of gender, can access the Sexual Harassment Help Line at 323.545.0333. Beginning Friday, December 1, the help line is open M-F from 10am-5pm PST. After hours calls will be returned during business hours.
In California sexual harassment is defined as a form of discrimination based on sex/gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. Harassment falls into two categories:
Hostile Work Environment: when unwelcome comments or conduct based on sex are sufficiently severe or pervasive to unreasonably interfere with your work performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. You may experience sexual harassment even if the offensive conduct was not aimed directly at you.
If you experience sexual harassment, consider taking the following steps:
- Write down the details of each instance, including what happened, when, where, and the names of witnesses (if any), if you haven’t already. If additional instances occur, write down the details as soon as possible. Having this information on hand will be helpful when you make a report.
- Report the incident(s). Your company should have protocol for reporting misconduct. If you don’t know it, go to your Human Resources Department or to someone in upper management who is not your immediate supervisor. It’s best to put your complaint in writing and keep a copy.
- Understand your company’s investigation process. In California all companies are required to have a formal investigation process, no matter the size of the company. Ask that the process be explained to you if it isn’t been, or if you do not have it in writing (usually found in your employee handbook). The investigation (which will be kept as confidential as possible) should result in a decision as to whether the harassment took place, and consequences to the perpetrator. Your employer should communicate the conclusions of the investigation to you.
- Call an attorney. Even if you don’t end up hiring one, an attorney can explain your rights and options and help you to determine your next steps. The CA Bar Association and The National Employment Lawyers Association can refer you to employment attorneys and help you navigate access to free legal services.
California Law mandates that every employer have a clear process for reporting misconduct, that they conduct an investigation, and that they do not retaliate against the employee who reports or participates in an investigation.
We often hear from our members that they work for small companies without HR departments and/or no clear process for reporting harassment. We also hear that even when there is a clear process in place, women don’t report harassment because they are afraid of how they will be perceived, are uncertain about how speaking up will affect their career, or because they fear retaliation.
If your employer does not conduct a proper investigation or retaliates against you, file a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) and/or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is best to file as soon as you have determined that your employer has not conducted a satisfactory investigation. In most cases a complaint must be filed within 180 days of the most recent incident of harassment (this deadline may be extended to 300 days depending on laws in your state).
Other ways to fight sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Ask your employer to hold a sexual harassment training for all employees (note that companies with 50 or more employees are required to conduct sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors every two years).
- You can also ask that they hold an unconscious bias training or anti-oppression workshop. These are great ways to create a supportive environment for people to think critically about ingrained behavior patterns and ways to change them.Enlist other employees to talk to management about trainings – it will be more powerful if the request comes from a group.
- Talk to male allies about speaking up and interrupting inappropriate behavior or harassment on the part of other men.
- If ultimately you don’t feel comfortable or safe in your work environment, consider looking for a new job. Some people and workplace cultures are toxic and hard to change, and the decision to move on can be an empowering one. Talk to people you trust, build a network, and seek out workplace environments that prioritize equity, safety, and transparency.
Finally, the best way to fight sexual harassment is for leaders to monitor their company culture.
- Make it widely known that harassment is unacceptable and that perpetrators will be held accountable. Hold trainings and workshops for all employees, and make sure that complaint and investigation procedure is written and distributed to all.
Ensure that employees are comfortable coming forward, and that complaints will be heard and addressed without retaliation. Spend extra time and effort training upper management so that they know what to look out for, and how to handle harassment when they encounter it.
- Great overview of sex discrimination
- A list of what employers can do to prevent sexual harassment
- LEGAL AID SOCIETY- Employment Law Center Workers’ Rights Hotline: (415) 864-8208
- BetterBrave — Guide for Targets of Sexual Harassment