Can You Sue a Coworker for Harassment?

You Can Sue a Coworker for Harassment in California, and an Employment Lawyer Can Help You

California takes workplace harassment seriously, and workers are therefore protected by law from discrimination or harassment in the workplace.  As of January 1, 2001, an amendment to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) allows coworkers to sue one another personally for unlawful harassment in the workplace. The law covers harassment based on all protected categories under FEHA, including termination, denial of a promotion, or discriminatory behavior based on protected characteristics by a supervisor or coworkers at your own level.  Employers are therefore responsible not only for making sure they and their supervisors do not harass employees, but for seeing that coworkers do not harass each other as well.

If you have been a victim of harassment in the workplace at any level, an employment lawyer can help. You don’t have to stay silent and endure the harassment — you have legal rights to prevent and stop it from continuing, to change company policies to eliminate harassment, and to see that the perpetrators are punished. In some cases, you may receive financial restitution as well.

Can you sue a coworker for harassment? Yes, and the process is better if you work with an attorney who knows the laws. While filing a lawsuit for workplace harassment is hard to prove and can seem overwhelming, the California workplace and sexual harassment lawyers at Gilleon Law Firm can handle all legal hurdles involved with getting justice and fair compensation. Our legal team is compassionate toward clients yet tough on opponents, and we will provide support and legal guidance every step of the way. We have various legal options to fight for your rights, whether through a financial settlement or a jury trial. We are aggressive litigators and are not afraid to argue a case in court if a fair settlement can’t be reached.

Can I File Harassment Charges Against a Coworker?

You can file harassment charges against a coworker, and you may be able to sue your employer as well.

Harassment can often be sexual in nature, and all unwanted sexual advances are against the law, not just rough or violent ones. Examples include unwanted touching, sexual inuendo in conversation, and inappropriate withholding of promotions or career opportunities in retaliation for not providing sexual favors. Harassment also includes behavior that is offensive, hostile or intimidating based on another person’s gender and a hostile workplace based on sexual bias. Sexual harassment can take two forms: hostile work environment harassment and quid pro quo (doing something to get something) harassment.

In addition, workplace harassment may be non-sexual in nature. This occurs when a person directs negative, inappropriate, or unwanted conduct at another worker based on certain characteristics protected by law, including harassment based on race, religion, disability, marital status, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or immigration status. This type of harassment is considered to be “hostile work environment” harassment under California workplace law.

Harassment can take different forms, including:

  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Threats, either direct or implied
  • Inappropriate jokes or negative comments, posters or signs
  • Aggressive or repeated requests for sexual favors, and other unwanted sexual comments
  • Showing favoritism or discrimination based on a protected characteristic.

These behaviors, particularly if repeated over time, can create an unlawful hostile work environment. California law requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct such behavior in the workplace; if they don’t, they and the offending coworkers may be sued.

To win your lawsuit, our harassment lawyers would have to show that the harassment meets the legal definition of hostile work environment harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. This means there would have to be discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, or insult that is either severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment for the person being harassed.   Isolated and minor incidents will not meet this legal definition of harassment.

What You Should Do If You Are Being Harassed

If you are being harassed in the workplace, you should take the following steps:

  1. Report the harassment to your employer, supervisor, or Human Resource department.
  2. File a complaint with The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You have three years after the harassment to file a complaint, and doing so is necessary before filing a harassment lawsuit.
  3. Obtain a “right to sue” notice from the DFEH after your complaint is filed. When you receive this, our Gilleon employment harassment attorneys can proceed with filing a civil lawsuit for monetary damages within one year after the notice is issued.

Can I Sue a Coworker for Emotional Distress?

The answer to can I sue a coworker for emotional distress is “yes.” If you have suffered emotional stress due to unlawful harassment from a coworker, the harasser can be held personally liable and you can seek compensation for your damages. This is the case whether or not the employer knows or should have known of the conduct and regardless of whether the employer fails to take immediate corrective action.

Legally, there are two types of emotional distress:

  1. Negligently inflicted emotional distress
  2. Intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

If you are a victim of negligently inflicted emotional distress, you can bring a claim against your employer or coworker. Employers may be held responsible in situations where a coworker’s conduct arose out of and in the course of employment.

To win your case, our employment law attorneys would have to provide evidence that there was negligence and that you suffered emotional distress as a result. If there was intentional infliction of emotional distress, our attorneys would have to also prove that the actions were made willfully, knowingly, or outrageously. To do this we would:

  • Investigate the conditions in your workplace and gather evidence such as from video footage that may have captured the harassment
  • Interview coworkers, employers, and any eyewitnesses to the harassment to get testimony on your behalf
  • Examine records to find evidence of past cases of harassment.

To hold your employer responsible for emotional distress cause by a coworker we would have to show that:

  • The employer knew or should have known about the harmful conduct that caused emotional distress.
  • The employer knew the conduct was outrageous or harmful.
  • The employer failed to take reasonable steps to stop or remedy the harassment.

Get Help from Our Employment Harassment Lawyers

Hiring an employment harassment lawyer in California can help make sure your legal rights are preserved and that you may receive an award for damages. Gilleon Law Firm has recovered over $100 Million Dollars for clients across California. Our settlement agreements can demand changes in workplace practices and policies to protect others from facing the harassment our clients endured.

If you are experiencing harassment at work, available remedies can include back pay, future lost earnings, hiring/reinstatement, out-of-pocket expenses, damages for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and other remedies.

At Gilleon Law Firm, we can help you get the justice you deserve through skilled and experienced legal representation. We offer a free consultation, so do not delay.

Call our employment harassment lawyer in California at 800-408-2857 today.