California workers have broader protections against sexual harassment under California laws than under federal law and have different deadlines that workers should be aware of to preserve their sexual harassment claims.

How are California sexual harassment protections different than federal protections?

  • California law provides greater protection and remedies for sexual harassment or assault in the workplace than federal law.
  • For example, while federal law prohibits sexual harassment only for employers with 15 or more employees, California law applies to qualifying employers with as few as one worker.
  • California law provides for individual liability, meaning aggrieved workers can sue not just their employer but any individual who aided and abetted the wrongdoing.
  • The state law also protects independent contractors, unpaid interns, and volunteers from sexual harassment, not just those classified as employees as is the case under federal law.
  • Finally, federal law caps a worker’s recovery of compensatory and punitive damages at $300,000, while California law does not have a cap on what a worker who prevails on her claims can recover.

How can I report sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace in California?

  • You have several avenues to report sexual harassment or sexual assault in California.
  • If you suffered workplace sexual harassment or assault, you can report the misconduct to your employer. California state law and federal law prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who complain about sexual harassment.
  • Beyond reporting the conduct directly to your employer, you have two options for reporting sexual harassment or assault you have faced in the workplace in California: you may file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (“CRD”) or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
  • You may not file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer until the EEOC or CRD gives you a right-to-sue notice. After you receive an EEOC notice, you have 90 days to sue.  After you receive a CRD notice, you have one year to sue.
  • Choosing what route to pursue is a strategic decision. We recommend consulting with an attorney to determine the best course of action for you.

I was sexually harassed or assaulted a long time ago. Do I still have a claim in California?

  • You might.
  • Under California law, you have three years to file a charge for employment sexual harassment with the Civil Rights Department. For coverage under federal law, however, a charge must be filed within 300 days of the sexual harassment.
  • As we discuss on this blog post, in the beginning of the year, California expanded its statute of limitations for civil claims of sexual assault, which may apply to you.
  • For sexual assaults that occurred on or after January 1, 2019, survivors have until the later of ten years from the assault, or three years from discovering their injury from the sexual assault, to file a civil lawsuit for sexual assault.
  • For sexual assaults committed on or after January 1, 2019, survivors have a three-year “lookback window” to file civil claims between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2026, with the exception of claims that were litigated to a finality in court or compromised by a settlement agreement before January 1, 2023.
  • But there are certain circumstances that can extend those deadlines. You also may have related claims under different laws.  It is safest to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to learn whether you still have live claims.

Where can I get more information about workplace sexual harassment in California?

  • The California Department of Justice provides information about workplace sexual harassment under California law.

Contact Us

If you are experiencing or have experienced sexual harassment, contact Katz Banks Kumin to speak with one of our intake attorneys to discuss your case, without charge or further obligation.

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Katz Banks Kumin LLP

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