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Do Sexual Harassment Laws Extend to Others Besides Employees?

Guha Law Nov. 5, 2021

Sexual harassment continues to be a pervasive problem in California workplaces. Although laws exist to protect employees from unwelcome and aggressive behavior, harassment continues to occur. Lawmakers often work to strengthen existing laws to provide remedies and protections for potential victims. Unfortunately, not everyone knows their rights or how extensive California’s anti-harassment laws are.

California Law Protects Volunteers and Interns

Full and part-time employees may be the workers that come to people’s minds when discussing protections under anti-harassment and discrimination statutes. Yes, these persons gain protections under the law, but they are not the only ones. State law does not ignore those who work outside the category of employee. For example, independent contractors have the same protections, too.

Assuming that someone must receive payment to be eligible for legal protections would be inaccurate. Sexual harassment against volunteers and interns is not permitted, although such incidents may happen.

Even those who apply for a job could face harassment. And yes, California law bans harassing an applicant.

Taking action against incidents of harassment

Those dealing with sexual harassment have the option of filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH would review discrimination cases submitted by anyone dealing with workplace harassment, regardless of employment status.

If the victim proves his or her claims of sexual harassment, remedies might include back pay, punitive damages, reinstatement, and more. Victims may not be familiar with how the law works, though. Appointing a representative to handle the claim might be necessary to ensure the complaint process follows the law.

Harassment victims must realize statutes of limitations apply. No matter how egregious someone’s behavior is or how troubling a corporate culture might be, the victim might be unable to seek any remedy once the statute of limitations expires.