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Unwanted Physical Contact at Work

Unwanted physical contact at work is a serious issue that can have a significant emotional, psychological, and professional impact on the victim. In California, the law provides various protections and options to seek justice.

Unwanted Physical Contact at Work

Examples of Inappropriate Touching in the Workplace

Unwanted physical contact at work can range from seemingly minor incidents, like an unwelcome touch on the shoulder, to more severe forms of physical assault. It often falls under the broader category of workplace harassment or violence. Key types of unwanted physical contact include:

Inappropriate Touching

Any form of physical contact that is unwanted and makes the victim uncomfortable, such as patting, hugging, or touching any part of the body.

Sexual Harassment

Physical advances that are sexual in nature, including groping, pinching, or brushing up against someone intentionally.

Physical Assault

More aggressive and violent actions, such as hitting, pushing, or other forms of physical intimidation.

How to Handle Inappropriate Touching at Work

Victims of unwanted physical contact at work have several steps and legal options they can take to address the issue:

Document the Incidents

Keep detailed records of the unwanted physical contact, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses. This documentation can be crucial in substantiating their claims.

Report to HR or Management

Many employers have internal procedures for reporting harassment. Report the incident to your supervisor, HR department, or designated personnel according to your company’s policies.

Seek Legal Counsel

Consult a trusted Orange County Employment Law Attorney. They can provide you guidance on your rights and the best course of action. An attorney can also help you navigate the complexities of filing a complaint, lawsuit, negotiations, and representing you in court if necessary.

File a Complaint with the CRD

The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) handles complaints related to harassment and discrimination. Victims can file a complaint online, by mail, or in person. 


The CRD will investigate the complaint, which may include interviews, document reviews, and other investigative steps.


If the CRD finds evidence of harassment, the agency may take steps to resolve the issue, such as mediation or filing a lawsuit on your behalf.

Filing a Lawsuit

After filing a complaint with the CRD, you can request a right-to-sue notice, which allows you to file a lawsuit in civil court.


Various forms of relief may be awarded, including compensatory damages for emotional distress, lost wages, and punitive damages.

Criminal Charges

In cases where unwanted physical contact constitutes assault or battery, victims may also pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator. This requires filing a police report detailing the incident. The District Attorney’s office may then choose to press charges against the perpetrator, potentially leading to criminal penalties such as fines or imprisonment.

Legal Rights of Employees

California has laws designed to protect employees from unwanted physical contact and other forms of workplace harassment. These laws are enforced by the CRD.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA is a cornerstone of California’s efforts to prevent and address workplace harassment. It prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment on the basis of numerous protected characteristics, including sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Under FEHA:

  • Employers are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.
  • Victims can file complaints with the CRD.
  • Employers must implement and distribute anti-harassment policies and provide training to employees.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

While FEHA is specific to California, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides federal protections against workplace harassment. It prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Victims of unwanted physical contact may also seek recourse under Title VII if the behavior constitutes sexual harassment or creates a hostile work environment.

Types of Compensation Available in a Work Harassment Claim

By filing a work harassment lawsuit you may be entitled to various types of compensation to address the harm you have suffered. This can include:

Compensatory Damages

Compensation to cover economic losses such as lost wages and benefits due to missed work or job termination. Additionally, you might receive reimbursement for medical expenses related to psychological treatment or therapy required to cope with the harassment.

Non-Economic Damages

Compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. 

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may be awarded but are reserved for cases where the employer’s conduct was particularly egregious, serving as a deterrent against future misconduct. 

In some cases, the court may also order injunctive relief, which mandates the employer to implement specific measures to prevent future harassment.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers play a crucial role in preventing unwanted physical contact and maintaining a safe workplace. Under California law, employers must:

  • Develop and Distribute Anti-Harassment Policies: These policies should clearly define unacceptable behavior, outline reporting procedures, and specify consequences for violations.
  • Provide Regular Training: Employers with five or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment training to all employees. This training should cover recognizing, preventing, and responding to harassment.
  • Investigate Complaints Promptly: Employers must take all complaints of unwanted physical contact seriously, conducting thorough and impartial investigations.
  • Take Corrective Action: If harassment is found to have occurred, employers must take appropriate action to remedy the situation, which may include disciplinary measures against the perpetrator.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

An Orange County sexual harassment victims attorney can help victims of workplace harassment in several ways:

Legal Advice

Expert guidance on rights and potential remedies under state and federal laws.

Evidence Gathering

Assistance in collecting and documenting incidents of harassment to strengthen your case.

Filing Complaints

Guidance through the process of filing complaints with relevant agencies, such as the Civil Rights Department (CRD).

Settlement Negotiation

Handling all communication with your employer to secure a fair compensation package without the need for litigation.

Court Representation

Fierce advocacy before a judge or jury if a settlement cannot be reached.

Emotional Support and Strategic Advice

Support and strategic counsel to help you navigate the journey towards justice and ensure your interests are protected at every stage.