What are common California employer defenses to unlawful harassment claims?

There are a number of common defenses that California employers raise in response to unlawful harassment claims.  These include: 

  • Statute of limitations bars lawsuits that are filed more than one year after the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) issues a right to sue letter.
  • Failure to exhaust administrative remedies bars California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) claims that are not filed with the DFEH within one year of the unlawful act (with some exceptions for continuing violations).
  • The complainant has no standing; i.e., not an applicant or employee of the employer or other covered entity. 
  • The alleged conduct was not severe or pervasive to create an abusive hostile work environment;
  • The alleged conduct was not unwelcome.
  • The alleged conduct did not create an objectively hostile work environment to a reasonable person with the same protected characteristics standing in the shoes of the complainant.
  • The alleged conduct did not create a subjectively hostile work environment to the complainant.
  • The complainant was not harmed. 
  • The alleged harassing conduct was not a substantial factor in causing the complainant’s harm.
  • The complainant’s actions are barred, in whole or in part, by the doctrine of avoidable consequences. 

For more information on employer defenses to harassment claims, feel free to contact our office at (213) 341-4417.