When-Does-Sexual-Harassment-Get-Serious-Enough-for-a-Lawyer.jpg (2149×1159)It may start out as a tease or a joke, but someday you come to realize that this seriously jeopardizing your ability to function.

The Law

Sexual harassment is part of the general prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other forms of harassment of a physical nature. Although laws surrounding sexual harassment exist, they do not prohibit teasing, offhand comments or minor isolated incidents. They are not part of a “general civility code.” The civil rights, equal employment side of the law does not kick in until the harassment is so frequent and severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment that impedes equal opportunity. The call to label a pattern of behavior as sexual harassment can be difficult under many circumstances.

Barriers to Enforcement

The most important barrier to the enforcement of sexual harassment law is the reluctance of victims to report it. An older (1991) study suggested that twenty years ago over 50 percent of female victims believed that nothing would come of making a complaint and an equal percentage believed that they would be blamed for the sexual harassment. Recent revelations about sexual harassment in high profile workplaces suggest that a new enforcement boldness might be emerging. The key is that enforcement of sexual harassment law requires the active participation of the victim. The pressures against victims come forth to make a complaint in an ambiguous and risky legal environment must be enormous.

Even with the recent #MeToo revelations, when you ask why wasn’t the harassment reported sooner, the answers are the same as 25 years ago, The victims didn’t think anyone would believe them, They didn’t think it was “bad enough” to warrant an HR complaint. They believed that making a complaint would “torpedo their careers.” In addition, the reporting process is not unambiguous. Many people don’t know how to report it, what steps to take, how to document, and to whom they should direct their grievances.

Civil Action

Sexual harassment does not fall under the criminal code. It typically requires civil action in the form of a lawsuit to obtain compensation or redress. Only if the harassment involves serious physical touching, physical intimidation, or even extreme forms of coercion can it turn into sexual assault which is a serious criminal matter.

Sexual harassment claims under the civil code are frequently difficult to prove in court. The evidence rarely includes more than statements by the victim and the aggressor.  If the court is convinced that the harassment has caused a hostile work environment, the employer has to be given a chance to cure the problem. Although sexual harassment lawsuits may be difficult to prosecute, these cases will be made part of the public record and will follow the aggressors around for life. In the current social climate, the accusations of sexual harassment have had serious impact on those accused.

Approaching the Problem

Employment lawyers may say that sexual harassment options may range from a simple “knock it off” all the way to a lawsuit. The ideal outcome is when a forthright conversation with the harasser is enough to stop the problem. Harassers have been known to retaliate against accusers, often not openly. At some point the victim might want to begin to escalate the complaint internally and in writing. All documentation should be kept and filed to be used in evidence if a court case should emerge. Begin by following any prescribed corporate HR procedures. To senior managers or human resources officials explain what is happening and how it is affecting your work. Make sure to keep all these contacts in written form on your own personal computer or device including dates.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is dedicated to upholding your rights. Please contact us for a free consultation about your harassment issues.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986