Are You a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

Are You a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

The #Metoo Movement has once again thrust the problem of sexual harassment to the forefront of public discourse.  Incredibly powerful and high profile men in Hollywood, news media, music, politics, publishing, academia—not to mention a nominee for our nation’s highest court—are all being called out for, alleged problematic behavior in, both, their personal and professional lives.

But much debate is occurring over the substance of the actions, of which these men (and some women) have been accused. Critics warn against conflating, for example, a pushy man on a bad date with forcible rape; and further draw attention to the difference between being tried for sexual harassment in the court of public opinion, and the conviction of a crime or legal punishment.

What constitutes sexual harassment from the perspective of the law?  Here’s what you should know.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace falls under California’s laws governing sex discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Under the law, ‘sexual harassment’ includes unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.

The offender’s actions does not necessarily need to be motivated by sexual desire, but rather is conduct that is based on the victim’s actual or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is generally categorizable in one of two ways:

  • Quid Pro Quo, or direct sexual harassment. This Latin phrase translates as “this for that.”  It refers to a type of sexual harassment when an employer or superordinate places conditions on a person’s career or employment in exchange for demanded sexual favors.  For example, if your boss offers you a raise in exchange for a sexual favor, this constitutes a quid pro quo.
  • Hostile Work Environment, or indirect sexual harassment. This form of sexual harassment occurs when a victim is subjected to offensive or unwanted comments or conduct of a sexual nature, creating an inhospitable work environment for the victim.

Examples of Illegal Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The following are examples of conduct considered illegal and prosecutable under California law:

  • Unwanted or unsolicited touching
  • Comments of a sexual nature, for example comments about a colleague’s body
  • Sexual innuendo
  • Sending pornographic or sexually inappropriate images to a colleague
  • Lewd written communication
  • Detailing personal sexual exploits while at work
  • Repeatedly asking a colleague for a date, after they have turned you down
  • Pressuring a subordinate for a date or sexual favors
  • Suggesting that a colleague is better or worse-equipped for a work-related task due to their gender
  • Intimidating or excluding employees of a particular gender to jeopardize their employment status
  • Comments speculating on the sexual orientation of a colleague
  • Comments speculating on the pregnancy status of a colleague
  • Sexist or insulting graffiti
  • Inappropriate invitations
  • Leering
  • Stalking
  • Indecent exposure

This list by no means exhausts possible sexual harassment situations.  In general, if you feel in any way uncomfortable in the workplace, and you suspect that your sex or gender may have been a motivator for your abuser, trust your gut and notify management or contact a sexual harassment lawyer.

Consider Legal Action

Employers are legally required to insure a safe and discrimination-free work environment for all employees, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.  If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, your employer should have protocols in place for you to file a grievance—usually with Human Resources.

Unfortunately, many of these protocols are insufficient to protect the rights of employees, and at times legal recourse is called for.  A sexual harassment attorney with The Dominguez Firm can help you file a claim against your employer and abuser to secure your own rights, as well as ensure a safe and comfortable work environment for yourself and your colleagues moving forward.  Contact our firm today for a free consultation about your case at (800) 818-1818.