Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment

When sexual harassment occurs at work, it is legally categorized as discrimination based on gender. Under the law, it is defined as the unwelcome verbal or non-verbal, physical, or visual conduct that is of a sexual nature. Conduct that is so pervasive or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or negatively affects another’s working conditions. Our sexual harassment lawyers in California have years of experience dealing with these types of cases.

Harassment in the State of California

The state of California takes sexual harassment in the workplace very seriously. When an employee is on the receiving end of unwanted or unsolicited sexual advances, verbal or visual conduct, or sexual visuals, this all falls under the what FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act) defines as sexual harassment. Most employers have a duty to prevent this type of harassment. Specifically, FEHA requires employers to take “all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring” (Gov.C. § 12940(k)).

The definition of sexual harassment also includes a myriad of behaviors that are considered offensive, including gender-based harassment among same-sex individuals. FEHA’s list of prohibited sexual harassment include:

  • Sexual advances that are unsolicited or unwanted contact or gestures
  • A demand for sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits or promises
  • Verbal epithets, derogatory comments, slurs, romantic overtures, sexual comments, and jokes
  • Physical conduct such as assault, unwanted touching, or unwelcomed confinement
  • When a person is retaliated against or threatened in response to another’s sexual advances
  • Making or using sexually derogatory language or jokes
  • Showing suggestive pictures, posters, objects, or other visuals, leering, or making sexual gestures
  • Propositions for engaging in sexual acts and
  • Verbally abusive conversations that include phrases made in a sexual context, derogatory phrases, and comments about an individual’s body or sexual orientation.

Liability and Obligations of the Employer

When an employee experiences harassment of any kind in the workplace, the employer is often held strictly liable for the unlawful conduct. With this strict liability standard in place, an employer can be held liable for acts of sexual harassment that they engage in or allow to occur in the workplace.

Employers are generally required to take preventative measures to ensure sexual harassment doesn’t occur in the workplace. These efforts include taking steps toward setting up programs and policies to help foster a productive and harassment-free workplace.

Who is Obligated to Report Harassment?

As a supervisor, one must take reasonable steps to address and end harassment as soon as any allegations or reports are received. Even lower-level supervisors who may or may not have the authority to correct or prevent the harassment often also have a duty to report the misconduct to the proper authority.

When someone alerts an individual who is in a position of power about behavior deemed inappropriate, the expectation is that the company will immediately address and rectify the situation.

Are Companies Required to Have a Policy in Place?

Generally, companies are not required to have sexual harassment policies in place. However, the majority of companies do have them in their employee handbooks as a means of protecting their businesses and employees. As part of these policies, some employers make it mandatory that employees come forward and report anything they see or become aware of concerning acts of sexual harassment. These policies help foster an environment that allows others the opportunity to speak up and ensures the employer has a roadmap of how to proceed.

What Can Victims Do?

  • First –– Say NO! You must be clear about how offensive this individual’s behavior is and refuse all of their inappropriate invitations and advances. Be sure to document these events and your requests.
  • Write everything down. As soon as an incident occurs, write everything down immediately. Keep a journal that documents the dates, times, places, parties involved, and anyone else who may have been witness to the behavior. If appropriate, ask your colleagues to write down what they may have witnessed.
  • Make a report. Tell your supervisor as soon as it is possible to safely do so. If that doesn’t work, then go to your human resources department or another person within the company where you can find a resolution. Put your complaint in writing. If believe you are being retaliated against or treated adversely because of these reportings, contact a sexual harassment attorney immediately.
  • Make a policy request. If you didn’t receive a copy of your company’s handbook during your time of hire, or an updated copy at some point during your employment, request a copy to ensure it contains policies outlining how the company handles these lude behaviors.
  • Contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. It is in your best interest to contact a California employment lawyer to help resolve your situation and address your concerns. There are strict deadlines involved with such cases, so it’s best to begin the process immediately and note delay.

West Coast Employment Lawyers Is Here to Help

If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, we encourage you to consult with a California sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced employment attorneys at West Coast Employment Lawyers will listen and carefully assess your case to build the strongest case against your employer. We will fight aggressively for justice and your right to a safe work environment.

We work on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no attorney fees until we win and obtain compensation for you. Our friendly legal team is available 24/7. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling 1-800-247-9235.

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