Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace can be one of the most uncomfortable, stressful, and hurtful issues to face. You may be afraid to speak up about it, for fear of negative repercussions for your job or social standing. However, employees in California are protected under state laws that forbid sexual harassment in the workplace. With the help of a skilled and compassionate employment attorney, you can be even more confident in your ability to address the situation effectively.
Our attorneys at HBK Lawyers APC always put clients first when dealing with a case of this nature. We can guide you through the process of filing a complaint and advocating for you if the issue escalates. Call today for your free consultation!
How is Sexual Harassment Defined?
Sexual harassment is defined as:
“…unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser.”
Behaviors that are considered sexual harassment fall under two different categories: “quid pro quo” harassment and actions that create a “hostile work environment.” Quid pro quo harassment is when a supervisor offers employment benefits or promotions to an employee in exchange for sexual favors, or threatens demotion or negative consequences if he or she refuses to give the favors.
Actions that would count as sexual harassment causing a hostile work environment include:
- Making sexual gestures or displaying sexually suggestive items or other visuals
- Verbally making comments of a sexual nature regarding another individual or his or her body, including derogatory comments or jokes
- Physical assault
- Physically touching another individual or blocking their movements
- Retaliating or threatening to retaliate if a coworker rejects one’s sexual advances
Just one instance of quid pro quo harassment is enough to file a lawsuit. However, sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment must either be deemed "severe," or must occur repeatedly such that the behavior is unreasonably interfering with your ability to work or has created a hostile environment. Referring to the list of behaviors above, most of those instances of harassment would need to occur on multiple occasions for you to have a case. However, something like assault or another extreme offense could be considered "severe" enough to only require one occurrence before a complaint would be accepted.
After filing a complaint, the Department of Fair Housing and Employment will respond by initiating attempts at reconciling the issue between you and the harasser. If this is not possible, they will conduct an investigation that will involve taking testimonies from witness and coworkers. If there is enough cause to believe harassment was or is present, the parties will have one last chance to resolve the matter in mediation before the issue is brought to court in a lawsuit.
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