What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is defined by the state of California as “unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” It is illegal for an employee to harass a co-worker in this manner under the The Fair Employment and Housing Act. Additionally, sexual harassment includes harassment based on sex, gender, pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions. Types of sexual harassment include:
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
- Real or threatened retaliation after the rebuff of sexual advances
- Leering, which includes making sexual gestures or displaying sexual objects, pictures, or posters
- Using slurs or telling crude jokes
- Writing suggestive or sexually charged notes
- Comments about an individual’s body or personality that are sexual in nature
- Unwanted physical contact, including blocking movements
Workplace sexual harassment can be perpetrated by any employee against any other employee, regardless of their role within the company and their sex.
Employers’ Obligations to Maintain a Safe Environment
Employers in California have an obligation to employees to maintain a safe working environment. Employers can be held liable for sexual harassment, just as the harasser can be held responsible. Under California law, employers are required to:
- Take reasonable steps to prevent harassment.
- Display a poster provided by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which contains key information about sexual harassment.
- Provide employees with information about sexual harassment. They may distribute a DFEH-provided brochure or develop their own equivalent document.
- Provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to employees in supervisory positions. This mandate is only required of businesses with 50 or more employees.
Employees Who Experience Sexual Harassment
If an employee feels he or she has been the victim of sexual harassment, he or she has one year from the date of the harassment to file a complaint with the DFEH. The agency will investigate the complaint and determine how to proceed. Additionally, personal lawsuits may be filed in the court system if the DFEH determines there is cause to do so.
It is important for employees to make clear that the sexual advances or other sexually-charged behavior is unwanted. Firmly tell the offending co-worker that his behavior is inappropriate and should stop. It is also a good idea to write down a record of each instance of harassment and to notify the employer as soon as possible. See other important steps to take if you are being sexually harassed.
If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, you may be entitled to file a claim. Contact our experienced sexual harassment lawyers at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams for a free, confidential consultation today at 949-679-9909.