Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of unlawful harassment. Furthermore, even with all the laws that prohibit it, it is still all too common in the workplace. Sexual harassment is prohibited by both federal and state law. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes sexual harassment illegal in the workplace. FEHA makes it illegal to discriminate against, or harass an employee on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, among several other protected classes. Further, harassment because of sex includes gender harassment, harassment based on pregnancy or childbirth, or related medical conditions such as breastfeeding. In California sexual harassment law prohibits conduct beyond just prohibiting unwanted sexual advances in the workplace.
There are two traditional forms of unlawful sexual harassment California, which California law recognizes. The forms are quid pro quo harassment, and hostile work environment harassment. These forms of sexual harassment can overlap and there can be both occurring at the same time. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when any employment benefit, or the absence of a job detriment, is conditioned on the capitulation to unwelcome sexual conduct. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when an employee’s work environment is made hostile or abusive by sexual conduct.
Typically, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a supervisor making sexual advances toward a subordinate employee with an express or implied threat of some form of retaliation (i.e. termination, demotion, etc.) if the employee does not submit, or the express or implied promise of a benefit (promotion, raise, etc.) if the employee submits.
A hostile work environment that violates FEHA exists when an employee is subjected to unwanted harassing conduct based upon any protected status, to include sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or pregnancy, race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, or a military or veteran status. To make a hostile work environment, which violates FEHA, the harassment must be unwanted and sufficiently severe or pervasive, such that the work environment is considered hostile or abusive. The standards for what makes a hostile work environment can be complicated, so always have an experienced los angeles sexual harassment attorney analyze your circumstance to determine whether FEHA is being violated. Unlawful harassing conduct may include, but is not limited to: (1) Verbal harassment, such as obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, offensive jokes, or threats; (2) Physical harassment, such as unwanted touching, assault, or physical interference with normal work or movement; (3) Visual harassment, such as offensive posters, objects, cartoons, or drawings; or (4) unwanted sexual advances. Unlawful sexual harassment can also include non-sexual conduct directed at a person because of his or her gender.
For example, when a supervisor exhibits animus toward women but not men it can create a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment based upon sex or gender can be created when a supervisor treats men better than women. For example, the supervisor bullies women, but does not treat men this way; the supervisor speaks disrespectfully to women, but speaks to men with respect; or the supervisor treats women as if they are incompetent for the task, but does not treat men as if they are incapable of performing the task. These examples of differential treatment based upon gender, can create an unlawful hostile work environment for a women.
An employer in California has a legal duty to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace. FEHA requires employers to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment. An employer that is aware of sexual harassment occurring in its workplace, is required to take prompt corrective action, which is reasonably calculated to end the harassment. An employer in response to a charge of sexual harassment should perform a prompt adequate investigation, and protect the victim immediately from further harassment. If the employer decides to separate an alleged victim of sexual harassment from the alleged perpetrator through transfer or reassignment, the alleged victim cannot be moved to an objectively less desirable position. For example, an employer moving an employee who complained about sexual harassment to the night shift, from the day shift, to separate the employee from the alleged harasser could also be considered retaliation against the employee for complaining, which is illegal.
Actions an employer can take to prevent unlawful harassment from occurring include the use of discipline and training. Employers in California must post in the workplace, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s poster entitled “California Law Prohibits Workplace Discrimination and Harassment” (see Government Code § 12950), and must also distribute to employees the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s information sheet on sexual harassment, or its equivalent (see Government Code 12950(b)). Further, an employer in California with 50 or more employees must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees at least once every two years, or within six months of starting a supervisory position (see Government Code § 12950.1(a)).
If you are the victim of sexual harassment, complain in writing to management, and human resources. Remember, by complaining you provide your employer with knowledge of the sexual harassment California, which the employer then has a legal duty to stop. Many times companies have procedures in their employee handbook for complaining about sexual harassment. If the company has a procedure to complain about sexual harassment, try to follow it, so the employer cannot claim later that you did not properly complain. Further, when you complain about sexual harassment do not be vague about what is occurring. Never just infer in a complaint that you are being sexually harassed, state specifically that you are being sexually harassed by a named individual, and then describe specifically what happened that was sexual harassment. Name as many witnesses as possible when you complain, so the employer can speak to them during its investigation. Most importantly, always complain in writing, so you can prove you complained. Do not trust that managers or human resource employees, will later tell the truth about your complaints. If you have to sue you employer because of the harassment at some later point, it is likely that your employer will lie about the complaints if they are not in writing. Finally, immediately about feeling you are being sexually harassed, call a sexual harassment attorney Los Angeles, California who is experienced with sexual harassment for advice and consultation on how best to proceed.
Employment law firms in the Los Angeles and Orange County area, which are experienced in California employee rights
, commonly will talk to you for free about unlawful harassment that you are experiencing. Thus, if you are experiencing harassment in the workplace, call a law firm with experienced sexual harassment lawyer Los Angeles to get some help.