Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing concern. Even employees who are not victims of the harassment can be affected, and this may create a hostile work environment for everyone. While many companies have measures in place to prevent harassment, it still happens every day.
Sexual harassment is much broader than many people realize. Unwelcome sexual advances, touching, pressure to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship and other commonly-recognized types of harassment make up only a fraction of sexual harassment cases. Sexual harassment may also involve derogatory comments about a person’s gender or sexual orientation, exposure to inappropriate jokes and other commentary that makes the person uncomfortable, or any other type of unwelcome behavior that is based on sex, gender or sexual orientation that creates a hostile work environment.
Types of Sexual Harassment
The many varieties of sexual harassment fall into two broad categories: quid pro quo sexual harassment and behaviors that create a hostile work environment.
In a quid pro quo harassment situation, the harasser may offer a promotion, salary increase or other workplace incentive in exchange for sexual favors. Alternatively, the harasser may fire or demote a subordinate, threaten such actions, or otherwise harm or threaten to harm the career of a subordinate who refuses sexual advances.
Hostile work environment cases generally involve behavior such as making sexual jokes, making obscene remarks about a person’s body, touching another person in inappropriate ways such a kissing or hugging without their consent, or displaying sexually explicit material in the workplace.
Pursuing a Sexual Harassment Claim
While most victims of sexual harassment are employees, sexual harassment may also occur during the application process. If you feel you have been sexually harassed while at work, you should take the time to educate yourself about your options. The sexual harassment claim process can be complicated, as you may be required to pursue remedies within your company and/or with government agencies such as the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) before filing a lawsuit.
Although the victims of sexual harassment are predominantly women, men can also be sexually harassed. The harasser and the victim can be of the same sex or of opposite sexes. The harasser can be a manager, supervisor, owner, or co-worker within the company. However, employers are responsible for maintaining a work environment free of sexual harassment, and so may be liable even when the harasser is someone who doesn’t work for the company, such as a client or customer. The laws regarding sexual harassment apply to for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, employment agencies, and local, state and federal government agencies.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Isolated incidents of careless or offensive remarks or conduct are never acceptable, but for conduct to be considered sexual harassment it must be ongoing or frequent. If the actions of the harasser interfere with a person’s job performance, result in an intimidating work environment, or have negative practical effects such as termination, demotion, or transfer, then the victim may be entitled to compensation.
Talk to a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Right Away
If you or a family member has been the victim of sexual harassment or other types of harassment while in the workplace, you should talk to an employment law attorney to learn more about your rights under state and federal law.
At Yarian & Associates, we have been very successful in helping people who have been affected by workplace harassment. Contact us today to set up a free consultation and learn more about your workplace rights.