Legally Addressing Sexual Harassment At Work

Find A California Labor Law Attorney for Sexual Harassment Claims


State and federal workers' rights protect employees from illegal and inappropriate behavior. Harassment at work creates a toxic environment that can impede a target from fully performing their tasks. If you have been harassed at your place of employment, contact an Employment Attorney in California to help you.


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What Qualifies As Sexual Harassment at Work?


Sexual harassment can be covert or overt and can be classified in different ways.


Quid Pro Quo

When a supervisor demands a subordinate to experience sexual advances by threatening the employee with an adverse job, such as a bad rating, demotion, or termination, this is known as quid pro quo harassment. A supervisor, for example, has participated in quid pro quo harassment by tying a promotion to a subordinate's willingness to go on a love date.

When an employee in a position of authority uses their position to force a subordinate to perform something in exchange for a sexual favor, this is considered as workplace harassment.

Quid pro quo harassment isn't when coworkers in the same position seek sexual favors. They will, however, create a hostile work atmosphere, as described below.


A hostile work environment


A hostile work environment is the other type of workplace harassment recognized under California law. In contrast to quid pro quo harassment, any employee can wreak havoc on the workplace. There can't be any threat of retaliation in the workplace when there's this kind of harassment. Instead, the harasser engages in inappropriate behavior, including supported sex, creating an environment that's threatening, unpleasant, or offensive to a subordinate worker.


The behavior could be directed at a single individual, but it isn't. A coworker, for example, could make the workplace unfriendly by uploading insulting or demeaning photos. A claim for a hostile work environment must meet certain criteria.


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When Can I File a Sexual Harassment Claim?


Unfortunately, side comments and offensive language aren't enough to be considered enough grounds for a legal claim. However, when the treatment begins to interfere with a target's work—to a point that it directly harms their profession—then it might be the time to sue.


Here are a few red flags:

  • Unwelcome Behavior. Even undesirable behavior must be examined. Under California harassment legislation, "unwelcome" is not the same as "nonconsensual."

  • In other words, even if the victim agrees to the harassment, the behavior is still considered harassment if the employee finds it offensive. Many employees believe they have no choice but to "consent" to unpleasant workplace behavior for fear of losing their jobs.

  • An employee filing a harassment claim must have found the challenged conduct to be unwelcome. However, if an employee goes along with the challenged conduct, such as telling sexual jokes, their claim may be dismissed. This is because it will be challenging to prove that they did not find the behavior unwelcome.

  • Offensive To Any Reasonable Person. The claimed harassment must not only be unwelcome and offensive to the complaining employee (the "subjective test"), but it must also be objectively offensive.

  • The "reasonable person" in this situation takes into account the entire context of the victim's circumstances. If, for example, the harassed person has previously been subjected to sexual assault and as a result is hypersensitive to specific conditions.

  • In addition, when determining whether the behavior would be offensive to others, the target's history of workplace harassment would be considered.

  • Severe or widespread. Harassment is defined by California law as either so severe or so pervasive that it creates an abusive working environment. One serious act, such as a physical assault, can be considered workplace harassment under this criteria.

  • More often than not, harassment results from a series of behaviors over time, such as daily demeaning and insulting comments or jokes that have become ubiquitous enough to contaminate the workplace.

It might also be possible that you're having difficulty identifying the severity of the incidents. For any clarification on the matter, contact a California Employment Law Attorney to help you.


What Kinds of Evidence Does a Sexual Harassment Claim in California Require?


As previously said, prejudice can be implicit. Thus, any interactions that imply discrimination should be documented. Here are some things to think about gathering:

  • Photo and video proof. Keep track of any slurs, bad behavior, or unpleasant treatment you've received. Remember to be cautious when photographing or filming other individuals, as it may exacerbate arguments or tensions, putting you in danger.

  • Electronic messaging. Keep track of any emails, chats, or texts that appear to be biased against women. Take screenshots of the chat rooms and save all of your emails in one place for convenient access.

  • Pay attention to the correspondence's language as well. For example, they don't need to use racial slurs to be discriminatory.

  • Financial and management documents. These papers can show that your employer cut your pay, demoted you, or threatened you with penalty or retaliation without cause. In any case, these can create a hostile work atmosphere, making it difficult for you to do your duties.

Your California Labor Law Attorney may do their own investigation, so be sure to provide them with all of the relevant data about your allegations to expedite the process.


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What If My Boss Punishes Me For Filing A Report?


It is prohibited for an employer to penalize an employee for doing the right thing (by reporting harassment, prejudice, or public policy offenses) as a form of retaliation. Here are a few examples of retaliatory behavior on the part of an employer:

  1. Disciplining the employee too often when it's not necessary

  2. Constantly making a negative or inaccurate assessment of their performance at work

  3. Threatening to report a coworker to immigration authorities or the cops

  4. Disseminating false or malicious information about the target employee

  5. Increasing the difficulty of the employee's task by modifying their schedule and assigning them

  6. Paying an employee less

  7. Ignoring harassment complaints from coworkers

  8. A target employee is demoted or suspended

Employment issues like discrimination and harassment can sometimes lead to retaliation. For example, if your employer fired you as a retaliatory action, then you might also have a Wrongful Termination Claim.


Ask your California Labor Lawyer for clarifications on the claims you might have grounds to sue for.


Find A Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorney in California


Gency.org can help you find a Contingency Lawyer for your Employment Cases in California. No win, no fees! You can complete our submission form for a free case review.

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