In California, workplace sexual harassment is more than an unwanted advance. It is considered an infringement on your rights as an employee and a violation of both state and federal laws. The following covers the basics to provide awareness of how to protect yourself and handle this situation.
Defining sexual harassment
Sexual harassment at work covers several types of behavior, including physical, visual or verbal conduct of a sexual nature. It also covers any other behavior that makes an individual feel their work environment is hostile, offensive or intimidating due to the employee’s sex.
The state of California defines these offensive actions not just from people expressing sexual desire but also from various biases. Biased thinking and behaviors can occur toward people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy and other conditions. Harassment can also occur between people of the same sex.
Seeking legal recourse
Sexual harassment is categorized as a type of sex discrimination and is illegal in every state and at the federal level. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you have the right to file a report with your state. In California, you would file a report with the Civil Rights Department (CRD). You can also file a report with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you submit a complaint with one of these entities, they will report to the other, so you only need to file once.
Where to start
If you are a victim of sexual harassment at work, you must prepare your information and evidence before taking legal action. Locate and become familiar with your employer’s policies on sexual harassment. Next, document each incident with notes on the date, time, parties involved and the nature of the harassment. Follow the guidelines found in your company’s sexual harassment policy and report the harassment to your employer.
When reporting isn’t enough
Some workplace sexual harassment may escalate to assault. In this severe situation, always prioritize your safety and call 911, especially if you feel the situation is life-threatening.
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, report it to your local police and seek immediate medical attention. You can also receive immediate help by contacting a sexual harassment crisis hotline. Your family, friends and resources provided by your employer can offer additional support and assistance.
Remember that you are not alone as you navigate the difficult situation of sexual harassment. Various avenues exist to provide you with the support and justice you need and deserve.