We Take On Sexual Harassment Cases
Sexual harassment can rear its ugly head from a number of perspectives, ranging from full-on rape to psychological office workplace harassment. We have dealt with both ends of this spectrum and can help. The key to having a solid case is having someone who can act as a witness regarding what is taking or already has taken place; you will be sure the other side will deny it.
More important than having a good case is ensuring your safety. If you are being sexually harassed, avoid contact with the person as much as possible. He or she may invite you to come to work in the evening or on weekends when no one is there; simply say no. If you can, contact your human resources department or supervisor and inform them of this immediately. If you do not make your position clear to the perpetrator, he or she will continue inching along until it gets to the point of no return.
The Definition Of Sexual Harassment
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- This conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment.
- It unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance.
- It creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Be careful. For example, if someone is from the Midwest, they may call you “darling” or “sweetheart.” You may find that people from the United Kingdom do this as well, and in both case, there may be no sexual innuendo whatsoever. By the same token, someone may call you “Ms.” or “Mr.” followed by your name very professionally while, at the same time, working on finding a way to get you into bed. Pay attention, and examine both the big picture as well as the detailed picture. Put everything together, and if you still really feel like you are being sexually harassed, you probably are.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when some term of employment is conditioned upon the employee accepting or submitting to the harasser’s sexual advances or sexual favors. “Quid pro quo” essentially means “this for that.” This type of harassment could either be in the form of an offer or a threat. Here are a few examples of quid pro quo sexual harassment:
- Request for sexual favors, such as an employer or supervisor offering an employee a raise in exchange for sex.
- A supervisor telling an employee to have sex with them or face termination.
- A supervisor telling an employee to have sex with them or face demotion.
- A job applicant being asked to engage in sexual acts in order to obtain a position.
Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
Here, we are dealing with a situation when the conduct is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment. Due to the sexual harassment, the employee’s work environment is made hostile, offensive, oppressive, intimidating and/or abusive.
For hostile work environment sexual harassment, courts look at several factors, including the nature of the conduct, frequency, number of days it went on and context of the conduct.
Note: The conduct must be severe or pervasive. Generally, hostile work environments involve multiple acts or a pattern of harassment over time that becomes pervasive. Sometimes, a single act that is so severe that it creates a hostile work environment, but it can also involve patterns such as:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Sexual comments, slurs or taunts
- Groping, kissing or unwanted touching
- Sending sexually explicit emails, texts or pictures
- Pervasive displays of materials with sexually explicit images or language
Laws That Protect Against Sexual Harassment
Both state and federal laws protect employees against sexual harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes discrimination on the basis of sex unlawful. Under Title VII, sexual harassment is one form of sex discrimination.
In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) explicitly makes sexual harassment unlawful. The FEHA generally provides more protection and damages for employees.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a lot of misconceptions and much confusion surrounding workplace sexual harassment. Here are answers to some of the most common questions that clients have asked us. We hope they help you understand harassment law a bit better.
Does the harasser have to be your supervisor?
No. Besides your supervisor, the harasser could be a co-worker or an agent of your employer. However, in situations where it is a co-worker, there may be no way that the employer is aware of the sexual harassment. It is your duty to report the harassment to human resources (HR) or your superior as soon as possible. Keep in mind that more important than having a good legal case is having safety: Do not take any chances in the hopes of making it a good case.
Under California law, is your employer liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor or co-worker?
It depends. If harassment is by a supervisor, the employer is strictly liable. If the harassment is by a co-worker, the employer is liable if the supervisor knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. For this reason, as we mentioned in the previous question’s reply, inform your supervisor as soon as possible to not only strengthen your case but help ensure your safety as well.
Does the harasser have to be a person of the opposite sex?
No. There is opposite sex and same-sex sexual harassment. Both women and men are subjected to sexual harassment and may take action to protect their rights.
Is “sexual motive” or sexual attraction required for conduct to be considered sexual harassment?
No. The harasser does not need to have a sexual motive for hostile work environment sexual harassment. Under California law, “sex” is defined broadly and can include harassment based on gender or pregnancy. In 2014, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) was amended to add that “sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.”
Can you claim sexual harassment even if you are not the intended target of the harassment?
Yes. Even if you are not the direct target, the offensive conduct might create a hostile work environment for you. At the end of the day, you are there to earn a living or follow a career, not to be the recipient of any sort of sexual harassment. Call now at 877-223-4684.
Do you have to suffer some kind of economic harm or injury to claim sexual harassment?
No. Economic harm is not necessary to claim sexual harassment. It takes its toll with your health, job advancement opportunities and many other areas of your life. Some have economic consequences, and others do not. None of them are right, however.
Is it also unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for complaining about the sexual harassment?
Yes. Not only is sexual harassment unlawful, but retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment is unlawful as well. Examples of retaliation are being fired or demoted for reporting the sexual harassment. If you are not certain about the retaliation, just call us and ask; keep our number with you in case something new pops up.
Skilled. Strategic. Experienced.
We represent both sides of sexual harassment – the employer and the employee – so we understand, in detail, how the other side thinks, and that has made us successful in developing our winning strategies. Call San Diego Biz Law APC at 877-223-4684 or send us an email.