Sexual harassment is a very common and insidious problem in California and throughout the United States. Studies show that more than 75% of women will experience sexual harassment during their lifetime.
Victims of sexual harassment often suffer significant emotion effects such as anger, fear, humiliation, powerlessness, and even guilt. These emotional effects can result in diminished mental and physical health. Sexual harassment should never be dismissed or viewed as simply “part of life.” Rather, sexual harassment is a genuine offense for which victims are entitled to justice.
Sexual harassment can take many different forms. Some examples include:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Repeated and unwanted sexual advances
- Unwanted physical contact
- Verbal comments of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation
- Commentary about sexual experiences in inappropriate contexts
- Exposing oneself
- Frequent stares and suggestive looks
- Sending explicit photos or text messages
Sometimes harassment is only evident when looking at a pattern of behavior, whereas other times it’s blatantly obvious. California law has very broad protections for victims of sexual harassment. Civil lawsuits for sexual harassment can be filed against your boss, co-worker, landlord, therapist, doctor, teacher, police officer, and many others. Because sexual harassment can occur in such a broad spectrum of actions, it is important that you discuss your experiences with a skilled sexual harassment attorney.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Most sexual harassment claims arise from actions that occur in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act are the two foundational laws that protect employees from sexual harassment.
Two types of sexual harassment can occur at work: (1) quid pro quo and (2) hostile work environment.
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that means “this for that.” This type of sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or agent of the employer offers an employee some sort of job benefit in exchange for a sexual act. For example, a supervisor promising not to reprimand an employee in exchange for a sexual act constitutes quid pro quo sexual harassment. Employee benefits can also include things like favorable performance reviews, promotions, raises, sought after shifts and clients, and even the initial hiring.
Hostile work environments can result from sexual harassment that is frequent and pervasive. For example, a co-worker asking you out on a daily basis can amount to a hostile work environment. Unlike quid pro quo harassment, a hostile environment can be caused by an employee at any level. Thus, a co-worker who engages in persistent sexual jokes, displays of inappropriate material, or unwanted physical contact can also create a hostile work environment. Many other types of actions can create a hostile work environment, so long as they occur frequently and cause you emotional distress.
Retaliation is also an important basis for a lawsuit. Employees who have the courage to report instances of sexual harassment sometimes face retaliation in response. It is strictly illegal for any employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation can be seen in actions such as demotions, lower performance evaluations, transfers of position, increased scrutiny, and physical or verbal abuse.
Importantly, the information discussed above does not provide a complete list of the laws surrounding sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can occur in so many instances and in so many different ways that is impossible to explain it all on one webpage. If you suspect that you have been sexually harassed, you should contact Maclen to discuss your experiences and the applicable laws.