Sexual harassment law can be complicated, but one thing is certain: it’s illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace. If it’s happened to you, or if you’ve seen it happen to someone else, you may want to talk to a Glendale sexual harassment lawyer about your situation.
A Word on Sexual Harassment Law
Many people mistakenly think that sexual harassment law only applies to inappropriate comments or physical touching. However, sexual harassment law actually covers a range of conduct and behavior in the workplace.
Sexual harassment law covers:
- Physical touching that’s sexual in nature
- Requests or demands for sexual favors
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Verbal sexual harassment
In some cases, you can hold an employer liable for sexual harassment. For example, if the employer knew — or should have known — that sexual harassment existed but failed to take immediate corrective action, the employer could be found liable in court.
California law recognizes two forms of sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo, which means “this for that,” refers to the type of sexual harassment that occurs when a supervisor expresses or implies that a subordinate must submit to sexual advances or face adverse employment action.
In plain English, quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when a supervisor dangles a subordinate’s job over his or her head, threatens to write a bad review, or threatens to demote the subordinate unless the employee accepts his or her sexual advances.
Supervisors and Sexual Harassment Law
In many cases, supervisors who are violating sexual harassment law are engaging in quid pro quo harassment. However, supervisors can also engage in creating a hostile work environment through sexual harassment. Further, employers can be held liable for failing to stop harassment that they know (or should know) exists.
Coworkers and Sexual Harassment Law
Coworkers can be held individually liable for violating sexual harassment law. For example, when one or more coworkers engages in conduct that is either quid pro quo harassment or hostile work environment harassment, each individual can be held liable.
Sexual Harassment and a Hostile Work Environment
Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when one employee engages in unwelcome sexual conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive workplace environment. The employee engaging in this conduct doesn’t have to be a supervisor; anyone in the workplace can create a hostile environment through sexual harassment.
You don’t have to be the direct target of the harassment in order to file a hostile work environment claim. In fact, if you observe another employee engaging in sexually harassing conduct, you may have your own claim.
In order for the courts to find that sexual harassment created a hostile work environment, the harassment must be:
- Based on sex. This doesn’t mean the act of sex, or things of a sexual nature; instead, it must be based on gender.
- Unwelcome. Unwelcome isn’t synonymous with nonconsensual under sexual harassment law. Instead, even if you go along with the harassment, it’s still harassment if it’s unwelcome (many people feel like they have to “assimilate” into the workplace culture or they’ll lose their jobs).
- Offensive to a reasonable person. The conduct must be such that a reasonable person in the same situation would find the conduct offensive.
- Severe or pervasive. The conduct must either be so severe or so pervasive that it creates a hostile working environment. Either one severe act or repeated acts occurring over time can permeate the entire workplace.
Examples of Hostile Work Environments Under Sexual Harassment Law
Some of the most common forms of harassment that contribute to a hostile work environment include:
- Offensive jokes
- Racial slurs
- Sexual slurs
- Physical and sexual touching
- Physical and sexual assaults
- Physical and sexual threats
- Explicit, offensive objects
- Offensive pictures
- Offensive videos
Should You Talk to Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyers?
If you believe someone in your workplace has violated sexual harassment law, you may have legal recourse. Naturally, you’ll want to make formal complaints to your human resources department or to your direct supervisor. (If your complaint is about your direct supervisor, you should talk to his or her supervisor instead.)
Make sure your complaints and your supervisor’s or HR team’s responses are documented by your employer.
If your employer doesn’t take the appropriate action to stop future harassment under sexual harassment law, it’s time to talk to a Glendale and Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer. You shouldn’t — and don’t — have to fight against this illegal conduct alone… and you most certainly don’t have to “deal with it” to keep your job.
Call us right now at 818-617-9706 or toll-free at 800-774-4163 for a free, confidential consultation with a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer. We may be able to help you.