Sexual Harassment in California Workplaces

Despite clear laws prohibiting sexual harassment in California workplaces, many people continue to experience this type of unlawful conduct throughout the state. Sexual harassment can happen in any type of industry, and anyone can be a victim – from support staff or laborers to managers or executives.

There are many questions that employment lawyers hear regarding sexual harassment, and the following are only some frequently asked questions. To discuss your specific situation, please reach out to a local attorney who represents sexual harassment victims.

Does a harasser have to be my boss?

No, in many cases, sexual harassers are coworkers or others who are not in charge of your job. This is because there are two main types of harassment. Quid pro quo harassment requires the harasser to be an authority figure with control over your job. However, harassment that causes a hostile work environment can come from anyone associated with your work – including a client. Never assume that because your boss wasn’t involved that harassment didn’t occur.

How can I tell the different types of workplace sexual harassment?

The law sets out criteria for each type of sexual harassment, as follows:

  • Quid pro quo – This type of harassment occurs when a manager or boss makes a sexual advance and either offers a job benefit if you participate or threatens your job if you refuse.
  • Hostile work environment – As mentioned, this harassment can come from anyone, and it involves conduct that is either so offensive or pervasive that it interferes with your work environment.

Other differences between the two types of harassment involve when an employer is liable. Employers are automatically liable for quid pro quo harassment, though they are only liable for a hostile work environment if the company fails to take steps to stop the misconduct.

Should I report harassment to my employer?

This depends on your situation. If you are experiencing hostile work environment harassment, you must report the issue to your employer, as they must have the chance to take action to stop the conduct before liability arises. Your employer should have policies regarding how to report sexual harassment, and the law prohibits your employer from retaliating against you for reporting such conduct.

If you experience quid pro quo harassment, the situation can become more complicated. The person to whom you might report the harassment might be the harasser. If you are not comfortable reporting sexual advances by an authority figure to your employer, you should speak directly with a sexual harassment attorney.

What is unlawful retaliation for sexual harassment?

Unlawful retaliation refers to any adverse action by an employer in response to you complaining of possible sexual harassment. Retaliation does not have to mean you are fired, and the following are forms of retaliation:

  • Discipline
  • Poor performance reviews
  • Demotion or denial of a promotion
  • Denial of deserved pay raises
  • Denial of benefits
  • Undesirable transfers
  • Loss of hours or shifts
  • Termination

Anyone who believes they have been the victims of harassment or retaliation should consult with an employment lawyer right away.

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