Two Types of Sexual Harassment Claims

Sexual harassment happens in workplaces throughout California every day, despite clear laws prohibiting such conduct. Each person has a different experience when it comes to harassment, but workplace sexual harassment generally falls into one of two types of claims: hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment.

Read on to learn more about each type of claim. If you believe you have experienced this type of unlawful conduct, speak with a workplace sexual harassment attorney immediately.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment is one that is created by sexually offensive conduct by someone at work. It could be a coworker, supervisor, client, or someone else associated with your work environment.

Conduct that can create a hostile work environment includes:

  • Jokes or comments of a sexual nature
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Inquiries into your sex life or preferences
  • Sexually inappropriate messages or emails
  • Displaying or sharing sexually inappropriate photos or materials
  • Unwanted touching
  • Cornering
  • Comments about your body or clothing in a sexual manner

It is important to note that one or two instances of comments or similar conduct will not constitute a hostile work environment. Instead, the conduct must be ongoing and pervasive enough that a reasonable employee would not endure it. The exception is when conduct is so offensive or serious that it immediately creates a hostile work environment the first time, such as sexual assault or other intimidating moves.

If you believe you are working in a hostile work environment, you must notify your employer of the problem. If the person you would normally notify is your harasser, speak with a sexual harassment lawyer about your best course of action. If you report the issue and your employer does not adequately resolve the problem, consult with an attorney about your next steps. This can include filing a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

The second type of sexual harassment claim has several differences from a hostile work environment claim. This type of harassment must:

  • Involve a boss, manager, owner, or someone with authority over your job
  • Base conditions of your job on whether you will engage in sexual conduct with the authority figure

This situation can happen in different ways. Sometimes, a boss will threaten to terminate you, deny a promotion, or take away other job benefits if you refuse to engage in sexual conduct. On the other hand, they might promise you a pay increase, promotion, or other benefits or perks if you agree to engage in sexual conduct. Either way, this is a serious form of sexual harassment that is not tolerated under California law.

Even if you engage in the conduct and accept a job benefit, this is still unlawful quid pro quo harassment. The law takes this type of claim so seriously that you are not required to notify your employer and give them a chance to rectify the situation. Instead, if this happens to you, the law gives you the right to file a complaint with the state immediately. Never wait to speak with a California workplace sexual harassment lawyer about a possible case.

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