Though the topic of sexual harassment has gotten much more attention is recent years, many are confused as to what exactly constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. How do you recognize it when it happens, and what can you do about it? Below, we discuss some examples of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as how new California legislation can help protect your rights. To learn more about harassment claims, contact a Los Angeles employment law attorney at Rubin Law Corporation today.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
While sexual harassment can create a hostile work environment, it is not the only cause. Hostile work environments exist wherever one or more employees from a protected class feel intimidated, attacked, or degraded. Sexual harassment is a form of that, where an employee experiences intimidation or degradation based on vulgar sexual comments or unwanted sexual advances. This can include any unwanted physical or verbal behavior that creates an uncomfortable workplace for employees. Examples include the following:
- Repeated unwanted sexual advances;
- Sharing pornography or sexually charged materials in a workplace setting;
- Sending suggestive emails or other written communication to employees;
- Telling lewd jokes or sharing sexual stories;
- Making sexual comments on an employee’s body;
- Inappropriate physical contact with an employee;
- Asking questions concerning an employee’s sex life; and
- Making offensive jokes about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
It’s important to understand two things. Firstly, anyone can be the target of sexual harassment — not just women. Secondly, sexually explicit comments do not necessarily need to be targeted at a specific individual in order for that individual to file a complaint. If you are the recipient of inappropriate behavior you have a right to request that it stops.
What Do You Need to Show to File a Successful Claim?
In order to file a successful claim against your employer based on a theory of a hostile work environment, you will need to show that the behavior was repeated. The easiest way to do this is to file a complaint with a supervisor or your HR department. If the behavior persists even after the complaint has been filed, you have a very strong case. You must be able to show that your employer:
- Knew that the sexual harassment was taking place, or
- Should have known that it was taking place.
In addition, cases in which it is the supervisor who is doing the harassing have strict liability. Strict liability means that you, as an employee, do not need to show that the behavior was either repeated or pervasive in order to make your case against the employer. If the person doing the harassing is a supervisor, Gov. Code Section 12940(j)(1) makes the employer strictly liable. The law requires those in supervisory positions to conduct themselves in accord with California regulations concerning sexual harassment. The law also requires them to have the necessary training to avoid such situations.
New California Legislation Protects Workers From Sexual Harassment
California has recently enacted new legislation to protect California employees from workplace sexual harassment. These laws took place as of January 1st, 2019. The law requires that all employers with five or more employees assign anyone in a supervisory position at least two hours of sexual harassment training with at least one hour of training to employees who are not in a supervisory position. The law also extends how much time a victim of sexual assault or harassment has to file a lawsuit against their employer. In addition, the law limits an employer’s ability to collect legal fees when a lawsuit is not successful. The law also lowered the burden of proof on the employee to show that the conduct detrimentally affected their ability to work.
Most importantly, the new legislation prevents an employer from restricting an employee’s right to file a lawsuit under FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act).
Talk to a Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Attorney
It’s important for employees to understand what qualifies as sexual harassment in the workplace. California’s strict laws in the wake of the #MeToo movement have made bringing such actions against employers a bit easier. If you believe that you were the victim of some of the examples of sexual harassment in the workplace listed above, contact Rubin Law Corporation today.