Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in California is still common in the workplace and unfortunately much of it goes unreported and not dealt with. This allows employers and supervisors to continue to sexually harass and expose additional victims to future sexual harassment and harm. In California, protections for sexual harassment are broad as almost anyone can be held liable for sexual harassment at work: men could sexually harass women, women can sexually harass men, and members of the same gender may also be guilty of sexual harassment. There are two types of sexual harassment recognized by law in California, hostile work environment and quid pro quo.


Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

The first kind of sexual harassment in California, known as hostile work environment sexual harassment, is the most common. A workplace is considered to be hostile when the harassment is severe or pervasive to alter conditions of the victim’s employment.

All the circumstances are considered when determining if the harassing behavior creates a hostile or abusive work environment. For example, the nature and severity of the harassing conduct, how often, and over what period of time the conduct took place, and the circumstances surrounding the harassment. The harassment is also examined from both an objective standard (would the average reasonable person find the conduct to be hostile) and from a subjective standard (does the person being harassed reasonably believes the conduct to be hostile). However, if the harassing behavior is only occasional, isolated, or trivial, it does not create a hostile work environment.

In order to prove hostile work environment sexual harassment (and all other types of harassment in California) the employee (plaintiff) must prove all of the following:

  1. the employee was subjected to unwelcomesexual advances, conduct, or comments
  2. the harassment was based on sex
  3. the harassment was so severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of the victim’s employmentand created an abusive working environment.
  4. the employer had actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) about the harassment

Sexual harassment could be in the form of any of the following:

  1. Verbal Harassment, such as obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, or threats, and other forms of verbal harassment (can be in text messages, emails, or chat conversations)
  2. PhysicalHarassment, such as unwanted touching, assault, or physical interference with normal work or movement
  3. Visual harassment, such as offensive posters, objects, cartoons, drawings (could include inappropriate e-mails and texts)

Quid Quo Pro Sexual Harassment

The other kind of sexual harassment is “quid pro quo”, or this-for-that. In this scenario, the employer or supervisor makes a promise for a job benefit or makes job-related threat that is contingent on a request for a sexual favor.  In other words, the employer incentivizes or threatens the employee to perform a sexual favor in exchange for keeping a job, getting a raise, or being promoted.  In order to prove quid pro quo sexual harassment in California, the employee (plaintiff) must prove all of the following:

  1. The harasser (employer/supervisor) made unwanted sexual advances to the employee or engaged in other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
  2. That job benefits were conditioned, by words or conduct, on the employee’s acceptance of the harasser’s sexual advances or conduct; or that employment decisions affecting the employee were made based on his/her acceptance or rejection of the harasser’s sexual advances or conduct
  3. That at the time of the conduct, the harasser was a supervisor or agent for the employer
  4. That the employee was harmed
  5. That the harasser’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the employee’s harm

Other Types of Employment Harassment

The laws protecting employees in California from workplace harassment are not only limited to sexual harassment, but also protect employee from any kind of harassment at work that creates a hostile work environment because of employees’ protected status:

  • Sex / Gender
  • Race / Color
  • Age (40+)
  • Disability (mental / physical / a medical condition)
  • National Origin / Ancestry
  • Marital status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Military & Veteran Status

In order to prove workplace harassment in California, the employee (plaintiff) must prove all of the following:

  1.     That the employee was subjected to unwanted harassing conduct because he/she is a member of, or associated with, a protected status (e.g., sex, gender, age, race, etc.)
  2.     That the harassing conduct was so severe, widespread, or persistent that a reasonable person in the employee’s shoes would have considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive
  3.     That the employee considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive
  4.     That employer participated in the harassing conduct (or assisted or encouraged it)
  5.     That the employee was harmed
  6.     That the conduct was a substantial factor in causing the employee’s harm

The same standards governing sexual harassment the govern other types of workplace harassment in California as well.

If you are being called names because of your age, and you are over 40, or if you are being made fun of because of a disability or a medical condition, you are being harassed at work and could get money compensation. DBY Law will work aggressively towards finding all the facts and achieving the best results possible to get you what you deserve. Sexual harassment and other types of harassment at the workplace will not likely stop until employers are brought to justice and pay harassed employees what they deserve under the law. Let DBY Law help you stand up to your and be your voice in dealing with your harassment claim. Call the firm at (213) 316-8844 today for a free consultation.