When an individual accepts a job offer, the last thing they think about is whether or not they are going to be sexually harassed at work. It is normal for individuals to be concerned about work-related issues, including:
- Promotions; and
- Whether they will receive healthcare.
These issues are normal to worry about. However, sexual harassment should not be part of the list of concerns an individual has.
If sexual harassment does occur at an individual’s workplace, they may be required to take legal action in order to protect themselves. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides that sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination which includes:
- Unwelcome sexual advances;
- Requests for sexual favors; and
- Various other verbal or physical actions which are of a sexual nature.
All of these are considered illegal. In addition, sexual harassment may also refer to any offensive comments or remarks which are made regarding an individual’s gender, although this type of behavior is typically associated with gender discrimination.
When sexual harassment occurs in an employment setting, it is also considered to be a form of employment discrimination. The offensive conduct may occur either between a supervisor and an employee, or between two co-workers at the office.
There are two main categories of sexual harassment claims in the workplace, quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Regardless of the relationship of the parties involved or how the sexual harassment is categorized, any individual of any gender can experience sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment may occur between parties of the same sex or parties of a different sex. One of the key factors in determining whether an action is sexual harassment is the nature of the harassing party or parties’ conduct.
What are Some of the Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
As previously noted, there are two main categories of sexual harassment claims which may occur in a workplace setting. One example of quid pro quo sexual harassment would occur when a supervisor, or another employee of higher rank, requests that a lower-ranked employee perform some type of sexual favor.
In exchange, the supervisor promises the employee that they will receive some type of work benefit or perk, including extra pay or a promotion. A second example of hostile work environment” sexual harassment would occur when an individual makes threats or repeated sexual advances towards and employee, making that employee so uncomfortable that it impacts the employee’s work performance or attendance.
The main distinction between the two categories of workplace sexual harassment is that quid pro quo requires the involvement of a higher-ranking employee than the individual who is being harassed, while the hostile work environment category focuses more on the offensive conduct rather than who is committing in.
In certain cases, the victim may actually experience both categories of sexual harassment at the same time. A third category which may also be considered workplace sexual harassment is known as non-direct sexual harassment.
This type of harassment may occur in the above scenarios, but it affects an individual who is not the original intended victim of the harassment. For example, if a bystander witnesses a co-worker being sexual harassed or is offended by overhearing the constant dirty remarks of jokes, the individual may have a claim for non-direct sexual harassment.
In certain cases, the behavior may qualify as direct sexual harassment, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case.
What is Job Favoritism Sexual Harassment in California?
There was a recent court case in California which has modified California laws that govern sexual affairs in the office. In this case, the court upheld the sexual harassment claim of two female employees based upon their manager’s alleged favoritism towards employees with whom he was engaging in sexual relations.
What Was the Situation Involved in This Case?
This case concerned former female employees of the Valley State Prison for Women located in Chowchilla. These employees filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the warden.
The warden was allegedly involved in sexual relationships with at least three female employees at the same time and had promoted all of them based upon their sexual relationships. The two former employees argued that the widespread favoritism from the warden that was based upon these consensual sexual affairs created a workplace atmosphere which was demeaning to them.
The women argued that the actions of the warden conveyed the idea that he viewed women as sexual playthings and the only way for them to move up in their employment was to become sexually involved with the warden.
What Was the Outcome?
A lower California court ruled against the female employees and noted that they were not subjected to sexual advances and that they were not treated any differently that the employees who were male.
The California Supreme Court, however, overturned the decision of the lower court in favor of the female employees.
What is the Impact of This Case on California Law?
Typically, an isolated instance of favoritism on the part of a supervisor towards a female employee which whom the supervisor is having a consensual sexual affair would not rise to the level of sexual harassment. Following this case, however, a supervisor who has affairs with numerous subordinate employees may be held liable for creating a work environment which constitutes sexual harassment even for employees who are not involved.
This means that an employee may be a victim of sexual harassment even if their boss never requested sexual favors of never made inappropriate sexual advances towards the employee. It is important to note that employers will not be liable for a manager’s sexual favoritism unless the favoritism is so widespread that it created an atmosphere in which other employees feel that the only way in which to secure employment advancements is to engage in sexual conduct with superior employees.
How Can I File a Sexual Harassment Complaint?
There are several ways which an employee may be able to file a sexual harassment complaint. Prior to filing, if an employee feels safe doing so, they should first speak with the offender and explain that their behavior is offensive and if they do not comply with the request to cease, it will be used as evidence to prove that they were aware their actions offended the victim.
Prior to filing a complaint, a victim should document and collect evidence regarding incidents of harassment. This may be done by recording an event, finding a third party witness, and informing their supervisor.
If the behavior does not stop, the victim’s next step is to file a report with the human resources department. If the company’s human resources department is ineffective or does not exist, the victim may file with a government agency, such as the EEOC.
The EEOC will conduct an investigation and determine if sexual harassment occurred. The remedies which may be suggested include requiring the employer to change their company policies.
A victim will typically only be able to file a lawsuit after all of these steps are taken. If the remedies suggested by the EEOC are not sufficient, they may provide a right to sue letter.
If an individual has reached this type, they may contact an attorney for advice on how to proceed with their claim. There may be different processes in each state for making a claim.
Should I Consult an Attorney about My Sexual Harassment Issue?
It is essential to consult with a California sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible for any sexual harassment issues, questions, or concerns you may have. Sexual harassment cases may be difficult to investigate and prove.
In addition, there are deadlines which must be met in order to file a claim. Your attorney can review your case, determine if sexual harassment occurred in your workplace, and advise you regarding the options available in your state.