Even in the era of the #MeToo movement, a recent study by the EEOC shows that nearly 75% of people who experience workplace harassment fail to bring it up with a manager, supervisor, or union representative. This hesitancy can be attributed to fear of workplace retaliation (also unlawful) as well as lack of clarity about what type of actions qualify as sexual harassment.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Both California and federal law prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which applies to employers with 15 or more employees), there are two main types of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo harassment – occurs when a supervisor’s request for sexual favors or other sexual conduct results in a definite job action. For example: “I’ll give you the promotion if you date me.”
- Hostile work environment – occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature that is so severe or pervasive as to alter the employee’s working conditions or create an abusive work environment.
The hostile work environment is typically the most common, and subtle, form of workplace harassment. It might look like suggestive late-night texts or images, unsolicited sexually-charged comments, or invitations to dinner meetings that turn into dates. These days, sexual harassment is just as likely to happen through emails, social media, or other venues outside of the office.
If You Are the Victim of Sexual Harassment
If you believe you are being sexually harassed at work, you will want to review your employee handbook for guidelines on how to report this unlawful behavior. Often, you will be asked to report the behavior to a supervisor or human resources professional. Be sure to follow all company protocols dealing with sexual harassment (and document everything to show that you took every action the company recommended). At each step, if you don’t get the proper response from management, continue escalating the complaint up the chain of command. At some point, and this point varies from person to person, you will want to reach out to an experienced employment attorney to discuss your legal rights.
If you have questions about your rights as an employee in California, schedule a call with an employment lawyer at our law firm today. Whether you have been the victim of harassment, discrimination, or other civil rights matters we are here to help. The attorneys at Webb Law Group, APC have a record of success when dealing with litigation of civil rights and employment law disputes.