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Understanding Workplace Sexual Harassment: What You Need to Know

Sep 28, 2023 | Employment

Despite all of the laws created and implemented to prevent workplace sexual harassment from occuring, it is a pervasive issue that still takes place every single day. It is not only unjust to the victims, but it is illegal. Unfortunately, employers and coworkers alike break these protective laws continually, and worse – they get away with it. Far too often people are afraid to come forward when they’ve been sexually harassed in their workplace out of fear of retaliation from their superiors, or that no one will believe them. If you’re the victim of workplace sexual harassment, you deserve to be compensated for what you’ve endured. In this blog we’ll discuss the complexities that surround sexual harassment, as well as additional aspects that are important for you to understand, including the different types of harassment, the legal framework, the signs, reporting the harassment, and more. 

Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

There are several types of sexual harassment that can take place at your job. It’s important to note that none of these different types are worse or better than another. All forms of sexual harassment are wrong and unlawful no matter the degree or the location. 

  • Verbal sexual harassment is a non-physical form of harssment that can include non-wanted and uninvited sexual comments or jokes either in person, over the phone, through text-message, over email, and more. 

Examples: comments or jokes about one’s body or sexual orientation, requests for sexual favors, threats or intimidation in order to receive sexual favors, etc.

  • Non-verbal sexual harassment doesn’t involve verbal communication, but is related to suggestive gestures, expressions, or more.

Examples: winking, making inappropriate motions or expressions, blowing kisses, obstructing a pathway or invading personal space, etc.

Examples: grabbing a person’s genitals, hugging, touching or kissing them without consent, caressing any part of them in a sexual way, cornering someone into a space they cannot get out of, one party forcing the other to touch them inappropriately, etc.

Legal Framework

In the realm of workplace sexual harassment, legal framework is necessary to protect victims and holding perpetrators accountable. There are numerous laws and regulations created in order to do just that. For example, Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act in the U.S. prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual harassment. 

Employers also have the responsibility of implementing measures to prevent sexual harassment, as well as address any claims or reports that suggest sexual harassment has taken place at work. In fact, the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits harassment based on a protected category against an employee. Additionally, an employer has to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory and nonsupervisory employees under The California Family Rights Act. 

Recognizing Sexual Harassment In Your Place Of Work

If you have been sexually harassed verbally, non-verbally, or physically in your place of work, you might be overwhelmed by the emotional implications such as fear, shame, or guilt. This isn’t fair and it’s not your fault. If you are unsure of whether or not you’re a victim of one of these things, it’s imperative that you’re familiar with some of the common signs and behaviors associated with workplace sexual harassment. Many times people see uncomfortability as their own issue, but in reality, if an employer or coworker is making you uncomfortable, there is likely something deeper going on.

If…

  • You feel uncomfortable
  • You’re receiving unwanted, inappropriate physical contact 
  • You’re asked for sexual favors 
  • You’re offered special treatment or a promotion if you agree to a sexual favor
  • You’re being treated differently based on your sex
  • You feel unsafe

…you should report the harassment to your supervisor. If they do not respond appropriately, or if the harassment was from them, you should contact The California Civil Rights Department. A complaint can be filed over the phone, online, or through mail. 

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws and offers resources on workplace harassment for California employees. The hotline, which is run by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing can be reached at 1-800-884-1684.They can offer you guidance regarding next steps for those facing workplace harassment. 

It’s normal to feel anxious about speaking up when it comes to sexual harassment in your workplace. You might be worried about what others might think or afraid of the outcome; however, it’s important that you know that if you’re being sexually harassed, or someone in your workplace is being sexually harassed and you’re aware of it, you’re guarded by the Whistleblower Protection Act. It offers protection to employees who report violations of laws, rules, or regulations by their employers. It also prohibits your employer from retaliating against you for being a whistleblower.

You are fully entitled to seeking legal recourse in the event that you are sexually harassed in your place of work. 

Your Emotional and Mental Well-Being Matters

In addition to seeking legal support, you should also consider support for your emotional and mental well-being, whether that’s confiding in a friend, speaking with a therapist, or calling a hotline for victims of sexual abuse. You can find additional resources at the California Department of Justice website.

How Equal Justice Law Group Can Help

If you’ve been sexually harassed in your workplace, we’re committed to standing up for you and fighting for your rights because we believe in equal justice for everyone. Even if you aren’t entirely sure you have a solid workplace harassment case, we can provide you with legal guidance, answer your questions, and investigate your case so that we can gather strong evidence to back up your claim. 

At Equal Justice Law Group, every client is of great importance, so you can trust us to use our knowledge and our 22+ years of practice to help you reach the best possible end result. Call today to schedule a Consultation with one of our workplace sexual harassment lawyers today and learn about your next steps. 

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