Sexual harassment at work has made many headlines due to social movements in recent years. While we might have an idea of the ongoing problem of sexual harassment, many people might not realize that each harassed employee has a unique experience, and that sexual harassment can take many forms. The following are some examples of how sexual harassment can happen in California workplaces.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
One type of sexual harassment that immediately comes to mind when you think of this conduct in the workplace is called quid pro quo harassment. This takes place between a harasser who has authority over the job of the person being harassed and involves the victim’s job being put on the line after the harasser requests sexual conduct or favors.
Examples of quid pro quo harassment include:
- The owner of a small company promises to promote an employee if they engage in sexual conduct
- A boss at a large corporation gives a subordinate employee a pay raise for engaging in sexual conduct
- A scheduling manager reduces an employee’s hours because they refused sexual advances
- A boss fires an employee for not engaging in sexual conduct
When this type of sexual harassment occurs, an employer is automatically liable for the harm caused, whether the company knew about the conduct or not.
Hostile Work Environment
Sexual harassment does not have to come from a boss or someone with authority, as it can also stem from coworkers, clients, or others associated with the employer. When offensive conduct based on a person’s sex creates a hostile work environment for one or more employees, it rises to the level of unlawful harassment. Employees should report the offensive conduct to their employer, and if the employer does not stop the conduct, it should be held accountable for allowing a hostile work environment.
Hostile work environments can arise in many contexts, and sexual harassment does not always happen between a male harasser and a female victim. Instead, harassment can be based on many factors protected under the law under “sex discrimination:”
- Sexual orientation
- Sex and gender nonconformity
- Gender expression or identity
- Pregnancy or related issues
A female employee might harass a male employee and make inappropriate sexual advances. A group of male employees might say offensive things regarding a male employee’s more feminine clothing choices. Someone might make threats against an LGBTQ employee. A manager might be demeaning to a pregnant employee and call her “fat” or other insulting terms during her pregnancy.
As you can see, harassment based on sex and gender does not always have to relate to sexual intercourse, though it often does. If you believe that you suffered any type of sexual harassment at work, you have important legal rights, and you should exercise them.
A sexual harassment lawyer in California can help you determine the best course of action to hold your employer accountable for your losses. Such losses can include lost wages, emotional distress, and more, especially if the harassment caused you to quit or lose your job.