Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Harassment
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What are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a problem that affects many employees in California. Recent efforts, like the “Me Too Movement,” have brought to light the ongoing problems facing employees in California. Workplace harassment can take many forms. In California, there are two main types of unlawful workplace harassment: “Quid Pro Quo” and “Hostile Environment.”
What is the Difference Between Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment Harassment?
“Quid Pro Quo” workplace sexual harassment involves the subjection to sexual conduct linked to the granting or denial of job benefits. “Quid Pro Quo” means providing a favor or advances, with the expectation of something in return. An example of “Quid Pro Quo” harassment is a supervisor conditioning a pay raise on the employee providing sexual favors.
“Hostile Environment” workplace sexual harassment is where sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. An example of “Hostile Environment” harassment is where a coworker makes comments on another employee’s physical appearance or tells sexually inappropriate jokes, which creates a hostile or offensive work environment.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits both “Quid Pro Quo” harassment and “Hostile Environment” harassment. However, there are certain elements that you must prove to be successful in your workplace harassment lawsuit. Furthermore, there are defenses that employer’s assert to avoid liability for harassment committed by supervisors and nonsupervisory employees.
How The Hanrahan Firm Can Help You
The Hanrahan Firm has successfully litigated many sexual harassment claims against both large and small employers. Contact Attorney Corey Hanrahan today to receive a free consultation from a qualified San Diego employment attorney.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims
Attorney Corey Hanrahan has helped many employees all across Southern California pursue their rights for workplace sexual harassment. Contact The Hanrahan Firm to find out how we can help you with your sexual harassment lawsuit.
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Sexual Harassment FAQs
No. California law prohibits retaliation against employees who report unlawful employment practices, including unlawful harassment, or who file a claim for workplace harassment. You are also protected from retaliation for appearing as a witness in another employee’s unlawful harassment lawsuit.
No. No matter who is harassing whom, it can be sexual harassment under California law. Sexual harassment is verbal or physical conduct, regardless of the sex of the perpetrator. If the harassment is between two people of the same sex, the person who is being harassed must show that the harassment was based on his or her sex (not just the sexual desire, if any, of the harasser).
This could possibly be unlawful harassment, but it would depend on the specific facts. Some employers have responded to sexual harassment claims, or the threat of such claims, by enacting policies against dating or intimate relationships between co-workers (often referred to as “anti-fraternization policies”). While there is no law that requires such a policy, in most states there is no law that forbids such a policy. If a co-worker asks you out on a date, and you say no, the co-worker should not ask again. If the co-worker continues to make advances toward you, it may constitute unlawful harassment, even though a single, polite request probably will not.
Yes. Harassment claims are based on unwelcome conduct. If you have made it clear to your co-worker that you have no further romantic interest in him or her, any ongoing, unwelcome future sexual attention could be the basis for an actionable harassment claim. You must proactively make it very clear to your co-worker that the attention is unwelcome. If you do, your prior relationship will not excuse his or her harassment.
It depends on the nature of the comment. Telling an employee to dress more professionally is unlikely to be seen as unlawful harassment (unless the company implements a dress code only for employees of one sex). Frequently suggesting to an employee that she wear more revealing clothes as a way to impress the boss, however, could be seen as sexual harassment. Likewise, an innocuous compliment, such as “that’s a nice sweater,” would not be harassment; but if it were followed up with a sexual reference (“it really shows off your body”), that type of behavior would be inappropriate and may constitute sexual harassment.
Not necessarily. This is more akin to nepotism than unlawful harassment. Unfortunately, nepotism is not illegal. However, if the business condones an environment where sexual favors are required of employees who wish to receive promotions or other favorable treatment from supervisors, this could be viewed as harassment, and you may have a claim. But when a supervisor promotes his or her romantic partner in an isolated incident, that is usually not actionable under sexual harassment law.
It depends. If the employee’s computer screen is visible to anyone who passes, or if the employee draw others’ attention to what he has downloaded, his or her actions may constitute unlawful harassment. Furthermore, if he or she continues to download pornography after he or she has been told that others find it offensive, his or her conduct could be sexual harassment. It is important to remember that in order to qualify as unlawful harassment, the offensive conduct does not need to be directed at you.
Possibly. While one joke alone may not be harassment, it could be part of a hostile environment. In this situation, you need to remember that the question is whether a “reasonable person” would find the joke offensive.
It could be harassment. You should immediately report the problem to your employer and give your employer a chance to fix it (for example, making sure you don’t have to deal with this customer again, or discussing the issue with the customer directly). Your employer has a duty to take appropriate steps to stop known unlawful harassment – but your employer may not know that the customer’s conduct is unwelcome unless you tell them. Not only may it be considered harassment if your employer knew about it and did nothing to correct the problem, but your employer may be guilty of failing to prevent the harassment as well.
Yes. The harasser’s actions may be a crime, depending on the circumstances. If the workplace harassment consisted of a physical attack, criminal sexual conduct, stalking, threats or another crime, the harasser may face criminal penalties.