In today’s modern era we often make the mistake of assuming that the workplace is devoid of harassment and abuse. But harassment does happen with one of the most common types of harassment in the workplace being sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is not only offensive. It is degrading, humiliating, and those who take the right measures to protect themselves from it often face retaliation and further discrimination. This type of treatment is not okay which is why as at the Azadian Law Group, PC have made it our mission to fight against sexual harassment and to secure maximum recovery for anyone who has been sexual harassed in the workplace.
California laws also provides for strict liability on the part of the employer for such harassment by a supervisor. See Myers v. Trendwest Resorts, Inc., 148 Cal. App. 4th 1403, 1419 (2007). This means that the employer is liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor. However, an employer is only liable for sexual harassment by a co-worker if the employee bring the harassment to the attention of the employer. See Carrisales v. Dep’t of Corr., 21 Cal. 4th 1132, 1135 (1999) (“Harassment of an employee…by an employee other than an agent or supervisor…shall be unlawful if the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate action.”). In this regard, California Government Code Section 12940(k) makes it unlawful for an employer to “fail to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.”
What Sexual Harassment Looks Like
Sexually harassment is something which is typically directed towards women, but men can also be targeted victims. California employment law provides that harassment includes but is not limited to: verbal harassment, e.g., epithets, derogatory comments or slurs on; physical harassment, e.g., assault, impeding or blocking movement, or any physical interference with normal work or movement; visual forms of harassment, e.g., derogatory posters, cartoons, or drawings; or sexual favors, e.g., unwanted sexual advances, which condition an employment benefit upon an exchange of sexual favor. See Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 2, section 11019(b)(1)
There are five common types of sexual harassment which individuals may face today:
1. Threatening Behavior
This is when an individual is threatened or is offered a reward (such as a raise or a promotion) in return for a sexual favor. Threats may be direct or implied, often in the form of a proposition, and in a way which makes it clear to the victim that he or she will be jeopardized if he or she does not comply with the abuser’s request.
2. Physical Harassment
Physical harassment is any time an individual is touched unwillingly. This may include:
- Touching a person’s clothing
- Touching a person’s hair
- Touching a person’s body
- Kissing a person
- Hugging a person
- Patting and stroking
- Massaging the neck and shoulders
- Brushing up against or standing too close to a person
3. Verbal Harassment
This may be from someone who works within the firm or someone who does business with the company or the firm. Some examples include referring to someone as “honey”, “babe”, “stud”, or whistling at a person.
It also includes turning workplace discussions into sexual discussions, and asking personal questions which are of a sexual nature. Sexual comments about the appearance, anatomy and clothing of a person, as well as repeatedly asking someone for a date and refusing to take “no” for an answer, are considered to be verbal harassment.
4. Non-Verbal Harassment
Non-verbal harassment can take on many forms, including:
- Prolonged staring or leering
- Gifting unwanted personal gifts
- Making sexual gestures towards someone
5. Environmental Harassment
Displays such as suggestive pictures of objects which are put up throughout the workplace and offense people may fall under the environmental harassment umbrella. These items will depict men or women as sexual objects.
Informal Vs. Formal Options For Handling Sexual Harassment
Those who are victims of sexual harassment can take a number of routes to remedy the situation.
There are a couple of informal options you may want to take to diffuse the sexual harassment before taking more serious steps:
Talk to the Offender
If you feel comfortable enough, bring it up to the offender that their behavior or images are offensive and that they are making you uncomfortable. In some instances an individual may be unaware that his or her behavior or material is offensive to others. Make sure that your approach is polite but firm.
Review Your Employee Handbook
Many workplaces will have an employee handbook which will outline how an employee should handle issues such as sexual harassment. Follow these steps and make sure you follow up to ensure that action is being taken and that the issue is going to be rectified.
Chat with Your Superior
Have a talk with your supervisor or manager and express your concerns. He or she will be able to step in and make sure that the workplace is comfortable and lawful for you and everyone else in it.
There are also formal options which you can take if the informal options do not work, or if you feel uncomfortable taking any of them:
Make A Formal Complaint With Human Resources
Your company’s human resources department will investigate the matter on your behalf and will determine what further action will be taken as necessary.
Hire An Attorney
Hiring an attorney is another substantial way to make sure that your rights are upheld and that your job is not negatively influenced by the sexual harassment.
How an Attorney Helps You Protect Yourself in a Sexual Harassment Case
If you believe that you are being sexually harassed at work, there are a number of ways an employment lawyer at the Azadian Law Group, PC can help.
- Document, document, document. Our attorneys will advise you what to write down and retain copies as evidence of harassment with your employer
- Mentally prepare you to deal with your harasser. Dealing with a harasser is both physically and emotionally draining. The Azadian Law Group, PC will give you the tools you need to effectively manage your abuser while maintaining your health and well being
- Advise you how to report future harassment. Our attorneys will help you report any further harassment in a productive way
- Monitor your employer’s response. We will make sure that your employer does not retaliate against you and negatively affect your employment in any way
Additional Reasons to Hire an Attorney
Our employment attorneys do more than help you prove your sexual harassment case. We are available throughout the entire investigation process and will explore all avenues to make sure that you are compensated for your discomforted and potential losses, such as a wage increase or a promotion.
Another reason why employees hire us is to protect themselves from retaliation. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment, but having an attorney in your corner is more than often enough to make sure that retaliation of any kind and in any form does not occur.
If you believe that you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, we want to hear from you. The Azadian Law Group, PC serves the greater Los Angeles area and offers free consultations to anyone who is a victim of sexual harassment. To speak to one of our knowledgeable sexual harassment attorneys today, please call (626) 449-4944 or (213) 229-9031.