How does sexual harassment create a hostile work environment?

It seems as though each morning Californians wake up to accusations of sexual harassment against a newly named media personality or celebrity. From Academy winning actors to producers and directors, the entertainment industry has been turned on its head by claims of pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination.

The legal basis for prohibiting sex discrimination and harassment is rooted in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There are two main forms of sexual harassment that are recognized by the law, being quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. This post will focus on the latter of the two forms and will provide a general overview of what hostile work environment harassment entails.

When a person is subjected to unwelcome harassment in their workplace that is based on their sex and is so pervasive and severe that it creates an abusive environment, hostile work environment harassment may be to blame. Courts look at many factors to decide if a hostile work environment was created.

A court will assess whether the harassed party was subjected to verbal harassment, physical harassment or both. It will look at how often the harassment happened and if the harassment was perpetuated by a superior or supervisor of the victim. It will also consider if the harassment was lodged against other victims and if more than one person participated in the perpetuation of the harassment.

Sexual harassment perpetuated through hostile work environment is a serious legal matter. Individuals who have suffered this form of sex discrimination do not have to struggle with their abusers' attacks alone. As demonstrated by so many victims in entertainment and the media, the voice of a sexual harassment victim carries weight and can bring change in hostile work environments.