The basics of sexual harassment in California employment law

Sexual harassment remains a problem in many California workplaces even though there is greater focus on recognizing and putting a stop to it. Unfortunately, some people and workplaces do not care or do not act when there is unacceptable and illegal behavior happening. Despite that reality, there are alternatives to people who are being subjected to sexual harassment.

In some cases, people do not even realize certain factors about these behaviors. For example, it does not necessarily have to be a male harassing a female. The harassment can come in any combination such as female to male, male to male, and everything in between. A fundamental need before bringing a case against a person who is committing sexual harassment is understanding what it can entail.

According to state law, sexual harassment can be unwanted sexual advances, visual, verbal and physical contact that is deemed sexual. There are numerous behaviors that will fall into this category and it does not have to be limited to touching or verbal acts. Making sexual gestures, showing objects with sexual implications, photographs and cartoons can be considered visual sexual harassment. A person witnessing these behaviors being perpetrated against another person can complain about sexual harassment. Verbal harassment can consist of comments, jokes, slurs, abusive statements based on sex, comments about another person's body, or sexually degrading statements.

Physical contact such as touching, assaulting, blocking and impeding falls into this category. Offering benefits at the workplace in exchange for sexual favors is sexual harassment. Finally, threatening to retaliate or make negative assessments about the work a person is doing if the sexual advances are not responded to positively is also sexual harassment. People who have been confronted with these types of employment law violations should be aware of their rights to seek compensation in a legal filing. Discussing the case with an attorney experienced with sexual harassment cases is essential to pursuing litigation.

Source: dfeh.gov, "Sexual harassment FAQs -- What is sexual harassment?," accessed on July 11, 2017