Sexual Harassment: A Form of Discrimination on the Basis of One’s Sex

sexual harassment

Some California workplaces are no stranger to incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. In fact, this employment issue is very common, with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statistics showing that around 2,000 cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are filed every year in the state. This form of sex discrimination is prohibited under the federal and state employment and labor laws, but not all employers are aware of it. Sexual harassment lawyers in California, however, continuously advise victims to assert their rights by seeking immediate legal assistance.

As it is, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is described as an unwelcome conduct or action of sexual nature done to an employee or applicant in any aspect of his or her employment. However, certain sexual harassment acts may not necessarily be sexual in nature. For instance, it is already considered sexual harassment if a supervisor makes a stereotypical comment or remark towards a female employee.

An employer may face charges of sexual harassment if the following elements are present:

  • The sexual conduct or act is pervasive or severe;
  • The sexual conduct creates a hostile or offensive working environment; and
  • The offensive working environment results in an adverse employment decision that would affect the victim, such as demotion, suspension, or termination. 

Cases of sexual harassment in California don’t always involve the manager, supervisor, or any immediate superior. They could also involve a co-worker, or even a non-employee. Also, victim and the harasser may be a man or a woman; however, it doesn’t mean an employee is sexually harassed by the opposite sex. Even the harasser is of the same sex as the victim. If the acts of sexual harassment become frequent to the point that they create a hostile working environment, even other people who are not directly involved can also be affected by the offensive conduct.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is usually verbal, physical, or visual in nature. It is said to be verbal if the harassment involves saying jokes, making comments, and name-calling, and is usually sexual in nature. This type includes making repeated sexual innuendos, as well as remarking on someone’s outfit. It is said to be physical if the harassment involves making unwelcome physical contact on the victim by the harasser. This type includes stroking, groping, or touching. It is considered visual harassment if the harasser displays material, either in digital or print format, that is sexual in nature, from photos, emails, to letters.

Laws against workplace sexual harassment

Federal and state employment and labor laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. These include the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). These two laws may have its differences, but they similarly provide employee protections against sexual harassment, as well as in other forms of discrimination.

What you need to do in case you were sexually harassed?

Being sexually harassed in the workplace is an experience that is truly degrading.  However, you must know that the law is on your side, given the two existing laws that prevent this form of sex discrimination. You can always seek legal assistance from employment agencies such as the EEOC, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Act (DFEH), or with the legal expertise of best sexual harassment lawyers in Los Angeles.