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.

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A Simple and Complete Guide about Harassment in the Workplace

workplace discrimination

As defined by a government website, harassment in any way is a form of discrimination. This practice is unlawful as stipulated in the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to this law, any unwelcome verbal or physical conduct against a person on the basis of one’s race, color, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability, sex (which includes same-gender harassment and gender identity harassment), sexual orientation, or retaliation is a form of harassment.

How Can One Say That He or She is harassed in the Workplace? 

One person can claim that he or she has suffered from harassment in the workplace if:

  • One person’s conduct is severe or pervasive enough to promote a hostile work environment; or
  • The harassing conduct of a supervisor causes a tangible change in an employee’s employment status or benefits. For example, one gets demoted, is deprived of a chance to get promoted, or worse, terminated from work. 

When does the work environment become hostile? 

In cases where a person’s unwelcome comments or conduct that are based on one’s race, color, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability, sex, and sexual orientation unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. This creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment that is not conducive for productivity and well being of the victim. Contrary to popular belief, anybody, not just the supervisors and officers of a company can commit this type of harassment. The culprit can be a high-ranking management officer, a simple co-worker, even non-employees like contractors, vendors, and guests of the company.

The victim likewise can be anybody that has been affected because of the said conduct, not just the individual whom the offensive conduct has been directed.

What are the actions or gesture that can create a hostile environment in the workplace? 

There are many things that one can do that constitute harassment and promote a hostile environment in a workplace. These include:

  • Leering (i.e. staring in a sexually suggestive manner)
  • Making offensive remarks about one’s looks, clothing, or mentioning body parts in a suggestive manner
  • Patting, pinching, or intentional brushing against an employee’s body in a way that they feel uncomfortable,
  • Delivery of sexual jokes, hanging and display of sexual posters, or making sexual gestures
  • Sending of letters, notes, e-mails, or images that are sexually suggestive 

However, harassment may not always be sexual in nature. There are non-sexual acts that constitute harassment such as:

  • Racist remarks and use of derogatory words, phrases, or epithets
  • The demonstration of gestures, pictures that are offensive or derogatory to one particular race or ethnic group
  • Making derogatory comments about one’s skin color, or characteristics about his or her race and ethnicity
  • Making fun of one’s gender even if it is not sexual in nature
  • Poking fun of one’s religious beliefs or the lack of it
  • Stereotyping one person based on his or her birthplace and ancestry
  • Age jokes especially with people aged 40 and over
  • Making fun of one’s mental or physical impairment 

More than committing the above-mentioned acts, actions that affects one’s employment status can also be considered as harassment. The hiring, firing, promotion, failure to promote, demotion, as well as disciplinary actions like suspension, sudden and undesirable assignment, the change or lessening of benefits, decisions about compensation and work assignment can also be a great indicator of harassment.

Protecting yourself from harassment 

Knowing what to do if you ever become a victim of discrimination is just half of the battle. To be able to protect yourself from being harassed in the workplace, you should know what and when harassment and discrimination happens. This way, you will be able to react properly and do the necessary actions to fight for your rights. Through proper education about harassment, people will be able to stay away and better fight harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Source Links: https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/understanding-workplace-harassment-fcc-staff