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What Is Considered Sexual Harassment in California? 7 Workplace Sexual Harassment Examples You Should Know

What Is Considered Sexual Harassment in California? 7 Workplace Sexual Harassment Examples You Should Know

Did you know that roughly 38% of women and 10% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work? Unfortunately, a good number of people don’t know for sure what sexual harassment is. This is partly why so many cases go unreported.

However, workplace sexual harassment is against California law and can adversely affect the victim. To recognize this kind of behavior, you need to know what constitutes sexual harassment. A few sexual harassment examples will help you to understand this form of misconduct better.

Here’s what you should know about California’s sexual harassment law.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Simply put, sexual harassment is defined as inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature. These unwelcome sexual actions are usually humiliating, intimidating, and offensive, effectively creating a hostile working environment. Sexual harassment can take many forms—physical, verbal, displayed, or written.

There are two main types of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Quid pro quo — A supervisor requests sexual favors in exchange for promotions, raises, or other perks, such as business trips and vacations.
  • Hostile work environment — A supervisor is aware that harassment has occurred and does nothing—or not enough—to correct the issue. Alternatively, the sexual harassment is so severe that the victim does not feel safe returning to work.

7 Sexual Harassment Examples You Should Know

Sexual harassment knows no gender and can be perpetrated by anyone in the workplace. To protect yourself against this type of harassment and take appropriate action if you are the target of inappropriate sexual conduct, you need to know how to recognize it.

Examples of sexual harassment are highlighted below.

Inappropriate Physical Contact

Physical inappropriate behavior includes touching, kissing, rubbing, pinching, or grabbing someone without their consent. When the touching consists of sexual acts, it can make the victim uncomfortable. As such, it may be considered sexual harassment.

Sexually Derogatory Remarks

Insulting comments and vulgar jokes directed at an individual or a group of employees can be considered sexual harassment. Derogatory remarks also include discriminatory comments about an employee’s body, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Inappropriate Sexual Propositions

Repeated, offensive, and unwelcome sexual advances may constitute sexual harassment. The propositions could be written, via phone, or in person. They include repeated proposals for dates or sex despite being turned down, requests for sexual favors, and following a colleague home.

Sharing Sexually Offensive Materials Without Consent

Creating and circulating sexually offensive materials in a workplace setting can be construed as sexual harassment. Inappropriate actions include displaying images and videos that feature nudity and other sexually explicit content.

Sending suggestive written content such as emails, text messages, letters, and notes can also amount to harassment. Sharing stories about sexual experiences and asking intrusive questions about an employee’s sex life may also be offensive.

Favoritism and Unequal Treatment

Unequal treatment on account of gender is one of the most common forms of sexual harassment at work.

When individuals reject sexual advances from their bosses or colleagues, they may be subjected to unfair treatment or retaliation. Such treatment includes earning lower wages than colleagues who do the same job, being overlooked when it comes to promotions, and being denied opportunities to receive training.

Unsuitable Sexual Gestures

Sexually offensive gestures and facial expressions made privately or in front of colleagues may be considered rude. Some distasteful gestures that can constitute sexual harassment include suggestive body movements, unsuitable sexual sounds, and persistent leering and staring. Certain gestures made using the lips, face, or tongue can also be obscene.

Attempted Rape or Rape

In extreme cases, a perpetrator of sexual harassment may attempt to or carry out sexual actions against the victim’s will. Once this occurs, it is no longer harassment but sexual assault. Both rape and sexual assault are serious crimes that attract a heavy penalty, and a skilled attorney will seek maximum punishment.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many more things that constitute unlawful sexual harassment. If you have experienced something that made you uncomfortable, but you are unsure if it is unlawful sexual harassment, seek legal advice from a sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible.

Are You a Victim of Any of These Sexual Harassment Examples?

Workplace harassment is a serious problem, and under The Fair Employment and Housing Act, you have a right to work in an environment free of harassment. When faced with such a situation, you may not know exactly what to do.

Below are the steps to take to protect yourself and your interests before speaking to a sexual harassment lawyer:

  • Document everything. Be sure to note the date, time, and location of the incident. Also, keep a record of what happened and what was said.
  • Make it clear it is unwelcome. If you feel safe doing so, make it clear to the perpetrator that their behavior is undesirable and ask them to stop. If you do not feel safe, enlist the help of a trusted colleague or supervisor.
  • Report the harassment to management. Report the sexual harassment to the correct person. This should be done both verbally and in writing.
  • Keep track of what is said to you. Take note of and document any comments and different treatment you may be subjected to after reporting harassment.
  • File a complaint. File a formal sexual harassment complaint with the appropriate federal or state agency.
  • Consult with a lawyer. Once you’ve completed these steps, speak with a lawyer. An experienced employment law attorney will ensure the process is handled correctly.

With these sexual harassment examples, you will be better able to determine if what you have undergone amounts to illegal sexual harassment. To ensure that your complaint to your supervisor is not ignored, consider talking to one of our seasoned sexual harassment lawyers.

Your lawyer will help you determine if you have a California sexual harassment case, ensure your rights are protected and see to it that disciplinary action is taken against your harasser. If needed, they will help you file a sexual harassment lawsuit to help you seek justice.

Schedule a free, confidential consultation with Malk Law Firm today.

Author Bio

Michael Malk is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Malk Law Firm, a Seattle employee rights law firm he started in 2007. With more than 20 years of experience practicing law, he has dedicated his career to representing clients throughout California and Washington in a wide range of legal areas, including unpaid wages, sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and other employee rights matters.

Michael received his Juris Doctor from the University of California— Davis School of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of Washington, and the American Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named as one of the “Top Attorneys in Southern California” by Los Angeles Magazine in 2018 and being selected as a Super Lawyer for six consecutive years.

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