Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Every California employee deserves the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment. Too often, these acts impact an individual’s ability to function in a work environment successfully. Speak with a California sexual harassment in the workplace lawyer at The Senators Firm if you have experienced workplace sexual harassment.

Identifying Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an unlawful, discriminatory act violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The roles of victim and harasser are not confined to specific sexes. These acts committed by either sex become illegal when they occur frequently and create an adverse environment or offensive atmosphere, impacting employment for the victim and as it would any other reasonable person experiencing the same situation.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment is a type of sexual harassment that produces an antagonistic atmosphere in a workplace. An individual experiencing a hostile work environment does not have to be the specific target of harassment. However, the atmosphere created in a space has an impact on an employee’s ability to perform their duties effectively and may include behaviors such as:

  • Physical conduct that is unwanted and directed at others that is sexual in nature
  • Continually sharing sexual, explicit, or graphic comments and jokes
  • The display of inappropriate images, emails, or texts to co-workers or subordinates
  • The ongoing demeaning of a specific sex of individuals

Co-workers, clients, managers, and supervisors can create a hostile work environment by

committing any of these actions. Their position within the workplace can be lower or higher than the victim’s station.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo has Latin origins and is interpreted as this for that. Quid pro quo is a form of sexual harassment typically committed by an employee’s superior. The person promising, implying, or suggesting something must be able to directly affect whatever is being exchanged in return for a sexual favor, such as:

  • Promising a promotion or change of duty in exchange for sexual favors
  • Threatening termination when sexual advances are refused
  • Withholding bonuses, wage increases, or promotional opportunities until sexual acts have been consented to

Reporting this type of sexual harassment may be particularly challenging when the perpetrator is someone in power. It is often up to a supervisor or superior to address these issues in the workplace directly. It is recommended to speak with at least two people in authority to address sexual harassment.

When Questionable Conduct Becomes Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is not always blatantly obvious. It can be subtle and disguised as innocent conduct or comments. When these understated actions become persistent or impactful to the point of creating intimidation or distraction in the workplace, they should be addressed as sexual harassment.

If an employee is comfortable taking action, addressing the behaviors directly with the offender can serve as a warning that the actions are unwelcome and inappropriate. An individual may be unaware their behavior is offensive. When the actions of someone leave no doubt that they are a form of sexual harassment, a complaint with the appropriate individual or department should be registered immediately.

Legal Guidance Concerning Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in California

There are specific steps to take when addressing incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. Never let the overwhelming circumstances, embarrassment, or fear prevent you from taking action when you are ready. Schedule a free consultation with The Senators Firm to discuss your legal options in combating California workplace sexual harassment.