Hundreds of thousands of Riverside residents go to school or work every day, but some arrive at their workplace or campus with a sense of dread because of sexual harassment. Being exposed to sexual harassment in the workplace can be unbearable. It can also lead to horrific events, such as sexual assault. If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may be angry and feel powerless about taking steps to hold the harasser accountable.
California has some of the most clear, strong laws regarding sexual harassment. In 2019, new laws took effect that expanded the definition of what is considered sexual harassment under the law. As a result, one incident can be enough for an employee to sue an employer for sexual harassment if it results in a hostile work environment. Don’t feel like you need to put up with sexual harassment to keep your job. HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to fight for your rights, hold your employer accountable, and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
The Definition of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This definition includes any type of sexual harassment, regardless of the perpetrator and victim’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when a supervisor or coworker offers an employee a favorable work action in exchange for a sexual favor. It can also mean that a manager or coworker threatens an employee with an adverse work action, such as being fired or demoted, for not accepting a sexual proposition. The sexual proposition could be from a coworker or supervisor and may be openly threatening or subtle in nature.
Hostile Work Environment
The second type of sexual harassment claim involves creating a hostile work environment. When an employer allows unwelcome, severe, and prevalent behavior of a sexual nature from one or more employees, it can affect the other employees’ ability to perform their job duties effectively within the workplace.
What Constitutes Sexual Assault or Rape
In some cases, perpetrators will go beyond actions that would be considered grounds for a civil sexual harassment case, such as making lewd suggestions to an employee. Sexual assault or rape are grounds for criminal charges in California and civil charges brought by the victim. In these cases, there is a likelihood that the victim will be entitled to punitive damages because of the heinous and violent nature of the crime.
The crime of rape is defined as non-consensual sexual intercourse through the use of fraud, threats, or force. Sexual assault is any non-consensual sexual contact through force or intimidation. Severe sexual criminal acts are classified as sexual assault. Unwanted kissing and groping of intimate parts of a person’s body are also considered sexual assaults. Sexual assault doesn’t always have to involve violence, and it is exclusive to one gender.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
There are many different types of sexual harassment in the workplace, but the following are examples of common types of unlawful sexual harassment:
- Sexual innuendo
- Comments of a sexual nature, such as comments about a coworker’s body
- Unsolicited or unwanted physical touching
- Sending pornographic or sexually explicit images to a co-worker
- Lewd written communication of a sexual nature
- Discussing personal sexual exploits in the workplace
- Repeatedly asking a co-worker for a date after they have said no
- Pressuring a subordinate for a date or sexual favors
- Suggesting a colleague is worse or better equipped for a work-related task because of their gender
- Intimidating or excluding employees of a specific gender to jeopardize their employment status
- Making comments speculating on a co-worker’s sexual orientation
- Making comments speculating on the pregnancy status of a co-worker
- Sexist or insulting graffiti
- Inappropriate invitations
- Indecent exposure
This list is not exhaustive. In general, if you feel uncomfortable in the workplace and suspect that your gender or sex may have been a motivator, you should trust your instincts and notify management. After you’ve notified management, it can be beneficial to contact a sexual harassment attorney.
What Should I Do if I am Being Sexually Harassed?
If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, it is crucial that you report the behavior to your employer in writing as soon as possible. Under California law, employers with five or more employees must have written anti-harassment policies. They must provide the policies to all employees. The written policy should outline the steps you need to take to report sexual harassment within the company. You can either approach your human resources department, if there is one, or go to your direct supervisor.
If the sexual harasser is your supervisor and you do not have a human resources department, you should find another person in authority to notify. It is essential that you keep written records of when the sexual harassment occurred and any physical evidence proving the harassment occurred. You should also write down the names of witnesses. As the case progresses, having a written record of the facts and the dates and times the harassment occurred can help you tremendously.
If someone sends you explicit emails, photos, or anything of that nature, you should save them. Although you may be tempted to delete them because of their vulgarity or throw them out, keeping them as evidence to help you build your case is essential.
You may be entitled to compensation for the sexual harassment you have endured. Additionally, if your employer retaliates against you for filing a claim with your human resources department, you can pursue a separate claim for legal retaliation.
Discuss Your Case With a Riverside Sexual Harassment Attorney
Far too many employees suffer day in and day out while being sexually harassed in the workplace. HKM Employment Attorneys fights for employees in Riverside and throughout California who have had their rights violated by being subjected to sexual harassment. Do not hesitate to contact HKM Employment Attorneys to learn more about how we can fight for your right to compensation.