When people hear the phrase “sexual harassment” in ordinary conversation, they tend to interpret it as a cue to launch into their favorite canned tirades about how all men are creeps who only think about sex or about how all women are gold diggers or attention fiends who use false claims of sexual harassment to get the money or attention they desperately crave. That is only when someone says the phrase “sexual harassment” in the context of an in-person conversation; type the phrase into a search box online, and things only get uglier. Fortunately, employment lawyers are better listeners than the general population.
It will also come as a relief to employees who have experienced sexual harassment at work that the term “sexual harassment” has a more precise definition in employment law than it does in everyday discourse. Harassment, also known as a hostile work environment, is a type of employment discrimination when it is based on a protected characteristic of the employee, such as the employee’s sex. Therefore, sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination when it occurs at work. The San Francisco sexual harassment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you if you have been a target of sexual harassment at your place of employment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Can Occur Even in Situations Where No One Speaks Latin
Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many different forms, but the first one that people think of when they hear that an employer is facing a sexual harassment complaint is quid pro quo sexual harassment. “Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that means “this for that.” In the context of quid pro quo sexual harassment, it means that a manager or supervisor at work tries to pressure a subordinate employee into dating him or engaging in sexual acts with him by threatening an adverse action if the employee does not comply. For example, your boss might threaten to fire you if you do not go on a date with him, if you do not let him kiss you, or if you do not share a hotel room with him on a business trip.
Just Because You Would Not Match With Your Co-Worker on a Dating Site, it Does Not Mean That Your Co-Worker’s Behavior is Not Sexual Harassment
Many of the sexual harassment cases that get a lot of attention in the news media involve older, wealthy men sexually harassing younger, financially vulnerable women, but this is only one of the many permutations of sexual harassment. The parties involved in a sexual harassment case can be of any combination of sexes and sexual orientations; they do not have to be a pair that could, in theory, match on a dating site. For example, if you are a heterosexual woman, it does not mean that the only people who can sexually harass you are heterosexual men or that, if you are a gay man, the hostile work environment you are experiencing is only sexual harassment if the coworkers engaging in the hostility are gay men. Body shaming of women by other women is sexual harassment. The California courts are currently hearing a series of complaints by a group of dancers who claim that two high-ranking people at their workplace sexually harassed them; all of the plaintiffs and the defendants in this case are heterosexual women. There was even a famous case in New York where a graduate student accused a professor of sexual harassment; the student in this case is a gay man, and the professor is a lesbian woman.
To tell whether the behavior that you are experiencing at work, ask yourself a few questions. Is the behavior inappropriate for the workplace? Does the behavior make you uncomfortable at work? Is the behavior related in some way to your sex, relationship status, or sexual orientation? If the answer is “yes,” then at least one person at your job has been sexually harassing you. Sexual harassment can involve flirtation, frequent comments about your physical appearance (even if they are not negative comments), intrusive questions about your current romantic relationship or previous relationships, sexist jokes, or unwanted touching, among other manifestations of sexual harassment.
What to Do if You Experience Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination, so the same laws apply to sexual harassment complaints as to complaints arising from any other type of discrimination in the workplace. When you hear comments or experience behavior that makes you uncomfortable and is related to your sex, relationship status, or sexual orientation, you should write it down. This way, you will have a record of what happened on what day. If you complain to the human resources department at your organization about the harassment, you should also write down this date. This way, if the harassment gets worse after your initial complaint, you will have evidence of this. Worsening sexual harassment in response to a sexual harassment complaint counts as employer retaliation, just as it would if your employer responded to your complaint by demoting you or firing you.
Before you can file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer, you must receive authorization from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The deadline to contact the EEOC is 45 days after the most recent incident of harassment or discriminatory adverse action. The EEOC will conduct a preliminary investigation into your complaint, and if the EEOC determines that you have sufficient grounds to sue your employer, it will authorize you to file the lawsuit in court. The best time to contact a San Francisco sexual harassment lawyer is before you start communicating with the EEOC.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Sexual Harassment in San Francisco
The San Francisco employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you if you are experiencing sexual harassment at your workplace and if it is only getting worse since you first spoke up about it. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Francisco, California, to set up a consultation.