Sexual harassment is a silent epidemic throughout the workplace. While many states are taking steps to curtail sexual harassment, there are still countless workplaces where it is tolerated or even encouraged.
Sexual harassment can have enormous negative effects. The victim can suffer from depression, anger issues, and other behavioral issues. It can also lead to financial problems and physical health issues.
Fortunately, the law empowers victims of sexual harassment to take control of their situation and hold bad actors accountable. So, if you think you are facing workplace sexual harassment, please contact our attorneys today.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination related to sex or gender. It often involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive environment. It can also involve offensive or degrading comments or behavior against a person because of their sex or gender.
Although people consider most sexual harassers to be male, sexual harassment can be perpetrated by individuals of any gender. Sexual harassers can target people of the same or opposite gender. Lastly, the harasser does not have to be the victim’s supervisor. It can be a co-worker, a contractor, a client, a subordinate, or a manager in another department.
Both federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and various state laws, like the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), protect individuals from sexual harassment in the workplace. These laws make it illegal for employers to allow a hostile work environment. They also protect employees who report sexual harassment from retaliation.
Examples of Workplace Sexual Harassment
As you can tell from its definition, sexual harassment can include a wide range of behavior. Let’s delve into a few examples to illustrate how sexual harassment can look in practical terms.
Example #1: Innapropriate Comments About One’s Appearance
Samantha works as a sales associate at a retail store. Her supervisor, Jake, often makes inappropriate comments about her appearance. One day, Jake tells Samantha that her skirt is “very sexy” and that she should wear it more often. He also frequently touches her lower back or shoulder when they pass each other in the store. Samantha feels uncomfortable with Jake’s behavior but is unsure whether she should report it. Jake is good friends with her manager, Maria, and Jake is also well-loved by everyone at the store.
Example #2: Inappropriate Comments About One’s Sexual Orientation
Michael, a graphic designer at an advertising agency, thinks he might be experiencing harassment from his male coworker, Greg. Since learning that Michael is gay, Greg has been making crude jokes about Michael’s sexual orientation. While Greg is straight, he’ll send Michael explicit images of men during the workday. Greg also makes suggestive comments about Michael’s relationships with female and male coworkers. Michael has asked Greg to stop several times, but the harassment continues. The situation has made the work environment incredibly awkward for Michael, and he is beginning to suffer panic attacks.
Example #3: Sexually Suggestive Comments
Daniel is a new hire at a software company and generally loves his new job as a full stack programmer. However, he has recently been the target of several inappropriate actions by his female manager, Lisa. For instance, Lisa frequently praises Daniel’s work but adds flirtatious remarks, like, “I knew you’d be good at this, handsome.” Lately, she has been making sexually suggestive comments about Daniel’s attire and will often “accidentally” brush up against him. Despite his discomfort, Daniel hesitates to report the harassment. For one, he fears it might impact his job security and professional growth. He’s also afraid that people will laugh at him because his sexual harasser is a woman.
Example 4: Lewd Gestures
Laura works as a receptionist at a dental clinic. Her coworker, Tom, often stares at her and makes lewd gestures. He also constantly asks her out on dates, even after she has repeatedly declined his invitations. On one occasion, Tom cornered Laura in the break room and tried to kiss her without her consent. Laura is now afraid to be alone with Tom and feels anxious about coming to work.
Understanding the Legal Standard for Sexual Harassment
Generally, victims in sexual harassment cases have to demonstrate three points. Specifically, you have to demonstrate that:
- The conduct was unwelcome and based on the victim’s sex;
- The conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment or resulted in an adverse employment decision (such as demotion or termination); and
- The employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate corrective action.
A common defense to an accusation of sexual harassment is that the incident was merely simple teasing or offhand comments. Therefore, the real crux of the case is to prove that the behavior created an objectively hostile or offensive work environment.
Contact Our Team of Experienced Berkeley Sexual Harassment Lawyers Right Away
Sexual harassment is almost always an overwhelming experience. For many sufferers, the worst part of the problem is that they feel alone and voiceless. However, you don’t have to stand alone. Instead, you can take action, fix your working environment, and get compensation for your losses.
At King & Siegel LLP, our Berkeley sexual harassment attorneys are passionate about providing a voice to the voiceless. We delight in helping victims of sexual harassment find relief and obtain compensation for their suffering. Each of our attorneys is a talented professional with an impressive educational background and in-depth legal experience. We also make exceptional customer service a priority for all our clients. Because we want to hear your story and help you resolve your situation, we offer free initial consultations for all potential clients. That means you have no reason not to reach out. Contact us today.