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CaliforniaEmployment LawSexual Harassment

Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment in California 

By Walton Law APCMarch 1, 2023February 20th, 2024No Comments

Are you being sexually harassed or discriminated against at your workplace? Would you even be aware if it was happening to you right now? Sexual harassment doesn’t always need to be overt or obvious like the way it is shown on TV, in media, and movies. Both men and women should know what workplace sexual harassment and discrimination are.  

Overview of Sexual Harassment 

Sexual harassment, as per the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, is a form of gender-based discrimination. Individuals of any gender can be made targets of sexual harassment. Your circumstances determine the extent of sexual harassment.  

The legal definition in California includes different forms of hateful and offensive behavior. Sexual harassment can also be done by someone who is of the same sex as the harassed. It is important to understand that unlawful harassment doesn’t necessarily need to be motivated by sexual desire.

Behaviors Considered as Sexual Harassment

The extent of sexual harassment depends on individual circumstances. However, certain types of behavior are always considered unacceptable and may fall under the purview of workplace gender discrimination and sexual harassment. These are: 

  • Inappropriate physical conduct: Blocking, touching, sexual assault, and impeding movement 
  • Verbal conduct: sexually derogatory comments, inappropriate sexist jokes and sexual comments, slurs, and epithets. Sexually degrading phrases and words are also included as verbal abuse of a sexual nature. This may include situations where an employee, manager, or employer engages in graphic verbal commentaries regarding the victim’s body.  
  • Visual images: This includes leering, making sexual gestures, and displaying sexually suggestive posters, pictures, and other objects. 
  • Retaliatory action: Initiating or threatening retaliatory action of any form after getting a negative response to a sexual advance is considered sexual harassment. 
  • Discriminatory conduct: This includes performance criticism or unfair discipline directed at women or men because of their gender. This also constitutes gender-based harassment. 

Another common form of sexual harassment in the workplace is to offer benefits to supervisors, managers, or anyone else in exchange for receiving sexual favors. 

Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment 

A hostile work environment refers to unwelcome conduct of a severe enough nature to create an abusive, uncomfortable, and offensive workplace. Courts consider the following elements to determine whether the sexual harassment was hostile enough: 

  • Frequency of the unwanted and intolerable conduct 
  • Whether the conduct was verbal, physical, or both 
  • Relationship and hierarchy between the claimant and the alleged harasser 
  • Whether a group of individuals was victimized or an individual 
  • Whether a group was allegedly at fault or the harasser was an individual
  • Whether the conduct will be considered abusive, offensive, or hostile by any reasonable person 

You should not hesitate or delay in reporting harassment of any kind at your workplace. It is recommended that you speak with an attorney regarding your legal rights. 

Talk to an Experienced Employment Attorney Today 

Sexual harassment in California workplaces exists even after the #MeToo movement. The problem hasn’t been eradicated even if it is slowing down. Sexual harassment in the workplace has taken new forms. Don’t stand in the shadows any longer if you think your rights were violated. Take control of the situation by partnering with Walton Law – a proven California employment law firm. We are happy to provide you with a free case evaluation. Call us at (866) 338-7079 or reach us online.