Sexual harassment is a form of workplace harassment based on sex. It can be directed to someone of any gender, regardless of the gender of the harasser. Federal law protects against sexual harassment in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. California prohibits sex discrimination both in Art. I, § 31 of its state constitution, and in the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Sexual harassment can be a demeaning and isolating experience and one you should not have to face alone. By speaking to a Sacramento workplace sexual harassment lawyer from Erkel Law, P.C., you could begin to take back control. Our workplace harassment attorney could give you a clear understanding of your options, allowing you to choose your best path forward.

Two Forms of Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment involves an offer of a job or some type of job benefit (like a promotion or raise) in exchange for sex or a sexual favor. It can only come from a supervisor or someone otherwise in control of the other’s employment. If the supervisor’s advances are denied, the employee must then show they suffered a negative impact because of the denial, like the loss of a promotion or other benefit. If the supervisor does not follow through with the threat, there is no basis for quid pro quo liability, but the offer itself could form the basis of a sexual harassment claim based on a hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment is one in which unwanted behavior has become so severe and pervasive as to render the workplace intolerable. While “severe and pervasive” is the accepted standard, it is important to note that a single incident can be sufficient to meet that standard. There is no requirement of economic injury or a demonstrated loss of productivity. Conduct creating a hostile work environment might include:

  • Physical touching, or physically blocking passage
  • Offers of employment or benefits for sex
  • Displaying sexually explicit material
  • Sexual or degrading comments
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Suggestive looks

Determining that a work environment qualifies as hostile is made by viewing all of the surrounding circumstances. This is a fact-intensive analysis, and one best suited for a workplace harassment attorney in Sacramento.

Employer’s Responsibilities

Every employer in California has a duty to maintain a harassment-free workplace. Employers are responsible for what they actually know and what they should know—they cannot just close the door and pretend to not see what is happening. The employees who perpetrate the harassment are individually liable for their own misconduct, but an employer who knows or should know of the conduct, and who does not take reasonable steps to end it, is also liable. California Gov. Code §12940(j)(1). Additionally, retaliation for reporting harassment (whether by making a formal complaint or informally reporting to a supervisor) or for taking part in a harassment investigation is strictly prohibited and may form the basis for a separate cause of action. These situations get complicated quickly, but a Sacramento lawyer specializing in workplace sexual harassment from Erkel Law, P.C. could identify all necessary defendants in a lawsuit.

What to Do When Subjected to Sexual Harassment

Difficult as it may be, it is important to request that the unwanted behavior stop. While not always necessary to establish a hostile work environment, a documented incident in which a person requests that certain behavior cease can be crucial to establishing the behavior was unwanted. Keep in mind, that it is not illegal to ask a co-worker out on a date, but it may become illegal if the co-worker continues to ask after being rejected. Anyone experiencing harassment in a Sacramento workplace should keep careful records of all relevant incidents and speak to a sexual harassment attorney.

Speak With a Sexual Harassment Attorney in Sacramento for Guidance

Despite a massive increase in awareness in recent years, sexual harassment sadly continues in the workplace. Sometimes people feel that they cannot escape it because their sense of security—for themselves and their family—is so closely related to their employment. But a Sacramento workplace sexual harassment attorney could help you break away from this toxic situation and get you the remedies you deserve. Call Erkel Law, P.C. today for an initial consultation.

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