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By stephen of Kristensen, LLP posted in Sexual Harassment on Friday, October 30, 2020.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment According To The Law

Sexual harassment can range from verbal to physical sexual conduct that directly and explicitly affects an employee. This type of harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and it violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, understanding what constitutes as sexual harassment is imperative in order to ensure a safe workplace environment and comply with state laws.


What is sexual harassment?

Defined by the EEOC, sexual harassment is unwelcome and unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and/or physical conduct of a sexual nature. For example, if an employment decision is made solely based on if an employee accepts or rejects a request made for a sexual favor, this would violate the Act of 1964. Another instance of sexual harassment would be if any type of advancement discussed above creates a hostile and intimidating work environment, therefore affecting the employees ability to work.


Types of sexual harassment claims

There are two types of claims that could be made in regards to sexual harassment. The first would be ‘quid pro quo’, which is when decisions are being made on your employment status directly because of your willingness to either accept or refuse sexual advances. The next would be a hostile work environment claim. This is filed when an employee feels the workplace has turned hostile, intimidating, or offensive because of sexual harassment. A few things to examine when determining if the environment can be considered hostile include: the frequency of the harassment, whether or not other coworkers have joined in the act of harassing, and if the harassment was directed at one or multiple employees.


Sexual harassment behaviors

There are many different scenarios that can be considered sexual harassment. A less obvious instance of sexual harassment would be sexual jokes or innuendos, as these could be considered harassment if they’re openly unwelcomed, therefore being unwanted – which is a very critical word when defining what is or is not sexual harassment. On the other hand, a more obvious act of harassment would be unwelcomed touching – whether it’s brushing up against someone, or more direct touching of certain areas on the body.


Who can harass and who can be harassed?

Frankly speaking, anyone can be either the harasser or be harassed. The harasser can be anyone from a supervisor, coworker, to even a client or customer of the business. As a matter of fact, victims of sexual harassment could also include someone else in the workplace who was negatively affected by the harassment. Sexual harassment can be conducted by a man or a woman, and be directed to the opposite gender or the same gender. There are no limitations on what type of harassment is taken seriously.


Sexual harassment is more common than most people think, as it can be displayed in many ways that are not considered obvious. The best way to prevent harassment in the workplace is for employers to comply with California law, and provide all employees with the proper sexual harassment training. If you believe you have experienced sexual harassment, or your employer isn’t complying with state law, reach out to our firm so we can help you find justice.