How Is Sexual Harassment In The Workplace Defined In California?
There are two types of sexual harassment. There is what is called quid pro quo harassment, which comes from a Latin phrase that literally means ‘something for something.’ This kind of harassment occurs when, for example, a supervisor says to an employee, “If you want to keep this job, you are going to have to provide me with sexual favors. I will, in exchange, continue to employ you for as long as you give me some form of sexual gratification.” The thing being promised could be something as simple as keeping your job, getting a promotion, receiving some type of extra benefit, or working different hours. Any exchange of sexual favors for something related to the job or the workplace falls under the broad category of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
The second category of sexual harassment is what’s called hostile work environment harassment, or harassing conduct. The definitions given under California law talk about various kinds of behavior or speech being harassment, including verbal harassment such as obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, or threats; physical harassment such as unwanted touching/sexual advances or physical interference; and visual harassment such as putting up naked pictures, offensive posters, or cartoons of a sexual nature in the workplace.
An example of harassing conduct would be a supervisor cornering the employee in the workplace and implying some sort of attack that has sexual context is about to occur. Playing a porno video soundtrack in the workplace so that offensive noises can be heard coming from a computer could even constitute sexual harassment. This category includes all kinds of different speech and conduct, even something as unusual as starting a rumor that someone is involved in a sexual relationship with a supervisor and spreading that rumor so as to cause humiliation. The imaginations of human beings and their ability to come up with new and unusual ways for mistreating their fellow humans are amazing and develop year by year.
What Evidence Would I Need To Prove A Claim Of Sexual Harassment?
We look for evidence that could be admitted at a trial. That could be testimony from a witness or a victim—I heard this, I saw this, I experienced this—all of that can be admissible testimony. It could be copies of emails or other written documents. I have seen birthday cards that contained sexually harassing messages in cases. I have also seen videos, Instagram pictures, and all kinds of things that tend to prove something.
Now, let’s say the witness says, “I didn’t hear it or see it, but my brother tells me he saw it.” That would typically be excluded from evidence as being hearsay. We would need to hear directly from the brother regarding what he saw or heard in order to establish this prior conduct with other persons in the workplace. For example, if there is a supervisor who is harassing one female, that person may have a pattern of having harassed other females. Having other females come in to testify that the supervisor had sexually harassed them (what we sometimes refer to as #MeToo evidence) would be admissible to prove or to assist in proving sexual harassment.
I Am Being Sexually Harassed At Work But Am Afraid Of Getting Fired If I File A Complaint With My Employer. What Should I Do?
The first thing that you should do is to make sure that you take care of yourself. No one should work in a workplace where they physically, mentally, or emotionally can’t withstand what’s going on. If you’re having panic attacks, feel unable to function, or worry you’re seriously compromising your health, it’s time to take care of yourself. When the workplace is intolerable, go to a doctor, see a therapist, or get a short-term leave of absence and assess where you are in the workplace and where you are in terms of handling the situation.
The second thing, once you’ve made sure you’ve taken care of yourself and dealt with the situation and not allowed it to become an emergency, is to speak with an experienced employment attorney who can evaluate your case and give you advice that’s tailored to your situation. That advice may include providing something in writing to human resources, or it could involve referring you to a therapist or a doctor to get a medical leave. It could be a lot of different things depending on the situation, the workplace, and the employee, especially if there is, for example, a collective bargaining agreement. The advice is going to vary based on your situation, so you really need an experienced employment lawyer to evaluate this.
At What Point Should I Contact A Good Sexual Harassment Attorney?
When the situation has evolved from something annoying to something extremely upsetting, such as when you’re afraid to go into the break room because you fear being cornered by a supervisor, it’s time to get a lawyer. Whenever it’s gone past just an occasional annoying comment to something a little more serious that, before it breaks into a full-blown emergency, that’s the time to contact an attorney such as myself.
For more information on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in CA, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (310) 477-7767 today.
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