What Is Illegal Workplace Harassment Under California Law?
When people refer to “harassment” in everyday language, they might be referring to a situation where someone was nagging them or repeatedly making fun of them. There are all kinds of situations that might lead a person to refer to the poor treatment they receive as harassment, such as being made fun of for the type of car they drive or the food that they brought to work one day. Under California law, it’s not illegal to make fun of someone for these types of things; what’s illegal is to harass someone on the basis of a protected class or protected category, such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and disability.
It would be considered illegal harassment for a supervisor to mock someone in front of others for having to use a cane, or send them emails telling them that they are not going to be eligible for promotion because they are too slow to get around the warehouse. This type of statement—whether oral, in writing, or even depicted as a cartoon—is illegal harassment. Sexual harassment can also occur in these forms, but sometimes includes unwanted touching or grabbing, or verbal pressure.
In California, something trivial will not constitute harassment. For instance, if the full extent of the bad treatment was saying something like, “Why don’t you hurry up” to a person who walks with a cane, then that probably would not be considered serious enough to constitute harassment. Harassment must be either severe or frequent, which is referred to as “pervasive” harassment under the law.
In addition to being severe or frequent, the harassment must be unwanted, and unwelcome to a reasonable person in the position of a victim. It is also required that the harassment occur within one year of making the complaint to the state agency. Additional requirements exist and should be discussed further with an experienced attorney.
What Are My Rights And Duties If I Am A Victim Of Workplace Harassment?
An individual’s rights and responsibilities as a victim of harassment in the workplace depend on the type of harassment and who is doing the harassing. If it is a supervisor or owner of the business who is doing the harassing, then it may be very difficult to lodge a complaint that will successfully stop or remedy the harassment. Keep records and document those kinds of events.
If the harassment is coming from a co-worker who is not a supervisor, then the employee needs to bring it to the attention of upper management or the owner(s), who should investigate and remedy the issue. If the harassment is coming from a third-party vendor, such as the driver of a delivery truck, then the only way to remedy that under the law would be to bring it to the attention of upper management, or the human resources department. Management has no responsibility to fix a situation involving a third-party vendor of which they are ignorant.
Depending on the size of the employer, there will typically be a policy or procedure for reporting harassment and requesting that human resources investigate and/or take remedial action. Failing to report the harassment or failing to express that the conduct is unwanted will not be helpful to the employee in proving their case. It is certainly helpful to have documentation of efforts made to end or report the harassment. Once things have become intolerable for the employee, it is probably time to get advice from a skilled employment attorney like myself.
For more information on Illegal Workplace Harassment In CA, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (424) 380-6662 today.
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