Over half a decade ago, the anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment movements #MeToo and Time’s Up raised global awareness of widespread sexual harassment and assault. Sexual harassment and assault remain serious issues in the workplace; countless employees of all gender and sexual identities face unlawful harassment on a daily basis. All employees have the right to work in a safe environment free of unwanted sexual harassment. It is vital that we continue to be aware of and fight against unlawful sexual harassment that occurs in the workplace.
In order to combat sexual harassment it is important to understand how the law understands sexual harassment, and what the different legally defined forms of harassment are.
Both federal law and California employment law prohibit workplace sexual harassment. Generally, sexual harassment includes verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature and motivated by an employee’s sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Harassment can be verbal, written in the form of emails or text messages, physical, or through a third party, and can occur at work or outside of work. If you work remotely, the legal standard for proving sexual harassment remains the same.
There are two main forms of prohibited sexual harassment at work: hostile work environment harassment, and quid pro quo harassment.
Hostile Work Environment: The law prohibits sexual harassment that is severe or pervasive enough so as to create a hostile workplace and, or interfere with an employee’s ability to work. Harassment is considered severe if it is egregious to the point that one occurrence of the harassing behavior makes the environment hostile. Harassment is considered pervasive if it occurs repeatedly, so as to create a hostile workplace environment. Harassing conduct may include unwanted sexual advances, sexual comments, lewd and offensive comments, sexual assault, physical conduct of a sexual nature, innuendos
Quid Pro Quo: The law prohibits representing participation in any sexual behavior as a condition of employment. It is unlawful for an employer to require or suggest that an employee engage in any sexual behavior as part of their job. For example, a supervisor suggesting that you may receive a promotion if you go on a date with them, or a manager telling you that they will hire you in exchange for a sexual favor, are both considered illegal quid pro quo harassment. One event of explicit or implied quid pro quo harassment is unlawful.
Verbal and physical sexual harassment at work is a serious problem. Click here to learn more about sexual harassment in the workplace. Navruz Avloni is an experienced employment attorney dedicated to holding accountable those employers that fail to protect their employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are experiencing harassment in the workplace or looking for a sexual harassment lawyer, reach out to Navruz Avloni for a free consultation.