Sexual Harassment In The Workplace: What is Sexual Harassment in California?

When an employee has to gratify the sexual appetites of someone else in order to make a living, that is sexual harassment. The law classifies sexual harassment in two categories, quid pro quo and hostile environment sexual harassment.

Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment involves a supervisor who demands sexual favors for other job benefits. This occurs when a supervisor requires sexual gratification for raises, promotions, or just keeping the job. This includes punishing those who refuse to comply.

Hostile Work Environment sexual harassment is where the workplace is hostile or abusive on the basis of sex. The sexual environment has to be such that it would offend a reasonable person. Further, the employer knew or should have known about harassment and failed to promptly remedy the situation.

In California, when supervisors are committing the harassment, the employer is automatically liable if the harassment culminates in tangible employment action. Tangible employment action is reassignment to a less desirable position, to failure to promote, to termination, or other negative action. If no such tangible employment action is involved, the employer will be liable anyway unless it can establish a defense that it acted reasonably to prevent the harassment and the employee did not take advantage of the employer’s preventive actions.

To best preserve their rights, employees who feel they are sexually harassed should immediately report it to their employer and follow the company’s sexual harassment policies. These policies usually mean informing the employers human resource department of the problem, and that is exactly what a sexually harassed employee should do.

Do not “play along” or appear to consent to the harassment. This is a defense to sexual harassment. 

Sexual harassment is an extremely complex area of the law, and employees should consult with knowledgeable attorneys if they fee they are sexually harassed. A lawsuit on the basis of sexual harassment may likely require the filing of a claim with different state and federal administrative agencies. People who think they have been sexually harassed are strongly advised to seek legal assistance.