Sexual harassment is not a new concept in the workplace, but it’s astounding that this type of behavior continues to thrive in modern times. Men and women alike find themselves the victims of sexual harassment, and many have no idea they’re being harassed. A sly comment someone else laughs off after making it and a supervisor who makes inappropriate comments are both forms of sexual harassment. On the flip side of things, anyone can accuse another person of sexual harassment even if that person had no intention of making anyone feel uncomfortable. The problem is that sexual harassment is often subjective, and that’s where California laws become more important than ever.
How is Sexual Harassment Defined?
The dictionary, aswell as EEOC.gov, defines sexual harassment as “behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in the workplace,” and it goes on to include professional and social settings, as well. However, where does that leave a person if they are more conservative than the person making a joke?
For example, can a person accuse another of sexual harassment over a joke that the recipient finds offensive or suggestive? What happens if the person telling the joke is a little more laid-back and open than the person hearing the joke? This is what makes sexual harassment subjective, and it’s where many people find they have an issue defining it.
If the behavior is unwelcome or inappropriate, if it includes sexual remarks of any type, or if it involves any sort of physicality, it’s sexual harassment. It’s helpful to know this whether a person is being sexually harassed or simply doesn’t want to be accused of harassment in the workplace.
How to Recognize Sexual Harassment at Work
A good sexual harassment attorney, such as https://www.employmentattorneylosangeles.com/practices/sexual-harassment/, will admit that it’s hard to recognize some forms of harassment at work. Some behavior is innocent, and some people don’t know how to take it. The signs are not always obvious, which is why everyone who holds any sort of employment in California must learn the signs.
– Suggestions, comments, remarks, or behavior that makes a person feel uncomfortable
– Direct suggestions for sexual favors
– The implication that a raise or promotion is more likely to occur if a person exchanges sexual favors
– Discussing sexual experiences
– Showing inappropriate photos or graphics
– Asking questions about another person’s sexual life
– Standing too close to other people
– Speaking intimately while standing too close
– Staring at another person’s body and making inappropriate comments loosely disguised as compliments
– The victim is afraid to report the behavior
– The victim is afraid of the repercussions of reporting the behavior
– The victim feels he or she has to go along with the behavior
– The victim has tried to make the behavior stop
Harassment vs. Compliments
It’s hard to tell when someone is being harassed based on this information, but it can be broken down to appear more obvious. For example, if Bob tells Susan the color of her dress is flattering on her, it might not be something she takes as anything other than a kind compliment. After all, many people do look good in certain colors, and it’s all right for people to notice. However, if Bob tells Susan that her dress hugs her curves in all the right ways, there’s a less-than-subtle undertone in this compliment. Compliments are wonderful, but they can be taken the wrong when certain factors are taken into consideration.
– The person issuing the compliment stands too close
– The person compliments the other all the time about everything
– The person issuing the compliment has been asked to stop
For example, if Bob tells Susan he thinks the color of her new dress is flattering on her when he’s already told her that her new haircut looks good, her shoes make her legs look long and sexy, and he’s forgotten what personal space looks like, it might not be an innocent compliment. If Bob tells Susan the color of her dress is flattering and he’s the fourth person that day to say it, it probably just means Susan should consider buying more items in that color.
Understanding the difference between harassment and compliments is also subjective, but no one should ever make another person feel uncomfortable when issuing a compliment. It’s helpful to ask that person to stop with their compliments, and then see if that works. If not, it might be a form of harassment.
More Obvious Forms of Harassment and the Offenders
There are less subtle types of harassment in the workplace. A sexual harassment attorney has no problem finding a case when someone touches another inappropriately without consent, when sexual innuendos are prevalent, or when someone uses sexual favors as a bargaining tool.
West Coast employment lawyers see it all, and they can answer any questions a person has about employment law and harassment. For example, West Cost employment lawyers often hear the question, “What if it’s my subordinate who harassed me?” The simple answer is that anyone can be a victim of harassment. It’s easy to assume it’s a person in power offering those who don’t have the same power a chance to earn more money or get a bigger office or a promotion if they sleep their way to the top.
However, harassment goes both ways. A subordinate can be the one doing the harassing. For example, a supervisor might reprimand someone for a mistake they made, and that person might offer them a sexual favor to ‘forget it ever happened’. This is inappropriate behavior, and it doesn’t matter which person issues this statement. Anyone can harass anyone else in the workplace.
What to Do if Sexual Harassment Occurs in the Workplace
Anyone who feels they are being harassed in a sexual manner should ask the aggressor to stop as a first step, according to https://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/legal-resources/know-your-rights-at-work/workplace-sexual-harassment/employees-guide/. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to report the behavior to a supervisor at work. However, it’s helpful to check the employee handbook at work to see if there is a policy regarding harassment and how to handle it, say EqualRights.org. If there is, follow the proper procedure and then speak to the supervisor.
An employment attorney, like here, is the best solution to any harassment questions in California. An employment attorney knows the laws, and they know what to do when employed people have questions about harassment in the workplace. If a person feels they are being targeted or retaliation is happening after reporting harassment, they should contact West Coast employment lawyers.
Anyone who suspects harassment is happening should take notes. Write down anything inappropriate as quickly as possible with dates, times, and while the details are still fresh. Ask others if they are being treated the same. Notate when it happens, how it happens, and how it feels. Everyone who is employed in the state of California has a legal right to go to work each day without worry or fear of harassment.
Anyone who is the victim of harassment has rights. They have the right to report the behavior without fear of consequence. They have a right to keep their job. They have a right to live life comfortably and without worry. This is not a right anyone should take for granted, nor is it a right anyone should feel comfortable violating at any time.