Sexual harassment is illegal in California under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The protections under this law extends to applicants, unpaid interns, employees, independent contractors, and professional relationships. Even though many employers now have policies that strictly prohibit all forms of sexual harassment, some supervisors or employees still violate these policies.
Courts recognize two different types of sexual harassment claims: “quid pro quo” claims and hostile work environment claims.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
In a “quid pro quo” case, an employer engages in an adverse employment decision as a result of an employee refusing to accept a supervisor’s demands for sexual favors or sexually-charged behavior. An employee can also have a claim for “quid pro quo” sexual harassment if a supervisor coerces a subordinate to have sex under threat of termination.
Hostile Work Environment
Hostile work environment claims are generally more common. An employee establishes liability by demonstrating that he or she was subjected to hostile, offensive, or intimidating behavior that a reasonable person would consider severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment. The victim also has to subjectively find that the harassing behavior was severe or pervasive. The conduct has to be based on sex and unwelcome, but not necessarily motivated by sexual desire. An employee also does not have to be the victim of sexual advances for there to be a valid sexual harassment claim.
Courts look at the totality of the circumstances when ascertaining if sexually harassing behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive.. Some of these considerations include:
- The nature of the unwelcome conduct in question;
- The frequency of the offensive conduct;
- The total number of days over which this conduct occurs;
- The context in which the unwelcome conducts occurred; and
- The extent to which the conduct interferes with an employee’s work performance.
Generally, physical touching is found to be more offensive than unwelcome verbal abuse. However, harassment takes many shapes and forms. Each case must be independently evaluated by taken various factors into consideration. For instance, if an employee is exposed to frequent derogatory language or degrading pictures creating a hostile work environment, an employee may have a claim.
Sexual Harassment Claimes Lawyer in Oakland
At Hunter Pyle Law, we have represented many victims of sexual harassment who have had the courage to come forth and hold their employers accountable. If you are the victim of harassment in the workplace, please contact us for a free and confidential initial intake today.