Sexual Harassment

What Do I Do if I See Sexual Harassment at Work?

When we discuss sexual harassment at work, you might first imagine someone harassing you. However, even if someone finds themselves facing harassment, it can still harm you and your employment.

You want to work in an environment free from harassment, so you might want to take action to stop someone else from experiencing this distressing conduct. But how do you do that? What steps can you take to help your fellow employees and the workplace in general?

If you are in this position, never hesitate to consult a sexual harassment attorney in San Diego immediately about your situation and legal options.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today!

Who Can Face Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Workplace sexual harassment is an insidious issue affecting employees across a wide spectrum of professions, backgrounds, genders, and roles. No one is immune to workplace sexual harassment, as it transcends demographic boundaries and can manifest in many ways.

Anyone who works, regardless of their position, gender, or background, can find themselves subjected to this harmful and unlawful behavior.

Victims of workplace sexual harassment in your workplace might include:


Both men and women in various job positions and industries can experience sexual harassment. Anyone from entry-level workers to executives can face inappropriate comments, unwanted advances, or offensive behavior.

Supervisors and managers

Individuals in positions of authority can also fall victim to workplace sexual harassment. Colleagues or subordinates may engage in unwelcome behaviors that create a hostile work environment or affect their professional standing.

Contractors and freelancers

Even individuals who work as contractors, freelancers, or temporary workers are not exempt from workplace sexual harassment. They can face similar harassment from colleagues, clients, or others they interact with on the job.

LGBTQ+ individuals

Sexual harassment is not limited to traditional gender dynamics. LGBTQ+ individuals may experience harassment based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Transgender individuals

Transgender employee can face specific forms of sexual harassment that target their identity or transition status. Such harassment may include misgendering, derogatory comments, and offensive behavior.

Individuals of any gender

While many people commonly assume only women are victims of sexual harassment, men can also experience unwanted advances, comments, or behavior that constitutes sexual harassment.

People of all backgrounds

Workplace sexual harassment does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. Individuals from diverse backgrounds can all experience inappropriate behavior that crosses these lines.

Young and older workers

Age does not deter workplace sexual harassment. Both young and older workers can face harassment.

Workplace sexual harassment is often about power dynamics and inappropriate behavior, not the victim’s identity or characteristics. Addressing this issue can maintain the integrity of a work environment.

If you believe you witnessed sexual harassment against anyone in your workplace, consult a legal professional now.

What Sexual Harassment Looks Like in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace can range from subtle comments to overt actions that create an uncomfortable, hostile, or intimidating environment for individuals. Recognizing the different manifestations of sexual harassment can help prevent and address this pervasive issue.

Below are some common ways sexual harassment can manifest in the workplace.

Verbal Harassment

Verbal sexual harassment involves unwelcome comments, jokes, or remarks of a sexual nature. This can include making explicit remarks about a person’s appearance, body, clothing, or sexual activities. Such comments can humiliate and degrade someone and create an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Sexual Advances

Unwanted sexual advances or propositions constitute harassment. This includes pressuring someone for dates, sexual favors, or engaging in inappropriate discussions about personal relationships or sexual experiences.

Innuendos and Insults

Using suggestive language, double entendres, or sexual innuendos to insult or belittle someone constitutes sexual harassment. Perpetrators can mask these comments as jokes but aim them to demean someone and create a hostile environment.

Sexual Comments or Questions

Asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal or sexual life, making comments about their body or clothing, or discussing explicit topics in a professional setting constitutes sexual harassment.

Displaying Inappropriate Materials

Sharing or displaying sexually explicit images, videos, or materials in the workplace, whether in person or through digital means, can create a hostile environment and constitutes sexual harassment.

Unwanted Touching or Physical Contact

Any unwanted physical contact, such as touching, hugging, kissing, or brushing against someone without their consent constitutes sexual harassment. Even seemingly innocent actions can constitute harassment if they make the recipient uncomfortable.

Sexual Intimidation

Using threats, blackmail, or other forms of intimidation to coerce someone into engaging in unwanted sexual behavior is a severe form of sexual harassment. Harassment often comes from a manager, boss, or someone with the authority to take adverse action against an employee or provide additional career benefits.

Online Harassment

With the rise of digital communication, online sexual harassment has become prevalent. Sending explicit messages, sharing inappropriate content, or engaging in cyberbullying of a sexual nature can create a hostile virtual environment.

Hostile Work Environments Affect Everyone

A hostile work environment develops when the cumulative effect of unwelcome sexual comments, behavior, or imagery makes the workplace intimidating, offensive, or uncomfortable. You might think harassment creates a hostile work environment for a victim when, in reality, it can exist for anyone who witnesses or knows about the persisting harassment.

You do not have to work in a hostile environment due to sexual harassment against anyone. If you are uncomfortable with the unlawful conduct you witness at work, you may take action to eliminate the hostility for yourself and everyone around you.

What to Do if You Witness Sexual Harassment at Work

Witnessing sexual harassment in the workplace can be distressing and confusing. Take the right steps to address the situation not only for the victim’s well-being but also to promote a safe and respectful work environment.

If you witness sexual harassment at work, here’s what you can do:

  • Stay calm and observant – If you witness an incident of sexual harassment, remain composed. Pay close attention to the details of what you see or hear, including the individuals involved, the location, the context, and any relevant comments or actions. This information will help if you or the victim decides to report the incident.
  • Assess the situation – Determine whether the behavior you’re witnessing is indeed sexual harassment. Sexual harassment encompasses a range of behaviors, as mentioned earlier. Assess if the actions or comments are unwelcome, create an uncomfortable or hostile environment, and involve inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature.
  • Prioritize safety – If the situation appears to escalate or become confrontational, prioritize safety. Find a way to intervene or remove yourself and others from the situation if necessary.
  • Support the victim – If you witness sexual harassment and feel comfortable doing so, offer support to the victim. Approach them privately and express your concern. Tell them you’re there to listen, offer assistance, and support their decisions. Avoid blaming or pressuring the victim to take immediate action.
  • Document the incident – Write down a detailed account of what you witnessed as soon as possible after the incident. Include information about the individuals involved, the date, time, location, actions, and any statements made. Documenting the incident can help if the victim decides to report it.
  • Encourage reporting – If the victim is comfortable and willing, encourage them to contact a sexual harassment lawyer. Explain the importance of reporting and the potential impact on the work environment.
  • Consider reporting the incident yourself – If the victim won’t report the incident themselves or is too intimidated, yet you believe that the behavior warrants intervention, you can report the incident on their behalf. Talk to a lawyer about how to best follow your organization’s policies and procedures and for guidance on how to file a report as a witness. Be ready to share your observations, documentation, and any relevant details.
  • Maintain confidentiality – If the victim decides to report the incident, or if you report it on their behalf, maintain confidentiality as much as possible. Sharing details without the victim’s consent can further harm their well-being and potentially compromise the investigation.
  • Cooperate with investigations – If your organization investigates the incident, cooperate fully. Share your observations, provide any documentation you created, and participate in interviews if requested. Your insights can shed light on the context and severity of the harassment.

Addressing sexual harassment is a collective responsibility, so the victim is not the only one who can report concerns to your employer or the authorities when appropriate.

Can Your Employer Retaliate Against You for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

Many employees hesitate to report sexual harassment against them or others for fear of retaliation by an employer. Fortunately, an employer cannot legally retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, even if they are not the direct target of harassment.

Retaliation happens when an employer takes adverse actions against an employee as a response to their engagement in a legally protected activity, such as reporting harassment or participating in an investigation. Retaliation can happen against victims of harassment or anyone who lodges an informal or formal sexual harassment complaint.

Retaliation can come in various forms, including demotion, termination, reduced hours, unfavorable assignments, harassment, or creating a hostile work environment toward you. Even though such conduct is illegal, your employer might still do it if you report sexual harassment. This can affect your finances, career, and emotional and mental well-being.

If you believe your employer retaliated against you because you reported sexual harassment, you need legal representation from an employment lawyer immediately.

What Can You Do Now?

If you believe you witnessed sexual harassment at work and feel safe and appropriate reporting the matter, follow your employer’s procedures. Hopefully, they will take the steps to resolve the problem so you can continue to work in a harassment-free environment.

However, if you feel uncomfortable reporting the harassment or don’t know if the conduct was sexual harassment, seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney who can guide you through the process and help you understand your rights.

An experienced employment lawyer will assess what you witnessed and advise whether it constitutes unlawful sexual harassment. They can evaluate your employment situation and determine the best course of action to report the harassment.

If internal channels fail to resolve the issue, your lawyer might suggest filing a complaint with relevant government agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state agency. These agencies can intervene and ensure your employer complies with all relevant employment and anti-harassment laws.

Keep records of any adverse actions your employer takes against you, even if you don’t know if they stem from your complaints or cooperation with investigations. Maintain records of communications related to the harassment or retaliation, including documentation of the initial harassment report.

Alreen Haeggquist, San Diego Employment Lawyer
Alreen Haeggquist, San Diego Employment Lawyer

If you think your employer violated your rights by failing to stop harassment or retaliating against you, act quickly to seek legal representation. Employment claims often have time limits for filing, so take action promptly if you believe you experienced unlawful conduct at work.

This is never an easy position to be in, but you are doing the right thing by standing up against sexual harassment. When you witness this conduct, you do not have to look the other way. You can file complaints and reports, help with investigations, and take action to protect your employment environment. There is legal support from an experienced San Diego employment lawyer when you need it.

Types of Sexual Harassment

Most employees in the U.S. know that the law prohibits sexual harassment at work. You might have an idea of what sexual harassment looks like, though it may take more forms than you realize. Some employees might not realize when someone sexually harasses them in one of these unfamiliar ways.

Below is some general information about types of workplace sexual harassment. If you believe someone sexually harassed you – or are unsure if they did – consult an sexual harassment attorney who handles sexual harassment claims immediately.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today!

Harassment That Creates a Hostile Work Environment

Hostile work environment sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, comments, or conduct that create an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment for an employee.

Various employment laws prohibit such conduct at work, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the federal level. Many states have additional laws prohibiting harassment, such as California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Here’s a look at what constitutes hostile work environment sexual harassment. An attorney can help you prove the necessary elements of sexual harassment to seek justice from your employer.


Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when the workplace environment becomes permeated with offensive sexual innuendos, jokes, comments, or advances that create a hostile or intimidating atmosphere for the employee. Overt behavior may consist of explicit comments or unwelcome touching, or more subtle, such as repeated inappropriate jokes or offensive images.

Unwelcome Conduct

The key element of hostile work environment sexual harassment is that the the recipient does not welcome or want the behavior. Consensual or welcome conduct may not meet the definition of harassment.

Severity and Pervasiveness

For harassment to create a hostile work environment, it must be severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment and create a hostile or abusive working environment. Isolated incidents or minor annoyances are generally insufficient to establish a hostile work environment claim.

Forms of Harassment

Hostile work environment sexual harassment can involve different conduct, including:

  • Unwanted sexual advances or propositions.
  • Sexually explicit or offensive comments or jokes.
  • Displaying or sharing sexually suggestive or explicit materials.
  • Making offensive or sexually charged gestures.
  • Using sexually derogatory or degrading terms to describe someone.
  • Insults, ridicule, or derogatory remarks based on an individual’s gender or sexual orientation.
  • Sabotaging work or creating a hostile environment based on a person’s refusal of sexual advances.

Impact on Employees

Hostile work environment sexual harassment can have severe emotional and psychological consequences for victims. It can lead to anxiety, stress, depression, and a decline in job performance and job satisfaction. The fear of retaliation or the prospect of losing one’s job may also prevent victims from reporting the harassment.

Employer Liability

Employers can be liable for hostile work environment sexual harassment if they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action. Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and respectful work environment and should have clear policies and procedures in place to address complaints of harassment.

There are also different ways someone can harass a victim to create a hostile work environment. These include:

Verbal Sexual Harassment

Verbal sexual harassment refers to unwelcome and offensive comments, remarks, or advances of a sexual nature that create a hostile or intimidating environment for the victim. This form of sexual harassment involves verbal communication and can occur in various settings, often workplaces.

Examples of verbal sexual harassment include: 

  • Sexual jokes
  • Explicit comments
  • Sexual propositions
  • Sexually suggestive remarks
  • Derogatory comments about an individual’s appearance or gender. 

Verbal sexual harassment can be distressing, demeaning, and emotionally harmful to the victim.

Visual Sexual Harassment

This harassment involves unwelcome and offensive visual displays of a sexual nature that create a hostile or intimidating environment for the viewer. This form of sexual harassment involves explicit or suggestive images, videos, or gestures targeting a person based on gender or sexual orientation.

Examples of visual sexual harassment include: 

  • Displaying sexually explicit materials
  • Sharing offensive images or videos
  • Making lewd gestures
  • Engaging in voyeurism

No employee should have to view harassing materials, gestures, or anything else while at work.

Physical Sexual Harassment

Physical sexual harassment involves unwelcome and inappropriate physical conduct of a sexual nature. This form of sexual harassment involves unwanted sexual contact, advances, or gestures that violate the recipient’s boundaries.

Examples of physical sexual harassment include: 

  • Touching
  • Groping
  • Grabbing
  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Any other form of non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature. 

This is often one of the most obvious and intimidating types of sexual harassment at work.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a highly serious form of workplace discrimination. It happens when someone in a position of power conditions employment benefits or opportunities on the victim’s acceptance of unwelcome sexual advances or favors.

The term “quid pro quo” is Latin for “something for something,” reflecting the exploitative nature of this type of harassment. It occurs when a person with authority, such as a supervisor, manager, or company owner, uses their position to demand sexual favors or impose unwanted sexual advances on a subordinate or employee.

Key characteristics of quid pro quo sexual harassment include:

  • Exchange of sexual favors – The harasser offers or implies they will grant certain employment benefits, such as promotions, raises, favorable work assignments, or job security, in return for the victim’s compliance with their sexual demands.
  • Unequal power dynamic – Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a significant power imbalance between the harasser and the victim. The harasser abuses their position of authority to pressure the victim into engaging in sexual activity or providing sexual favors.
  • Unwelcome advances – The victim must reject or resist the sexual advances for it to be harassment. If the victim voluntarily enters into a consensual relationship with the harasser, it may not meet the definition of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
  • Adverse consequences – If the victim refuses to comply with the harasser’s demands, they may experience adverse employment consequences, such as demotion, termination, loss of job opportunities, or retaliation.

Examples of quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace include:

  • A supervisor threatens to fire an employee unless they engage in a sexual relationship with them.
  • An employer promises a raise or promotion in exchange for the employee going on a date with them.
  • A manager conditions a favorable work schedule on the employee accepting their sexual advances.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is strictly against federal and state anti-discrimination laws. You can hold employers liable for quid pro quo harassment even if they did not have the chance to stop it.

Unlike hostile work environment harassment, employers do not require notice of the harassment and the opportunity to address the problem before liability attaches.

If one of your superiors engaged in this type of unlawful conduct, you should never wait to discuss what happened with a skilled sexual harassment attorney near you. A lawyer can provide the support you need, especially if you cannot trust your employer to help you.

Workplace Harassment Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Norms

Not all workplace sexual harassment is sexually charged. Sometimes, harassment can revolve around someone’s sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, gender nonconformity, and similar factors related to an employee’s sex and gender.

Workplace harassment based on sexual orientation or gender norms can create a hostile and toxic work environment for affected employees.

Sexual Orientation Harassment

This type of workplace harassment targets individuals based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Harassment can involve derogatory comments, slurs, offensive jokes, or other forms of verbal or written abuse.

Gender Norms Harassment

Gender norms harassment occurs when individuals face discrimination or mistreatment because they do not conform to traditional gender norms and expectations. This may include transgender individuals, gender-nonconforming individuals, or anyone who challenges traditional gender roles.

Impact on Employees

Workplace harassment based on sexual orientation or gender norms can have severe emotional, psychological, and professional consequences for victims. It can lead to anxiety, depression, reduced job satisfaction, and decreased productivity. The fear of discrimination or harassment may also deter qualified candidates from pursuing job opportunities or promotions.

In California and across the United States, workplace harassment based on sexual orientation or gender norms is illegal under anti-discrimination laws, just like other forms of sexual harassment.

Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex, which courts have specifically interpreted to include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation and gender identity are also express protections under FEHA in California.

Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and address workplace harassment based on sexual orientation or gender norms. This includes developing comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, training employees and management regularly, and promptly investigating and addressing harassment complaints.

Employees who experience workplace harassment based on sexual orientation or gender norms should report it to their supervisor, human resources department, or other designated channels. Employers must take all complaints seriously and protect victims from retaliation.

When employers fail to take the necessary steps to protect the rights of employees and harassment persists, employees have the right to hold their employers liable for the harm they suffered.

What to Do if You Suffered Sexual Harassment at Work

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, you should never hesitate to take action to protect your rights, well-being, and professional environment.

Below are some steps to consider if you have suffered any form of sexual harassment.

When unsure what to do, never delay seeking guidance from an employment law attorney.

  • Consult an employment attorney – Always seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney who handles sexual harassment cases. They can help you understand your rights, options, and potential legal recourse.
  • Document all incidents of harassment – Write down detailed accounts of each incident, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses present. Keep any physical evidence, such as offensive messages or notes.
  • Review your workplace policies – Your lawyer can explain your company’s policies on sexual harassment and reporting procedures. These policies should outline the steps you should take if you experience harassment.
  • Report the harassment – Your lawyer can help you report the incidents to your supervisor, manager, human resources department, or any other designated authority, following your company’s reporting process. Make your report in writing if possible, and keep a copy for your records.
  • Keep records of retaliation – If you experience any form of retaliation after reporting the harassment, document these incidents as well. The law prohibits retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, and you might need to take further legal action.

How a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Can Help You

Experiencing sexual harassment can be emotionally devastating, especially if it affects your job and career path. This is a difficult situation whether you are still working at your job, were fired for noncompliance with sexual requests, or felt you had to quit due to a hostile work environment.

In any of these situations, an employment attorney can provide the following services, among others:

  • Objectively assess what happened and whether the conduct you experienced was sexual harassment
  • Identify your legal rights according to the type of harassment you experienced
  • Negotiate with your employer to attempt to resolve the matter without filing a formal complaint
  • If your employer is not willing to provide legal relief, your lawyer can file the appropriate complaints with state or federal government agencies
  • Provide evidence to support your claims and challenge any defenses your employer tries to present
  • Determine how much you deserve in compensation for the emotional, financial, and professional harm you suffered
  • File a case in civil court if necessary

No matter what type of harassment you suffered, you should exercise your legal rights to hold your employer accountable under the law. Doing so can help you move forward with greater support and a sense of justice for what happened to you. Seek help from a skilled employment attorney today.

What Is Sexual Harassment in California?

You should never feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any location, especially places where you spend so much time, like work. Still, under certain circumstances, a harasser may purposely make you feel stressed and overwhelmed by making you the target of their sexually harassing behaviors, constituting sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is not only wrongful but also illegal. If anyone sexually harasses you, do not hesitate to discuss your situation with a local sexual harassment attorney as quickly as possible to protect yourself and your rights.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment refers inappropriate and unwelcome behaviors. When a person experiences sexual harassment, they can feel stressed, awkward, or even worried for their safety.

Many times, sexual harassment goes unreported, and harassers get away with their wrongful behavior. For this reason, a lawyer can explain the signs of sexual harassment, your rights, and your options should someone harass you.

Recognizing Sexual Harassment

Fully understanding sexual harassment means knowing what behaviors to look for. Sexual harassment comes in verbal, non-verbal, or physical forms.

Common examples of verbal sexual harassment include:

  • Asking for sexual favors
  • Sexual jokes 
  • Inappropriate comments about your looks
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Discussing sexual stories or fantasies
  • Spreading inappropriate rumors

Common non-verbal examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Blowing kisses
  • Winking
  • Making crude body gestures
  • Making faces
  • Whistling or catcalling

Finally, signs of physical sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome physical contact, like hugs
  • Rubbing up against a person
  • Getting too close to a person
  • Touching a person in an inappropriate place

Sexual harassment may start mild, with some verbal and non-verbal cues, and transition into physical contact as the harasser gets more comfortable acting inappropriately.

When a person sexually harasses you, protect yourself and keep others around you safe.

Who Can Be a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

There are several misconceptions about sexual harassment. One of the most significant is that sexual harassment only happens to certain people.

In reality, sexual harassment can happen to just about anyone. Regardless of your age, gender, race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion, you’re at risk of falling victim to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment does not discriminate. What’s important is determining whether a person is experiencing unwanted, inappropriate behavior.

Additionally, a person does not have to be a direct victim of sexual harassment. You may have a claim for sexual harassment if you saw a harasser’s wrongdoing and the harassment has affected you in some way.

Therefore, harassment can affect anyone, regardless of your circumstances.

Where Does Sexual Harassment Happen Most?

Sexual harassment can happen almost anywhere. However, sexual harassment occurs more in certain locations than others, including schools and workplaces, as isolated incidents or, more often, repeated offenses. For this reason, sexual harassment often occurs in locations where a person frequents, like school or work.

Still, if you believe someone sexually harassed you, discuss your situation with a sexual harassment attorney to determine whether you have a valid claim.

Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The workplace is one of the most common places where sexual harassment takes place. This is partly because harassers get comfortable harassing their victims, especially in certain situations, including when the harasser is in a position of power.

Because sexual harassment in the workplace happens so frequently, the law recognizes two distinct types of sexual harassment at work: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is Latin, meaning “something for something.” When it comes to sexual harassment, quid pro quo means the harasser asks their victim for something, usually sexual relations, in exchange for a benefit. They can also threaten adverse action if the victim does not agree to sexual conduct.

In most cases, the individual doing the harassing requests a sexual favor, like a sexual act, in exchange for something work-related, including:

  • A job
  • Promotion
  • Raise
  • Better work hours
  • A transfer to a desired work location
  • Protection during periods of layoffs

Usually, harassers who engage in quid pro quo harassment are in power positions, while their victims are in lower positions. Higher-ups may feel they can get away with harassing behavior, and the victim will do as requested to receive the promised benefit.

Sometimes, victims feel backed into a corner with no choice but to agree to the harasser’s request. Whether the victim agrees to sexual conduct or inappropriate acts does not affect their ability to take action against the harasser. This does not change anything for victims – a wrongful act is still wrong.

Hostile Work Environment

The second type of workplace sexual harassment involves a hostile work environment. This is because harassers can make a situation so bad for their victim that they create an abusive, offensive, or otherwise hostile work environment.

Typically, in a hostile work environment, the harasser’s behavior is enough to create a bad situation for the victim.

Harassers in a hostile work environment can work with the victim or frequent their place of business, including:

  • Supervisors
  • Coworkers
  • Clients
  • Customers
  • Vendors

The harasser’s repetitive behavior makes a work environment hostile if the behavior would offend a reasonable person.

A victim of hostile work environment sexual harassment may put up with the harassment for fear of potential consequences, like losing their job or retaliation by the harasser or the company.

How California Defines Sexual Harassment

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) dictates the laws concerning workplace sexual harassment. Under the Act, sexual harassment is sexually suggestive and unwanted verbal or physical advances toward an individual with whom the harasser has a professional relationship.

The law also protects those who do not have a professional relationship with the harasser. Sexual harassment can occur between individuals with varying relationships in other settings, and the law protects them all the same.

Is Sexual Harassment Illegal in California?

Sexual harassment violates the law in California and everywhere else in the United States. Therefore, if a person sexually harasses someone, they may face serious consequences under the law—both civilly and criminally.

The law also requires employers to prevent sexual harassment at work in California. If an employer fails to abide by these requirements, a company can face civil liability and potential penalties from the government.

What to Do if You Believe Someone Sexually Harassed You

If you or someone you know experience sexual harassment, develop a plan with a sexual harassment lawyer, especially if you experience harassment frequently and it interferes with your work or life.

The following steps can protect your rights and allow you to file a claim.

Collect Evidence and Documentation of the Incidents

The first time or two you experience sexual harassment, you may not know it. However, if you find the harasser continues to engage in inappropriate conduct, whether verbal, visual, or physical, start gathering evidence.

Helpful evidence of sexual harassment can include:

  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Phone messages
  • Videos and photos
  • Handwritten notes

If you can collect any documentation or evidence to show the harasser’s wrongful behavior, save it just in case. Your lawyer may use it later.

Speak to Your Harasser

Some sexual harassment victims can avoid further upset by talking to their harasser. Sometimes, a person engaging in sexual harassment behavior may not realize their behavior offended you. A simple talk can help resolve any issues.

Alternatively, your harasser may know they engaged in wrongful behavior but may think you’d never take action against them. Having a talk with these individuals may scare them into correcting their behavior for fear of the repercussions.

Still, if you’re seriously intimidated by your harasser, or you don’t feel comfortable or safe speaking with them, you can proceed without doing so.

Notify Your Employer

Become familiar with your employer’s harassment policy. You can either ask human resources or refer to your employee handbook.

Typically, employers have protocols to follow if an employee experiences harassment. This may require you to speak directly with your supervisor or your company’s HR department and file a complaint against your harasser.

Once your employer knows the harassment, they can conduct an internal investigation to determine whether your claims are true. If they determine a reason to believe your claims of harassment are valid, your company may take action against the harasser. However, they may also decide not to act or determine your claims are false.

Remember, too, that HR departments work for and protect the company, not you. Call a lawyer to determine how best to talk to HR.

Depending on the outcome of your company’s investigation, you may proceed with a more formal complaint.

File a Formal Complaint with a Governmental Agency

Two agencies handle harassment issues: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. The California Civil Rights Department specifically protects California residents from wrongful and illegal conduct in the workplace.

Your sexual harassment attorney can determine the best place to begin your claim process. Often, California employees will file a complaint with the state agency.

After filing your complaint, you can determine whether you’d like the agency to investigate. If they do and they find a state or federal law violation, they can remedy the issue.

You may skip the agency’s investigation and request a right to sue to pursue formal legal action.

Taking legal action against your harasser or employer requires special permission from the EEOC or CRD. You cannot proceed with your legal claim unless you receive a right-to-sue letter allowing you to file a lawsuit.

If you can file a lawsuit in court, hire a qualified sexual harassment attorney to handle your claim and provide experienced representation.

Are There Time Limits on Sexual Harassment Claims?

When it comes to civil cases, a statute of limitations dictates how long a person has to file their lawsuit. It’s no different for sexual harassment cases. However, your state’s laws may differ.

Generally, you have three years to file your complaint with the CRD and a maximum of 300 days to file it with the EEOC. These dates may vary, so consult a sexual harassment attorney.

Additionally, obtaining a right-to-sue letter means you have one year to file your lawsuit.

Missing a deadline can seriously affect your ability to seek justice and obtain compensation for sexual harassment. Therefore, get moving as quickly as possible.

An Experienced Sexual Harassment Attorney Can Help

You cannot handle a sexual harassment cases alone. Sexual harassment can affect you mentally and emotionally, and the added stress of handling your claim can overwhelm you.

A sexual harassment attorney can provide much-needed guidance and advice and determine your case’s best course of action.

To ensure your claim proceeds appropriately and within the required time frame, seek help from a local employment lawyer in San Diego right away.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today!

Can Sexual Harassment Happen Outside of Work?

Sexual harassment can happen just about anywhere, at any time, and to anyone. Even so, sexual harassment tends to happen most often in the workplace. When you go to work, you should never experience sexual harassment, but many people do – by bosses, coworkers, clients, and others.

But can sexual harassment exit the four walls of your workplace?

Yes. Sexual harassment at work can follow you outside the workplace.

You can hold your employer liable for harassment outside of your work location, and you deserve legal relief for what you experienced and the harm you suffered.

If you’re the victim of sexual harassment or suspect you might be, you don’t have to feel alone in your struggles. A qualified sexual harassment lawyer can provide proper guidance and advice and help you pursue the justice you deserve. Seek a legal consultation and evaluation of your options today.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment encompasses a variety of inappropriate and unwelcome behaviors, which can vary widely from . When a harasser engages in this type of wrongful behavior, they can make their victim feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or unsafe.

Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment can happen in almost any setting. Still, it tends to happen often at work, partially because of the different power imbalances within the workplace and the repeated interaction between harassers and their victims.

Another misconception is believing sexual harassment only happens to certain individuals. In reality, anyone can fall victim to sexual harassment. No matter your gender, age, or sexual orientation, you can face sexual harassment by a harasser of any gender, age, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment does not discriminate.

Finally, sexual harassment can involve one isolated incident or frequent improper interactions. What matters most is that you do not welcome the behavior, and it is bad enough to make them feel and react negatively.

Common Signs of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment often goes unreported, primarily because victims are unaware of what sexual harassment entails.

There is no set, strict behaviors that entail sexual harassment. Instead, harassment can involve several verbal, visual, and physical cues to make a victim feel uncomfortable and at risk.

Verbal signs of sexual harassment can include:

  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Sharing stories of sexual experiences or fantasies
  • Comments about a person’s appearance or looks
  • Rumors of the sexual variety
  • Inappropriate phone calls or voice memos
  • Repeatedly asking a person on dates
  • Excessive flirting
  • Asking inappropriate questions

Common non-verbal, visual signs that indicate sexual harassment include:

  • Inappropriate facial expressions
  • Winking
  • Blowing kisses
  • Crude body gestures
  • Sharing sexually explicit images or videos
  • Exposing oneself

Physical sexual harassment often includes:

  • Touching a person inappropriately
  • Unwelcome touching
  • Rubbing oneself sexually against another person
  • Unsolicited massages

Often, harassers aim to use their words and actions to make their victims feel a certain type of way, especially in the workplace. Harassers may act inappropriately toward their victims and threaten or blackmail them to help ensure they stay tight-lipped about the situation.

Regardless of your experiences, if you feel you’ve fallen victim to sexual harassment, it’s essential to take action. If not, the behavior may continue, and the harasser may go unpunished, allowing them to target many other victims.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment happens in every type of workplace, from retail stores and small restaurants to established businesses and large corporations. Your experience may differ depending on the details of your harassment, including the identity of your harasser and the type of harassment you’re experiencing.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is so common; the law recognizes two of the most common kinds of sexual harassment situations: hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Hostile Work Environment

You may have previously heard of a hostile work environment but may not understand what it means. Additionally, many don’t realize this term relates to sexual harassment.

If you’re experiencing a hostile work environment, your harasser has likely created a particularly negative working environment for you. This circumstance may make it nearly impossible to feel comfortable and safe at work. A hostile work environment is not only just hostile but perhaps offensive and even abusive.

In a hostile work environment, the harasser’s sexual conduct is usually bad enough that even the most reasonable person will find it offensive. In addition, the behaviors a victim experiences in this situation usually occur over an extended period and on several occasions rather than just one sole incident.

Those that work with you are not the only individuals responsible for creating a hostile work environment. Aside from supervisors and coworkers, other individuals that frequent your place of work can also create such an environment for you, including vendors, customers, and clients.

A hostile work environment can affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, affecting their ability to work and earn a living. In this environment, you may not want to report your harasser, as you may worry about what that will mean for your career and future.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo sexual harassment varies greatly from hostile work environment harassment.

In Latin, quid pro quo stands for “something for something“. Therefore, this type of sexual harassment involves the harasser asking their victim for something in exchange for something else.

Usually, quid pro quo harassers are in positions of power, giving them the upper hand on their victims. Additionally, these higher-up positions give the harasser the power to provide their victims with a sought-after benefit, which they use to their advantage.

Most commonly, quid pro quo harassers ask for sexual favors in exchange for work benefits, including:

  • Jobs
  • Promotions
  • Raises
  • Transfers to other locations
  • Protection for layoffs and firings

Under these unique circumstances, many times, victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment feel they have no choice but to agree to their harasser’s requests. Failing to comply can result in negative consequences with lasting effects.

For this reason, victims often agree to their harasser’s requests, as bad as some may be. However, even if you, as a victim, agree to do whatever your harasser asks of you, this does not take away your right to justice in the future. Complying with the request your harasser makes of you does not change anything.

Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Just Have to Happen Inside the Workplace

Sexual harassment doesn’t just stop once the clock hits 5 o’clock. While it is true some harassers only harass their victims at work during work hours, some harassers also choose to take it outside the four walls of the workplace. This is especially true if you work for a company or business encouraging out-of-office gatherings and relationships with coworkers.

Social Settings

For some employees, escaping social outings and events with coworkers is impossible. You’ll likely see your coworkers and other work-related contacts outside the office, whether during an after-work happy hour or the yearly holiday party.

In these social settings is where sexual harassment often starts. Alternatively, a social event or outing can only make the harassment worse, as coworkers and supervisors are in more relaxed settings and don’t feel watched. Additionally, social settings usually involve alcohol, which often escalates the matter.

Mingling with coworkers and work contacts outside of work can easily result in sexual harassment.

Work Trips

If your job takes you on frequent work trips, this can easily result in sexual harassment. This is particularly true if you take frequent work trips with your harasser or visit certain work locations where your harasser works.

Like social outings, work trips often involve casual gatherings, which usually involve alcohol. The primary difference is that you’re not going home at the end of the day and likely head to a hotel, which can give a harasser an easier opportunity to act wrongfully.

Working from Home

Workplace sexual harassment doesn’t just happen in person – online sexual harassment is also very real.

After the pandemic and the rise in remote jobs, sexual harassment happens more frequently online. While physical harassment is out of the question, this doesn’t stop harassers from engaging in inappropriate behaviors. In an online setting, people can send digital content on private and public platforms, including unwelcome and explicit photos, videos, emails, and instant messages.

Workplace Romances Gone Wrong

It’s worth noting that some sexual harassment situations don’t arise out of the blue. Instead, what starts as a workplace romance can quickly take a turn for the worst and become sexual harassment.

Many companies have certain policies for workplace relationships. Many allow these inter-office relationships as long as the couple makes the employer aware, while others strongly deter their employees from dating each other.

Even if you had a romantic relationship with a coworker they cannot sexually harass you. Sexual harassment is still wrong, no matter the relationship the harasser shares with their victim.

Does the Law Protect Victims of Sexual Harassment Outside of Work?

Yes – sexual harassment is wrong and unlawful, regardless of the setting. This means that even if your workplace sexual harassment occurs somewhere else, the law still protects you.

What Laws Pertain to Sexual Harassment?

Several state and federal laws exist to protect against different types of harassment, including sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act. If you experience sexual harassment, take action against your harasser and/or employer.

Depending on your situation, you may recover damages. Therefore, talk to a lawyer who can explain the relevant laws and how to protect your right to compensation.

Taking Action for Sexual Harassment

When you fall victim to sexual harassment, don’t wait to take action. This usually starts by notifying your employer of the harassment based on their harassment policy, if one exists. Employers usually expect to learn about situations like harassment so they can investigate and take appropriate action.

Depending on the outcome of your employer’s investigation, you may decide to take your sexual harassment complaint to the governmental level. You can file a formal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency tasked with protecting victims of discrimination, or a state-level agency, like the California Civil Rights Department (CRD), which protects state residents from unlawful conduct.

Through either agency, you may have the agency itself investigate your claims to determine whether your employer violated the law. If so, the agency can attempt to remedy the situation for you.

Alternatively, you may elect to seek a right to sue. A right-to-sue letter from either agency gives you the green light to file your lawsuit.

You may not know how best to take action for sexual harassment in (and out) of the workplace. For this reason, rely on a sexual harassment attorney for guidance.

A Sexual Harassment Attorney Can Help You Navigate Your Claim

Sexual harassment can have many mental, emotional, and physical effects on a victim. Experiencing sexual harassment can bring about many negative feelings, including worry, fear, and anxiety. You shouldn’t have to add to your stress by handling your own sexual harassment claim.

Strong representation can reach the best possible outcome. Additionally, having an employement attorney in San Diego on your side can provide much-needed peace of mind during a turbulent time.

The law gives you limited time to take action for your sexual harassment case. Contact a local sexual harassment firm in San Diego as soon as possible to discuss your case with a skilled attorney.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today!

What to Do if You Experienced Sexual Harassment at Work?

You should enjoy a safe workplace, free from harassment. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is extremely common and can hurt your work performance and mental and physical health.

If this happens to you, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities. If anyone sexual harasses you in the workplace, do not hesitate to speak with a sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to inappropriate and unsolicited sexual behaviors. This type of behavior can happen anywhere but often tends to happen in the workplace.

One of the most common misconceptions regarding sexual harassment is that it only happens to certain people. This is just one of the reasons the signs of sexual harassment often go unnoticed.

In reality, sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, and race. Both men and women can be the perpetrators, making their victims feel awkward, uneasy, and sometimes unsafe.

Recognizing the Signs of Sexual Harassment

Often, individuals are unaware of the behaviors that entail sexual harassment. It’s critical to look for these specific signs, as it can happen to you or someone you know.

Sexual harassment can take many forms and be verbal, non-verbal, and physical.

Verbally, sexual harassment can look like:

  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Sexual comments, especially those concerning your appearance
  • Sharing sexual encounters and fantasies
  • Asking personal and inappropriate questions
  • Excessive flirting

Non-verbal sexual harassment often includes:

  • Winking and blowing kisses
  • Inappropriate gestures and body movements
  • Cat-calling
  • Looking at you up and down
  • Following or stalking

While harassers often start with verbal and non-verbal harassment, it’s common for them to eventually transition to physical contact.

This can include:

  • Unwelcome hugs and kisses
  • Giving a massage around the neck and back
  • Rubbing against you
  • Finding any excuse to touch you, like putting hands on the small of your back to move past you
  • Touching you in inappropriate areas

When you experience sexual harassment, you’ll likely feel particularly uncomfortable and tense. Most times, harassers know what they’re doing is wrong and aim to make you feel some type of negative way.

The Two Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is particularly common. There are two main categories of sexual harassment at work, depending on the circumstances: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Experiencing a hostile work environment typically means your harasser engages in repeated sexual harassment, enough to create a negative work environment. Under California law, a hostile work environment involves inappropriate behavior in the workplace that is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment for the victim.

When you’re facing a hostile work environment, the sexual harassment can be enough to severely interfere with your work and ability to earn a living. It can also have a significant impact on your mental and physical health.

The other common kind of workplace sexual harassment is quid pro quo. In Latin, quid pro quo stands for “something for something.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment means a person at work, typically one in a position of power, has offered a work benefit in exchange for a sexual favor.

In a quid pro quo situation, the harasser regularly offers any of the following in exchange for something sexual:

  • A job
  • A promotion
  • A raise
  • A transfer to another desirable location
  • Protection from termination or layoff
  • Better work hours

Often, when a victim denies the harasser’s request, they may threaten the victim with a demotion, fewer work hours, a reduction in pay, or even termination.

If you’ve fallen victim to either a hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment, it’s important to take action. Taking action can not only help your situation, but it can also stop the harasser and protect others from experiencing the same.

What to Do if You Experience Sexual Harassment at Work

Facing sexual harassment can be one of the most stressful and overwhelming experiences of a person’s life. You may be unsure of what to do, where to turn, or who to talk to for direction.

When someone sexually harasses you, protect your rights and future case. These steps can help you do just that.

Get to Know Your Rights Under California and Federal Law

Under both California law and federal law, you have rights, especially in the workplace. Among these rights, you have the right to work in an environment free of harassment. Should your employer fail to take action and prevent harassment within your workplace, you can hold them liable.

You may have the opportunity to take action against your employer and/or the harasser, which can include coworkers and supervisors. Additionally, under certain circumstances, you might hold your employer liable for sexual harassment by customers and clients of the business.

If you’re unsure of what your legal rights may be, an employment attorney can provide all of the information you may need to feel better about moving forward.

Understand Your Employer’s Policy on Sexual Harassment

Most places of employment have certain established policies, including a policy regarding harassment in the workplace. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with how your employer handles sexual harassment.

California law requires employers to create a policy addressing sexual harassment at work and make their employees aware of it.

Within the sexual harassment policy, employers must clearly outline the appropriate procedure employees must follow should they experience harassment within the workplace.

Document Your Experiences of Sexual Harassment at Work

As soon as you begin experiencing sexual harassment, you should start documenting your experiences and gathering pertinent evidence.

Keeping a detailed account of every inappropriate encounter with your harasser can significantly help you prove the harassment is occurring.

Document as much information as possible, including:

  • What exactly happened/what was said
  • Who was involved
  • Where the incident took place
  • The date and time of the incident
  • Whether anyone witnessed the incident, and if so, who

Writing things down can help for several reasons, but primarily because, over time, memories become hazy or fade altogether. Your experiences are much more believable when you can provide exact details.

Also, be sure to keep any concrete evidence of harassment, including text messages, emails, voicemails, or hand-written notes. While it may seem tempting to throw these things away to help you ignore or forget the harassment, these pieces of evidence can substantially help strengthen your case.

Should I Confront My Harasser?

You need not confront your harasser to proceed with your sexual harassment complaint. However, if you feel comfortable enough doing so, a lawyer can talk to you about how to discuss the situation with the individual to get them to stop on their own.

Sometimes, a sit-down conversation with the harasser will stop the harassment.

Not everyone understands the impact of their words and actions. Your harasser may not realize how their behavior affects you. Helping them understand your perspective might open their eyes and cause the harassment to stop altogether.

Additionally, having a conversation with your harasser can make them aware of your intentions to proceed with a formal complaint against them. This might help them rethink their behavior, as they can fear the repercussions of their actions.

Confronting a harasser might be a viable option for you. However, if you truly fear for your safety, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. You can skip this step altogether and proceed with your formal complaint.

Report the Sexual Harassment to Your Employer

Whether the conversation with your harasser doesn’t yield favorable results or you choose to forgo a confrontation, you can proceed with filing a complaint with your employer.

Every company has different procedures for reporting incidents, like harassment, at work. If you’re unsure of your employer’s policies, consult with your employee handbook or ask someone in Human Resources.

Typically, you’ll make a formal, written complaint detailing the sexual harassment. You can include specific information and copies of your evidence.

Once you’ve made your complaint, this allows your employer to investigate your allegations and take corrective action against the harasser.

However, your employer may not take action to fix the issue. This is especially true when the harasser holds a position of power. Therefore, if your employer does nothing to protect you and stop the harassment, you can hold your employer liable.

File a Formal Complaint With a Governmental Agency

If your employer fails to take any action or you’re dissatisfied with how they handled your situation, you can file a complaint with a governmental agency. The two agencies in charge of sexual harassment complaints are the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

You do not have to file a complaint with both agencies, as your complaint is cross-filed between the two. Once you’ve filed your complaint, the agency can conduct its investigation. Depending on the results of their investigation, they may take action against your employer.

If the agency does not help you settle the issue with your employer, you may have the opportunity to file a lawsuit against your employer to hold them liable.

You may resolve your issues without filing a lawsuit. However, filing a lawsuit might be the best option if you cannot resolve your problem through CRD or EEOC.

To file a lawsuit for a sexual harassment case, the governmental agency must give you a right-to-sue notice, giving you the right to file your lawsuit in court.

A sexual harassment lawsuit can be overwhelming to handle on your own. Therefore, it’s highly advisable to have a knowledgeable sexual harassment attorney on your side to provide high-quality legal representation throughout the process.

When to Consult a Sexual Harassment Attorney

You can feel free to consult with a sexual harassment attorney at any point. Still, the sooner you meet with a lawyer and discuss your situation, the better.

An experienced attorney can listen to your problems to provide the best possible legal advice. They can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and guide you from beginning to end. A lawyer can also represent your best interests and fight for justice on your behalf.

Experiencing sexual harassment can feel isolating and stressful. Fortunately, you don’t have to go at it alone. A sexual harassment attorney can provide the kindness, patience, and compassion you need during a trying time.

Time Is Limited – Do Not Wait to Take Action

If you’re interested in taking action against your harasser or employer, it’s crucial to note that time is limited to do so. Failing to take action within the time allotted can result in your inability to pursue justice and compensation for your case.

The sooner you file your complaint with your employer, the better. It may take some time for them to investigate and make their decision regarding your situation and any potential action they’ll take.

When filing a complaint with the CRD, you have 180 to 300 days from the date of the latest incident of sexual harassment. On the other hand, you have one year to file a complaint with the EEOC.

If you receive a right-to-sue notice, CRD gives you three years to file your lawsuit, while EEOC gives you only 90 days to sue.

Keeping track of dates can be tedious and confusing. Fortunately, your sexual harassment lawyer can handle your claim timely.

Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today

If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment, you’re not alone in your struggles. A sexual harassment attorney can provide the lending hand you need to proceed with a claim and pursue the justice you deserve. Never wait to begin standing up for your rights as an employee. Reach out to a San Diego employment lawyer.

What Are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?

With the long hours spent in the workplace, you should always feel safe and comfortable. However, when you experience sexual harassment at work, this calm, peaceful environment can cease to exist. Reach out to a sexual harassment lawyer.

When it comes to the workplace, you may experience two main types of sexual harassment. If you experience either, do not wait to consult an attorney to familiarize yourself with your legal rights and discuss options.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment involves inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment, your harasser may intentionally make you feel awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes, even unsafe.

There are many misconceptions surrounding sexual harassment, including believing that sexual harassment only occurs under certain circumstances or to specific people. In reality, sexual harassment can happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Along with being morally wrong, sexual harassment is against the law. Several laws exist to protect victims of sexual harassment. Therefore, if you experience sexual harassment, discuss your situation with a qualified lawyer to better understand your rights and options.

Sexual Harassment Can Be Verbal, Non-Verbal, and Physical

Sexual harassment comes in many forms that you will want to look out for.

Commonly, harassers may begin their harassment verbally.\

Examples of verbal sexual harassment include:

  • Offensive jokes of a sexual nature
  • Sexual remarks
  • Unwelcome flirting
  • Suggestive comments
  • Name-calling

Sexual harassment can also be non-verbal, which can include winking, making sexual gestures, or looking at a person up and down sexually.

Often, harassers get comfortable enough to get physical.

Common examples of physical sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome hugs, kisses, patting, or touching of any kind
  • Rubbing oneself against the other person
  • Giving someone an unsolicited massage
  • Getting close enough to make a person uncomfortable, like whispering in their ear

Knowing when to spot the signs of sexual harassment is critical for yourself and others around you. If a person seems to intentionally make you feel uneasy with their inappropriate words, actions, or gestures, there’s a chance it can be sexual harassment. Do not hesitate to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable attorney for guidance on the matter.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Two Types of Sexual Harassment

While sexual harassment can take place almost anywhere, it occurs quite frequently in the workplace. It is so common that there are two primary types of sexual harassment in the workplace: hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Experiencing sexual harassment is always uncomfortable, especially when it happens at work. Individuals spend a large portion of their lives at work. More specifically, on average, Americans spend about 90,000 hours of their lives in the workplace.

When you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, it can be difficult to do your job, feel relaxed and at peace, and even advance your career. It can truly impact your physical and mental health and your ability to provide for yourself and your family.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Many have heard of hostile work environments in the past, but it is not widely understood. Simply put, a harasser can create a hostile work environment for the victim, making it nearly impossible to spend their days at work. Some people might also describe a hostile work environment as abusive or offensive.

Usually, in a hostile work environment, the harasser’s behavior is severe or pervasive enough to create such hostility.

Many individuals in the workplace can create such an environment, including:

  • Coworkers
  • Supervisors
  • Vendors
  • Customers
  • Clients

A hostile work environment typically refers to sexual conduct that is particularly offensive to a reasonable person and occurs on multiple occasions. Sexual harassment in a hostile environment can be physical, verbal, and non-verbal.

When a victim is subject to a hostile work environment, it can severely affect their work performance. Many instances of sexual harassment in a hostile work environment go unreported for multiple reasons, often because victims want to avoid losing their jobs and incomes, and some fear retaliation.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is the second most common type of sexual harassment at work.

Quid pro quo is Latin for “something for something.” Essentially, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves asking a person for a sexual favor in exchange for a work benefit.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment most often involves individuals in a higher position with power over the victim.

In most cases, the harasser may offer any of the following in exchange for sexual favors:

  • A job
  • A raise
  • Better hours at work
  • A desired relocation
  • A promotion 
  • Protection during a layoff

Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment are commonly put in awkward positions, feeling as though they can’t say no. This is because many harassers threaten their victims if they refuse their requests. For example, a harasser may offer their victim the promotion they want, but if they refuse to comply with their request, the harasser might threaten to fire the victim instead.

Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment may avoid reporting the harassment for many of the same reasons as hostile work environment harassment. Along with these reasons, many victims are also embarrassed and ashamed to report the harassment if they complied with the sexual request.

It does not matter whether you went through with your harasser’s request or not. What matters most is that the harassment happened in the first place. Regardless of the outcome, you still have a right to report your harasser’s misconduct.

What to Do if You Experience Sexual Harassment

If you’re a victim of sexual harassment, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. What you shouldn’t do is stand by and avoid taking any sort of action. Sexual harassment is uncomfortable enough as it is, and you don’t want your harasser to get away with it and continue harassing other people.

The following steps can protect your rights and allow you to take action against your harasser.

Document Your Experiences

When you begin to recognize the signs, document any instances of sexual harassment. Save emails, phone messages, and text messages. Write down the specifics of your run-ins with your harasser, and even ask witnesses for written statements.

Gathering evidence of the harassment can help you, later on, should you file a formal report or a lawsuit.

Confront Your Harasser

Confronting the person sexually harassing you is not an option for everyone. However, under some circumstances, you may feel comfortable enough to confront your harasser and discuss what’s been happening. Many victims take this step, frequently with a witness present or available nearby, before taking more serious action. A lawyer can provide advice about how, or whether, to do this.

If speaking with your harasser isn’t an option for you or does not go how you might have liked, you can report the harassment to your employer.

Follow Your Employer’s Policies for Sexual Harassment

Employers often have protocols for handling sexual harassment within the workplace. If you’re unsure of your company’s rules regarding sexual harassment, consult with your employee handbook or ask your Human Resources department.

Usually, you must provide your supervisor or HR department with a written complaint detailing the sexual harassment. Then, the party in charge can investigate your claims.

Depending on the findings, your employer may take action against the responsible party. Still, your employer may take no action against your harasser, leaving room for the harassment to continue.

When reporting your harassment does not yield favorable results, you may have the opportunity to proceed and file a more formal complaint with a governmental agency.

File a Formal Complaint with a Governmental Agency

Regarding sexual harassment matters, you can file a complaint with two agencies: the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The California Civil Rights Department protects California residents from unlawful conduct in the workplace, including sexual harassment, on the state level. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency enforcing anti-discrimination laws on the federal level.

You only need to file a complaint with one agency, as complaints are cross-filed with the agencies. Once you file your complaint, the agency should thoroughly evaluate it. If they accept your claim for investigation, the agency will begin looking into the issue.

The opposing party must respond to your complaint. Depending on the results of the investigation and the party’s response, the agency may determine there has been a violation of California or federal law.

To pursue legal action for a sexual harassment case, the CRD or EEOC must give you a right-to-sue notice. You can file your lawsuit once you get the green light to take legal action against the responsible party.

For best results, have an experienced attorney handle your case and pursue justice and compensation for you.

If I’m Sexually Harassed at Work, Should I Speak With an Attorney?


If you experience sexual harassment at work, you may feel alone in your struggles.

You are never alone. A skilled lawyer can help lead you on your journey to justice.

The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the better. Discussing your situation with an attorney can help you feel a little less alone and give you a better idea of what you can expect moving forward.

Employment attorneys have extensive experience handling workplace sexual harassment cases. They are in the best position to give you sound legal advice and determine how best to proceed with your case.

What Happens if Sexual Harassment Results in a Sexual Assault?

Unfortunately, in some cases, sexual harassment gives way to sexual assault.

Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or forced sexual interaction with a victim. Examples of sexual assault include fondling, forcing a victim to engage in sexual acts, and rape.

While sexual assault can happen in the workplace, it often occurs outside of work. The perpetrator may corner out outside the office or follow you home or to another location.

Sexual assault is much more severe than sexual harassment. If you’re the victim of sexual assault, call 911 or report the incident to local police, as sexual assault is a crime. Additionally, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible to receive a thorough examination and appropriate medical treatment.

Time Constraints on Sexual Harassment Cases

Unfortunately, you do not have forever to take action in your sexual harassment case. Therefore, if you’re the victim of sexual harassment, it’s crucial to begin taking steps as soon as possible to protect your rights and future claim.

Sometimes, failing to report your sexual harassment to your employer in a timely manner can result in a negative impact on your ability to pursue justice. Start by reporting your harassment as quickly as you can.

The time you have to file a claim with a governmental agency depends on the agency itself. For example, the EEOC gives victims 180 to 300 days after the latest incident of sexual harassment. The CRD, on the other hand, typically gives victims one year to file their complaints. 

Additionally, when you receive a right-to-sue notice, you have 90 days to file your lawsuit in court.

You must always know the legal time constraints. When you have a lawyer on your side, your attorney can ensure they handle your case promptly to help avoid any negative repercussions.

Consult With a California Sexual Harassment Attorney Right Away

Sexual harassment can affect your life in many ways. Not only can it make you feel upset and anxious, but it can also affect you psychologically and physically.

If you experienced sexual harassment at work, you have rights and options. As soon as you can, speak to a sexual harassment lawyer to begin working on your case.

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