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.
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
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:
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
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.
Pursue Legal Action
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.