Common Types of Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment is a serious problem that can occur in any workplace, regardless of the industry or the size of the company. It can take many different forms, ranging from subtle comments or gestures to more overt and aggressive behaviors.

In order to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s important to first understand the types of workplace harassment behaviors that fall under this category. When the workplace environment is not a good, sexual harassment might coincide with discriminatory harassment, psychological harassment, retaliation harassment, racial harassment, and other forms of harassment as well.

In this article, we will discuss sexual harassment at work in detail, including the California laws associated with sexual harassment at work, some types of workplace harassment, the impact it has on employees, and tips for employees on how to respond to workplace harassment.

If you believe you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work, you should get in touch with the experienced employment law attorneys at Hershey Law. Our team has vast knowledge of types of workplace harassment and can help you get the justice you deserve. Contact us online or by calling 310-929-2190.

What Is Sexual Harassment at Work?

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The harassment also does not necessarily have to be of a sexual nature; it can include offensive comments about the person’s sex in general.

Sexual harassment occurs when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the individual.
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

California Laws Associated With Sexual Harassment at Work

California law provides strong protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of sex or gender identity. This includes sexual harassment, which is defined as any unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment.

In addition to the FEHA, California law also prohibits retaliation against employees who report or oppose sexual harassment. Employers cannot take adverse action against employees who complain about sexual harassment or participate in an investigation of workplace harassment.

Types of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can take many different forms but can be broadly categorized into three types: verbal, non-verbal, and physical harassment.

Verbal Harassment:

This type of harassment involves unwelcome comments, offensive jokes, or innuendos of a sexual nature. Verbal harassment can be difficult to detect, as it can sometimes be disguised as “friendly” banter.

However, it’s important to note that any sexual comments or jokes made in the workplace that are unwelcome can be considered sexual harassment.

Examples of verbal harassment include:

  • Making sexual jokes or comments about a person’s body or clothing.
  • Making sexual comments or asking inappropriate questions about a person’s life.
  • Using sexually explicit language or gestures, such as making sexual gestures with your hands or using explicit language to describe a person’s body.

Non-Verbal Harassment:

This type of harassment involves unwelcome gestures or behaviors that have a sexual connotation. Non-verbal harassment can be just as harmful as verbal harassment, as it can create a hostile or uncomfortable work environment.

Examples of non-verbal harassment include:

  • Staring or leering at someone in a sexually suggestive manner.
  • Displaying sexually suggestive images or objects in the workplace.
  • Sending sexually suggestive messages or images via email or text message.

Physical Harassment:

This type of harassment involves unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature. Physical harassment can be particularly distressing for victims, as it might involve unwanted touching or physical contact.

Examples of physical harassment include:

  • Unwanted touching, such as groping, fondling, or hugging, without consent.
  • Kissing or making sexual advances without consent, such as trying to kiss someone or making sexual comments while in close proximity.
  • Blocking someone’s path or cornering them in a sexually intimidating manner, such as trapping someone in a hallway or blocking their exit from a room.

It’s important to note that not all behavior that is sexual in nature is considered sexual harassment. For behavior to be considered sexual harassment, it must be unwelcome, offensive, and interfere with the employee’s ability to perform their job.

Sexual harassment can be committed by anyone in the workplace, including supervisors, coworkers, clients, or customers. Additionally, the above types of workplace harassment can occur between individuals of the same sex, as well as between individuals of different sexes.

Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. If you experience any kind of workplace harassment, it’s important to report it to a supervisor or human resources representative as soon as possible.

By taking action, you can protect yourself and help create a safer and more respectful workplace for all employees.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment vs. Hostile Work Environment

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee’s job benefits or opportunities are conditioned on the employee’s willingness to submit to sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other sexual conduct.

For example, a supervisor might offer a promotion or a raise in exchange for sexual favors, or threaten to fire an employee if they do not comply with their unwanted sexual advances.

On the other hand, a hostile environment is created when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. This can include lewd jokes, comments, gestures, unwelcome touching, or other sexually explicit behavior.

Both types of workplace harassment are illegal under California law, and employers have a legal obligation to prevent and address harassment in the workplace. It’s important for employees to understand the difference between these two types of harassment so that they can identify it when it occurs and report it to the appropriate person.

How Can Sexual Harassment Affect Employees?

Workplace harassment can have a significant impact on employees who experience it. It can cause emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, as well as physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.

It can also affect job performance, causing employees to miss work or lose productivity due to stress and anxiety.

In addition to the personal impact on employees, sexual harassment can also harm the company as a whole. It can lead to low employee morale, decreased productivity, and an increased risk of legal action and damage to the company’s reputation.

It’s important for employers to take proactive steps to prevent and address any workplace violence and harassment in order to create a safe and respectful workplace environment.

Women suffering personal harassment at work

Tips for Employees on How to Respond to and Report Harassment

If you are experiencing or witnessing harassment in the workplace, it can be an uncomfortable and overwhelming situation. However, it is important to take action to address the situation and protect yourself and your colleagues.

Here are some tips for employees on how to respond to and report harassment:

Speak Up

If you feel comfortable, let the harasser know that their behavior is not welcome and is making you uncomfortable. Sometimes people may not be aware that their behavior is considered workplace harassment, and bringing it to their attention may be enough to stop it.

It’s important to be clear and direct in your communication, but also to remain calm and professional.

Document the Harassment

Keep a record of the date, time, location, and details of any incidents of non-verbal, verbal, or physical harassment. Make a note of any witnesses who may have seen the harassment. Keep any written communications that contain harassment or that refer to the harassment.

Documentation is immensely useful if you need to report the harassment to your employer or file a complaint.

Report Unlawful Workplace Harassment

Inform your employer or HR department about the harassment. Most companies have a procedure in place for employees reporting harassment and for investigating harassment claims.

It’s important to follow the procedure to ensure that the situation is handled appropriately. If your employer does not have a set procedure or you are uncomfortable reporting to your employer, you can report workplace harassment to a government agency. You can also file a lawsuit with the help of expert workplace harassment attorneys.

Seek Support

It can be emotionally difficult to deal with workplace harassment, so don’t hesitate to seek support from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. You may also be able to find support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

It’s important to take care of your emotional and mental well-being during this time.

Know Your Rights

Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. You have the right to a safe and respectful workplace, and your employer has a legal obligation to prevent and address workplace harassment.

Understanding your rights can help you make informed decisions about how to respond to discriminatory harassment and how to report workplace harassment.

Keep Records of Your Communications

Keep records of all communications with your employer, HR department, and any other individuals involved in the investigation or resolution of the harassment claim. This includes emails, memos, and notes from meetings or conversations. These records can help you to keep track of any promises made or actions taken.

Take Legal Action

If you feel that your employer is not taking appropriate action to address the harassment, or if you are experiencing retaliation for reporting the harassment, you may need to take legal action.

Consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law to learn about your legal options and protect your rights.

By taking these steps, employees can protect themselves and help prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace. It’s important to remember that you have the right to a workplace free from sexual harassment and that there are resources available to help you if you experience or witness harassment.

Let Hershey Law Fight for Your Rights in the Workplace

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Hershey Law today. Our experienced employment law attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and can provide guidance and support throughout the entire process.

We are committed to excellence, transparency, and a positive mindset, and we strive to maintain a strong and professional attorney-client relationship. The team at Hershey Law will be by your side to effectively defend your rights and bring you justice.

Contact Hershey Law Today

It is critical to take immediate action when experiencing sexual harassment at work. Hershey Law provides legal representation to individuals who have been subjected to various forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, including physical harassment, psychological harassment, discriminatory harassment, quid pro quo harassment, and retaliation harassment.

The impact of sexual harassment can have serious consequences for the victim’s mental and emotional well-being, as well as their career prospects. Seeking legal help from Hershey Law will provide advice on the legal options available and help hold the employer accountable for their actions. Additionally, Hershey Law’s experienced attorneys can provide support and guidance throughout the entire legal process, including filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and pursuing legal action if necessary.

It is important to remember that everyone has the right to a safe and respectful workplace. Hershey Law is committed to fighting for justice and ensuring that victims of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment receive the compensation they deserve.

Call Hershey Law at 310-929-2190 or fill out our online contact form to speak with an experienced employment lawyer about your case.