Unwanted sexual advances have been an unfortunate part of society for millennia. However, when men and women began integrating into the workplace, harassment heightened to a new level. Sexual innuendos became a regular conversation piece, sexual favors were used as threats for bargaining tools, and the feeling that you had to put up with harassment or face retaliation became commonplace. As the number one employment attorney in the Los Angeles region, our team at Hershey Law has seen and heard it all.
There is always a risk of being sexually harassed no matter where you work. Even news companies as big as CNN have studied this epidemic. The recent #MeToo movement made it clear that no one is immune to sexual harassment and that it can occur on the street, in the workplace, and anywhere in between.
In California and elsewhere in the United States, the laws against sexual harassment are constantly evolving. California follows the federal sex discrimination law against workplace harassment in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the State’s own Fair Employment and Housing Act. So, what exactly does it mean to be sexually harassed, and what should you do if it happens to you?
There’s a long, ever-evolving list of behaviors that fall under the category of sexual harassment. The basic definition is that sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct (including verbal, visual, and physical) of a sexual nature that makes the work environment hostile.
Sexual harassment in California also includes the category of sexual orientation. Suppose you are harassed because of your perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, pregnancy and childbirth, or other similar gender biases. In that case, your gender-based harassment is considered sexual harassment in the workplace.
The most recent numbers reported by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that a growing number of sexual harassment allegations have been reported over the years, with 7,609 in 2018. Of these allegations, 15.9% were made by males. We use these statistics as the workplace dynamic has changed with the pandemic. In 2020, there were still 6,587 allegations brought forth during a dominantly remote workplace.
You should not be subjected to unwanted sexual advances or conduct no matter what your job. However, the fact is that some work-related factors put you at higher risk for sexual harassment. A few of these factors include:
The farther you are from witnesses, the greater your chances of being sexually harassed become. Those who work in positions where they rarely interact with others, such as hotel cleaning staff, health care industry staff, and workers in food service employment, are at higher risk, for example, than those who work visibly in busy shops.
Isolating their victim helps the attacker feel safe instigating harassment, assault, or even rape without fear of witnesses.
Many allegations of harassment come from those who work in industries where tips account for a portion of their income. These jobs include housekeepers and waitstaff and anyone who relies on tips to supplement their below-minimum wage pay.
These jobs tend to put individuals in the path of harassment because customers or clients feel it is within their right to do so.
Yes, it should be an equal opportunity employment opening no matter where you work. However, many jobs remain masculine or feminine. If you’re lucky enough to bust glass ceilings and score a job in an opposite-gender-dominated field, reward with sexually-based harassment is not uncommon.
Male-dominated fields such as construction work and law enforcement are common grounds for gender sexual harassment. Female-dominated fields such as education and nursing turn the tables around and see gender and sexual harassment against men.
Workplace harassment is commonly seen in companies with a significant power base difference. Large companies with senior executives create the perfect environment for harassers to explore the opportunity to extort sexual favors. These favors are often in exchange for career growth opportunities. This situation is also seen with senior and junior positions. For example, professor/student, doctor/intern, or any other relationship with a dominant power on one side.
Often called “rainmakers,” these people don’t think they must follow the laws because of their perceived power.
The United States has many undocumented workers struggling to make a better life for themselves and their families. Many people on temporary work visas worry about those visas being taken away from them. These people are at a higher risk of sexual harassment or assault because their harasser understands the fear of deportation. Thus, the victim is less likely to report the harassment or attack out of fear of losing their job or, worse, their place in the country.
Just because you work in a higher-risk position doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. All sexual harassment creates consequences that must be addressed and stopped.
If you are or have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you are likely still feeling the consequences. People who have been harassed or assaulted report both mental and physical effects. They also suffer other costs to their families, careers, and long-term advancement.
While you as an individual must forge your path to recovery in your own way, hiring a sexual discrimination employment attorney like Hershey Law can help you stop the perpetrator from hurting others, provide you closure to begin healing, and aid you financially as you continue along with your career while recovering from the situation.
The good news for many victims of sexual harassment is that they have rights. There are legal ramifications that go along with stepping up and accusing their tormentor if the proper steps are taken.
When you document the harassing behaviors and work with an employment attorney to create a formal charge of harassment, there will be legal action.
These consequences start in the form of legal fees. However, they also create lesser costs that add up in their company. Hiring an employee to take over your position should you decide to leave or pay your absence fees. While the charges are being worked out, dealing with reduced productivity and turnover from other employees will create a financial pinch for the perpetrator.
Beyond these costs, if they are found guilty or decide to attempt a settlement, they may have to pay damages. These settlements are frequently kept confidential for the sake of both parties’ privacy, but that isn’t always the case.
Regardless of how much evidence you have against the harasser, it won’t matter if you don’t step up and hire a knowledgeable, experienced employment attorney. At Hershey Law, our experienced and proven attorneys want to help you stop harassment in its tracks.