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What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace?

Some people in California primarily work by themselves, but the majority of people in California have co-workers, managers and others who they must answer to. People in these work environments also have different relationships with their co-workers. Some may be close friends with other co-workers, while others may keep their work and personal relationships separate. However, no matter what the type of relationship they have with others at work, no one should be subjected to harassment.

One of the more common types of harassment is sexual harassment. In general terms, sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual advances and/or visual or verbal displays of a sexual nature. That is a fairly broad definition and there are many different actions which could be considered sexual harassment.

The actions that most are familiar with are physical touching or making promises/threats if a person does or does not perform sexual acts, but there are many other actions which could be sexual harassment. These include simply putting up pictures or other visual material of a sexual nature even if it is not directed towards a specific person. Making lewd comments or simply telling a joke of a sexual nature could be sexual harassment depending on the circumstances. Also comments about a person's body or using sexual terms to describe a person could be sexual harassment.

Unfortunately this type of behavior occurs often in California. It can create a very difficult work environment for the victim of the harassment. This in turn can lead to unwanted stress and could affect the victim's job performance. It is also illegal activity and the victim may be entitled to compensation if they are subjected sexual harassment. There are many forms of sexual harassment and it can be a confusing area of law though. Experienced attorneys understand it though and may be able to help guide one through the process.

Source: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, "Sexual Harassment FAQs" accessed on Oct. 5, 2017

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