Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in their place of work. Your company should not tolerate discrimination of any kind and they should take immediate action if such inappropriate behavior is reported. Unfortunately, not every organization meets this basic standard of fairness and equality. Some companies allow bad actors to go unchecked, and in some instances even promote them. Sexual harassment is one of the worst forms of workplace sexual discrimination. If you have been subjected to it, you should seek the counsel and advice of a Los Angeles employment attorney.
The Nature of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is defined as an unwanted sexual advance, which can include verbal comments or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. It is a form of sexual discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Sexual harassment includes offensive, aggressive, and demeaning behavior of many kinds, which may be placed in the following categories:
1. Physical conduct
This includes inappropriate touching (unsolicited and unwanted back and shoulder rubs, for example), blocking movements, or outright sexual assault.
2. Verbal conduct
Making derogatory comments, using slurs and epithets, and making sexually explicit jokes fall within this category. It is also unacceptable for co-workers to make graphic comments about your body.
3. Visual conduct
Constant and persistent leering is an act of sexual harassment. Co-workers who display sexually suggestive posters, pictures, or screen savers are also behaving inappropriately.
The offer of a promotion, pay rise, or any other benefit in exchange for sexual favors is also sexual harassment. And you cannot be threatened with demotion or loss of a career opportunity for responding negatively to sexual advances.
The 2 Most Common Kinds of Sexual Harassment
Although sexual harassment can come in the form of random inappropriate acts, it most often occurs systematically. Most victims of sexual harassment are women, and they tend to experience in 2 basic ways:
1. Hostile work environment
This consists of harassment that is so pervasive, persistent, and severe that it impedes your ability to think, work, and be productive. Supervisors, peers, and subordinates can all engage in this kind of conduct. Groping, grapping, touching, offensive comments and jokes—these are the most common examples of conduct that creates a hostile work environment.
A hostile work environment can only exist with the consent of a supervisor. Conduct that makes it impossible for female employees to go about their work is too blatant to escape notice. If employee behavior has risen to the point of HWE, it means that women employees have been targeted and that management is unwilling to protect them.
Harassment by supervisors
If you are being constantly propositioned by your boss, then it is up to the person above them to correct this behavior. Women who are in high-end professions are especially vulnerable to this kind of sexual harassment because of the nature of such businesses. People in them tend to get opportunities and promotion through mentoring and networking. This requires the kind of informal and sometimes intimate socializing that creates the conditions for sexual harassment.
Men in senior positions often use their power and influence to pressure young female associates to perform sexual favors in exchange for their help. This is against the law. If you have ever been put in this situation, you should know that you have the right to refuse and act against the person who propositioned you.
How to Respond to Sexual Harassment
If you are like most women, you just want to get on with your job and advance in your career. You were hired for your knowledge, skill, and ability. The last thing you want to do is stir up trouble and put yourself at the center of a scandal. However, it is nearly impossible for you to work if you are the target of a sexual harassment campaign. To this end, you should respond in the following way:
1. Confront Your Harasser
You should try to deal with the matter at the lowest possible level. You can confront your harasser directly. Sometimes this is the simplest and most effective means of resolving the matter. Some men are used to harassing their women colleagues and getting away with it. If you take them aside and tell them in a clear, calm, and stern way why their behavior is wrong and needs to stop, you may be able to shame them out of the practice.
In other cases, the person who is harassing you may genuinely believe they are being gallant. You should let them know in no uncertain terms why they need to stop.
2. Report Your Harasser
If your attempts to deal with the harassment have no effect, then you will need to file a formal complaint against your harasser. You should review the company’s sexual harassment policy guidelines before you take this step. Do not assume that simply telling your boss is the appropriate reporting procedure. To minimize the risk of compromising an investigation into your complaint, you should follow company policy.
3. File a Complaint with State or Federal Agency
If the harassment does not stop and your employer does not act on your complaint, you should file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Agency. You should also file with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The website of each of these agencies provides step-by-step instructions on how to submit complaints.
4. Hire a Lawyer
Although you don’t need a lawyer to file a complaint with the EEOC, you should hire a Los Angeles employment attorney. If you have gotten to this stage—the point at which you have lost confidence in your employer’s willingness to act seriously on your complaint—then you need to start considering legal options. The lawyer can also help you shape the complaint you send to the EEOC and will be there to help you answer questions when you are interviewed by a case worker from the agency.
Taking Legal Action
If you have filed a credible complaint with the EEOC, the agency will launch an investigation into the company. They will then file a report. Even if the report validates your complaints, the EEOC itself is not empowered to take action against your employer. However, they will send their findings to your lawyer, who can help you act legally against your company.
The best sexual discrimination lawyer will know how to guide you through the process of getting justice for all that you have been through. If you have lost promotion opportunities, been denied pay raises, and have suffered emotional pain, anxiety, stress, and suffering, then the company is liable to pay you damages in the form of monetary compensation.
You may not have to file suit to get the money you are entitled to. Your employer will want to avoid the negative publicity that comes with a lawsuit and they will certainly want to avoid taking the case to trial, especially if the EEOC report confirms your version of events. The experienced sexual discrimination lawyer will know how to conduct negotiations so that you get justice without having to suffer more indignities.
If you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you need not resign yourself to it. You can take legal action to defend your rights.