Sexual harassment in the workplace is not always easy to objectively identify. The difference between friendliness and inappropriateness can mean different things to different people. Fortunately, there are clear signs of true offensive behavior, as well as protections in place to combat this offensive behavior. Sexual harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, includes unwanted sexual advances, requests or demands for sexual favors, and many other forms of sexually suggestive verbal or physical harassment.
However, sexual harassment does not necessarily have to explicitly be of a sexual nature. It’s important to understand that this type of harassment includes offensive comments about a person’s sex, whether they are male or female. In order for sexual harassment to cross the line into unlawful territory, it must also be severe or frequent enough that it results in an adverse employment decision or serves to cultivate a hostile work environment for its victims.
It’s no surprise that despite the examples provided by the EEOC, it remains a challenge to objectively determine whether a situation truly qualifies as sexual harassment. Below are several examples to help you understand whether you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have any questions about sexual harassment, the team of employment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers is always here to help.
Unwanted Physical Contact
If another employee is touching you and it is unwelcomed, this may be a form of sexual harassment. Some examples of unwelcome physical contact include:
- Brushing up against someone.
- Rubbing someone’s shoulders.
- Touching someone’s hair.
- Using objects to touch someone else.
- Using one’s body to block someone from entering or leaving a room.
The coworker who subjects you to this physical contact may think of it as “accidental” or “harmless”, but you have the right to feel safe and free from unwelcome touching while in the workplace.
You Are Made To Feel Uncomfortable
Some inappropriate behaviors in the workplace are obvious, such as forcibly kissing a coworker, but other examples are more subtle and include innuendos or sexual touching that is disguised as “accidental.”
However, there are several ways to make someone feel uncomfortable and they may have nothing to do with physical touch. Text messages, memes, videos, and emails can all easily subject someone to uncomfortable and unwelcome sexual behavior. The main issue is whether the sexual advances or behaviors are unwanted.
If you are unsure, ask yourself whether an employer or coworker is making you feel uncomfortable. If you feel uncomfortable when someone make advances towards you, this can be indicative of sexual harassment.
If you have already recognized that an employer’s behavior is making you uncomfortable, it’s important to consult with an experienced sexual discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. A sexual discrimination lawyer will help you determine whether you were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Requests For Sexual Favors
It is common for someone in a position of power to offer an employee either benefits or a promotion in exchange for sexual favors. This is known as quid pro quid harassment. A common example of quid pro quid harassment is when a supervisor asks an employee out to drinks in exchange for a pay raise or a promotion.
Another example of quid pro quo harassment is when an employer threatens an employee with an adverse action if he or she rejects their request for sexual favors. This happens when, for example, a supervisor gives an employee an ultimatum to go out with him or her, and if the employee refuses, he or she will be disciplined or fired for rejecting the employer’s offer.
Being Treated Differently Based On Your Sex
In short: sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex discrimination. Being singled out or treated in a particular way because you are a woman or a man is another sign that you may be the victim of sexual harassment.
For example, an employer may only treat the female employees in a special way. Or an employer may show favor exclusively to the male employees. Some instances of sexual harassment can make an employee feel uncomfortable while referencing their sex. For example, a manager may say something like,“Hey, you’re such a gorgeous young woman. You should let a real man take you out to drinks one of these nights”.
It’s worth repeating: sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex discrimination.
Your No Means Nothing
It is not against the law to date a coworker, but it is not ideal. The law, however, does not concern itself with workplace romance unless it is not consensual. If a coworker has expressed romantic interest in you, but you have been clear and denied their advances and they continue to pursue you, this can be considered as sexual harassment.
Jokes Or Images Of A Sexual Nature
You don’t have to be touched or hit on to be the victim of sexual harassment. You can still be sexually harassed by pranks or images that are sexual in nature. As mentioned, texts, emails, texts, cartoons, memes, videos, and drawings can all be used to sexually harass an employee in the workplace.
You Are Not The Only One
If other employees including yourself were treated in a sexually charged manner, chances are you were all victims of sexual harassment. Establishing a clear pattern of sexual harassment amongst other employees, including yourself, may help strengthen a sexual harassment claim.
You Experience Retaliation
Job security is essential and if you denied a superior’s advances, you may feel like your job is in jeopardy. If you rejected a colleague or supervisor and they respond by firing you, demoting you, or cutting your hours this may count as retaliation, in addition to sexual harassment.
What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?
If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The sexual harassment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.
We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in California, contact our office at 213-927-3700.
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