What Is Sexual Harassment In California?

Raymond E. Hane, III - Business Litigation - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Raymond E. Hane, III

California Employment Counsel, APC
Costa Mesa, CA
Phone: 714-462-8373

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There are two kinds of sexual harassment in California. The first kind, is more typically known and is called “quid pro quo” or “something for something.” In many cases, this is when your job is either directly or impliedly tied to having a relationship with someone at work. More often than not, that person is a manager or supervisor. For example, an employer has some sort of control over you as the employee. A manager may demand sexual favors in order for you to get promoted or to keep your job. This quid pro quo notion is where many original sexual harassment laws stem from. 

The second kind, is generally more common and is known as the “hostile work environment.” This is when an employer’s or even a fellow employee’s behavior at work is inappropriate or offensive to the point where he or she is creating a hostile environment. Examples of this include sending inappropriate text messages, playing porn in the office, unwanted touching (massaging, groping, etc.) as well as lewd emails. 

Retaliation By Your Employer Is Illegal Too 

The fear of speaking up about sexual harassment is all too real and understandable. You are trying to decide if you should report your manager or supervisor for inappropriately touching you at work. However, you are afraid that if you speak up then you will be fired because of reporting sexual harassment. This is illegal and is called “illegal retaliation.” This is when an employer acts out in some way that negatively impacts the employee because he or she reported sexual harassment. The retaliation does not have to be just termination, it can also be a demotion, cut in pay, hours or being passed for a promotion. 

Also, keep in mind that sexual harassment by your manager or supervisor is especially serious. This is because this automatically creates a “strict liability” situation. Because California sexual harassment laws deem this is especially egregious, the company is also found liable automatically simply because it was a manager or supervisor. 

Both kinds of sexual harassment mentioned and retaliation are all illegal in California. It is very important to understand your rights. If you believe you are being subjected to inappropriate behavior at work or your manager is threatening you due to a sexual relationship, there is no risk in talking to a lawyer. In sexual harassment cases, if the lawyer takes your case it will be on a “contingency” basis. This means you pay nothing unless you get a recovery.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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