Sexual Harassment Explained under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination tht is illegal under federal, state nad local laws. Sexual harassment has been defined by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing as well as the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, which, when either submitted to or rejected, negatively affects an individual's work performance, and/or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances and can be verbal, physical or visual. Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment and the harasser can be of the same gender as the victim, even if the victim is not homosexual. In addition, the harasser can be the victim's boss, co-worker, or a non-employee (any individual who is connected to the employee's work environment can be accused of sexual harassment). Also, potential victims of sexual harassment can be any person who has been affected by the harasser's obscene conduct, not just the intended victim. Examples of sexual harassment are demands for sexual favors, lewd comments or jokes, obscene gestures, displays of pornographic materials, or unwanted touching.

It is important to note that in order for conduct to constitute sexual harassment such conduct must be unwanted, unwelcomed and unsolicited.

If you feel as if you are a victim of sexual harassment you should inform the harasser that such conduct is unwelcome and that you want it to stop. You should also lodge a complaint with the proper person at your place of employment. Always keep detailed notes of what happened, and get copies of all documents prepared detailing your complaints. It is also important to note that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment, filing a complaint or participating in an internal investigation. This protection applies even if the end result of the investigation results in the allegations being unproven.


Authored by Stan Grombchevsky of Spray, Gould and Bowers, LLP