What Type of Conduct Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Your employer has an obligation to provide a working environment that is free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can take many forms; it is sometimes open and obvious, and sometimes subtle and pernicious. If you think you are being subjected to sexual harassment, read this post to get an overview of your legal rights, and then reach out to an experienced San Jose harassment lawyer.
Two Types of Sexual Harassment Under the Law
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by both federal and state law. The law recognizes two forms of workplace sexual harassment:
Quid pro quo: The employer and/or the employer’s agent (for example, a manager or other supervisor) makes sexual acts or sexual favors a condition of employment.
Hostile environment: The employee is subjected to unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is pervasive or so severe that it prevents the employee from doing her job.
In a quid pro quo scenario, an employee may have a claim if she is fired or demoted, or even threatened with termination, for rejecting unwelcome sexual advances. Similarly, the employer may have refused to promote an employee, or changed or threatened to change the employee’s work schedule to a less desirable shift as a result of the employee refusing the employer’s sexual advances.
Examples of a hostile work environment include making sexual gestures, displaying sexual posters, sending suggestive emails or pornographic photos/videos, making derogatory or sexual comments or jokes, making verbal comments about an individual’s body, or touching the employee in an unwelcome or sexual manner. This type of behavior may be perpetrated by the employer, a supervisor, or another non-supervising employee. If it is a supervising/managerial employee who has engaged in the wrongful sexual conduct, the employer is strictly liable; hat is, the employer does not have to have knowledge of the supervisor’s actions in order to be held responsible for them. If a co-worker engages in the offensive conduct, then the employer or management must have been aware of the harassing conduct and failed to take steps to address it in order to be held liable.
Employers have a legal obligation to educate employees about the policies implemented to address sexual harassment in the workplace and to enforce those policies. If you are unsure whether your co-worker’s or supervisor’s or employer’s behavior constitutes sexual harassment, seek the counsel of an experienced San Jose harassment lawyer. Call us, at 408-993-8493, or use the email form on this page to tell us about your situation. We’ll be happy to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss your legal rights and options. You have a limited time to file a claim, so contact us today to be sure your rights are protected.