New laws have already taken effect to help fight sexual harassment in the workplace. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has required businesses with 50 or more employees to have sexual harassment training programs for supervisors while employers must comply with these changes so that this problem can truly be solved.
However, sexual harassment continues to be a problem at work despite these changes. So while this issue is still prevalent, it’s crucial to understand what it is and how it can affect employees.
What Constitutes Harassment?
There are an array of behaviors that fall under both civil liability and criminal punishment when one is to define “harassment.” It is essential to differentiate civil liability and criminal punishment from one another so that you would know how to handle sexual harassment situations.
Criminal harassment is mainly limited to what the state law dictates and can also vary from one state to another. Generally speaking, criminal harassment can be defined as intentionally alarming, tormenting, or terrorizing someone else. Many of these laws require the harassment claim to cause a credible threat to the safety of the person or their relatives.
In cases such as workplace discrimination, victims can sue their harasser in a civil lawsuit. There are state and federal laws that combat discrimination against different types of people in various toxic conditions.
The Two Types of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is considered a severe form of discrimination. One of its bases can be found under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1946. There are two categories in this civil rights act that you should know about: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment.
Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo, meaning “this for that” in Latin, is a type of sexual harassment that involves sexual favors in exchange for particular benefits. These benefits can be a raise, promotion, job retention, and new opportunities, among other things in exchange for sexual favors.
For quid pro quo sexual harassment, you can experience this in either of these two forms:
- Being offered some benefit from your superior that requires you to perform a sexual favor.
- Being threatened with termination by your superior unless you perform certain sexual acts or demands.
This type of sexual harassment usually includes commentary on an employee’s body, non-consensual sexual advances, inappropriate comments regarding sexual acts, and the like. These acts can either be expressed directly or implied. If your boss or supervisor even hints at offering you a massive raise or promotion in exchange for sexual favors, you can consider that a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Understand that quid pro quo sexual harassment is a serious legal violation. If you’ve ever experienced quid pro quo harassment from your supervisor or manager, you can already file a lawsuit. The critical thing to remember is that your refusal to perform sexual demands has brought you to your situation.
Hostile Work Environment
One can identify that a hostile work environment exists when sexual harassment has become a common occurrence in the workplace. A hostile work environment happens when you get constant inappropriate comments and advances along with sexual favors that make your workplace hostile. These statements can be threatening, offensive, or intimidating to the point that you can no longer perform your job properly.
A hostile work environment has some similarities with a quid pro quo scenario. Both can have male or female victims and perpetrators. However, unlike a quid pro quo, the harassers of a hostile work environment scenario may include co-workers, customers, clients, and couriers to name a few.
Below are some instances of a hostile work environment harassment:
- Repeated acts of touching, groping, or rubbing that aren’t consensual, or may have been permitted but have created a hostile working environment
- Presenting images, pictures, icons, and cartoons with direct or implied sexual content
- Incessant telling of dirty jokes or anecdotes that create an uncomfortable environment
- Using derogatory sexual terms towards someone
- Sending emails or creating correspondence that imply sexual innuendos
Proving that you’ve experienced a hostile work environment requires you to meet with the particular objective and subjective prerequisites. You have to subjectively believe that the behavior of the other person was abusive or hostile. Along with this, another person should also think that the actions of the perpetrators are hostile or offensive.
The Psychological Effects of Harassment
A 2017 survey by Round Capital reveals that, out of 869 founders, 50 percent have stated that they have been or know someone who’s been sexually harassed at work. It’s vital to know this because harassment can have significant and adverse psychological effects on an individual.
Victims of sexual harassment, mainly women, go through various symptoms of extreme stress. Their psychological well-being is greatly affected which make them experience multiple side effects including insecurity, low-self esteem, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and irritability among many others.
Victims may also start doing or feeling the following as well in terms of their job and career:
- Loss of interest in job responsibilities
- Poor performance in evaluations
- Being absent most of the time
- Quitting the job completely
All of the emotional and physical stress that victims feel may be too much and lead them to quit their jobs, leave their industry, and switch career paths altogether.
What are the California Sexual Harassment Laws?
Company policies can handle these types of situations effectively and efficiently. However, in case your workplace isn’t supportive of these circumstances, you can send a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A civil lawsuit will then be possible under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC is the agency that investigates your allegations and relays your claim according to the various California sexual harassment laws.
Find Seasoned Sexual Harassment Lawyers in Los Angeles
Understand that you should never tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace. Whether it’s a quid pro quo or hostile work environment case, it’s important to fight for you and your co-worker’s rights. If you don’t, your superiors will continue to abuse their power and may escalate to more detrimental situations. The best way you can fight sexual harassment in the workplace is by hiring experienced sexual harassment lawyers in Los Angeles.