Workplace Sexual Harassment – Defined
According to the EEOC, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies, labor organizations, as well as the federal government.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Under Title VII, there are two recognized types of workplace sexual harassment claims:
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when a person in authority, usually a supervisor, demands that subordinates tolerate sexual harassment as a condition of employment decisions like promotions, assignments, or keeping your job. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature is quid pro quo sexual harassment when:
- submission to such sexual conduct is explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or
- submission or rejection of the sexual conduct is the basis for employment decisions.
A single instance of harassment is sufficient to sustain a quid pro quo claim (e.g., a superior demands you kiss her/him in order to keep your job), while a pattern of harassment is typically required to qualify as a hostile work environment.
A hostile work environment is created when sexual harassment makes a workplace environment intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal sexual conduct is hostile environment sexual harassment when:
- the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee's work performance or
- the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Elements which courts analyze in determining whether a hostile environment harassment claim is valid include:
- Whether the conduct was verbal, physical, or both;
- Frequency of the conduct;
- Whether the conduct was hostile or patently offensive;
- Whether the alleged harasser was a co-worker or supervisor;
- Whether others joined in perpetrating the harassment; and
- Whether the harassment was directed at more than one individual or singled out the victim.
Misconceptions of Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims
The EEOC reminds us that sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
California Employment Lawyers
An attorney can advise you on your alternatives including whether the conduct you experienced in the workplace amounts to sexual harassment. The lawyers with Kingsley & Kingsley located in Los Angeles, California have a wealth of experience fighting for victims of sexual discrimination and harassment. Call and speak to an experienced California lawyer toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or contact us via email here.
Kingsley & Kingsley
16133 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 1200
Encino, California 91436
Local: 818-990-8300 (Los Angeles Co.)