Harassment can come in many forms. Sexual harassment, which is similar to gender/sex discrimination (and is a form of sex discrimination), can be “quid pro,” which translates to “something for something,” meaning a supervisor/manager suggests, offers, or hints that you will receive something (or in the alternative – nothing bad will happen such as termination) in return for a sexual “favor.” The less overt forms of sexual harassment are much more common, however, are the type that have been in the news a lot lately with the #MeToo movement. Sexual harassment normally takes the form of unwanted sexual advances, conduct, comments or discussions. This more common form is referred to as creating a “hostile work environment.” The unwelcome actions or verbal communications create an uncomfortable, intimidating, abusive work environment that is so “severe” or “pervasive” that it affects your ability to perform your job duties or attend work. These unwanted actions can come from a co-worker or a supervisor. Unlike discrimination, harassment does not require an adverse employment action. This means to state a claim for harassment, you do not need to, e.g. be terminated. The conduct needs to be severe (shocking to an objective person in your shoes) or pervasive (happens consistently over a period of time). Always tell the person to stop, and report the conduct in writing to a higher supervisor and human resources.
Other forms of harassment can be based on any class protected by the Constitution, including race, gender, pregnancy, age (40+), sexual orientation, national origin, and marital status. The same standards and rules apply – the actions taken against you because of your race, gender, etc., must be so severe or pervasive that “they create” a hostile work environment.
Potter Handy, Employment Law Group has handled countless harassment claims based on each of the protected classes. It is unfortunate that this mistreatment is so prevalent in today’s workforce. Fortunately there are strong laws in California to protect you. Potter Handy, Employment Law Group can help you make it stop. Call us.