In recent years there has been a renewed public focus on the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet many Oakland workers may be subject to sexual harassment without realizing how the law protects them. Sexual harassment is not simply “making dirty jokes” or “being politically incorrect.” It is a form of sex discrimination forbidden by federal and California law.
In the broadest sense, sexual harassment refers to any form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other verbal or physical conduct that targets a person based on his or her sex or gender. Sex-based harassment need not explicitly involve comments of a sexual nature directed at a particular individual. For example, if a supervisor makes sexist comments about women in general, that would qualify as sexual harassment.
California law prohibits not just harassment based on an individual’s sex, but also his or her actual or perceived gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. While offhand comments or isolated incidents do not necessarily rise to the level of sexual harassment, if a person can show the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a “hostile or offensive work environment,” it may be unlawful.
Sexual harassment may take the form of what is commonly referred to as “quid pro quo harassment.” This refers to threats or promises made to an employee in order to coerce the employee into providing sexual favors. A common example of this would be a manager offering to hire a job applicant in exchange for sex. It would also cover threatening to demote or reassign an employee if he or she refused to have sex with a supervisor.
Many Oakland workers are unsure of how to deal with sexual harassment. This is why the first step an employee should take if there is an allegation of sexual harassment is to seek out competent legal advice. An experienced Oakland sexual harassment lawyer can review the situation and outline what steps to take next. In many situations, an employee must follow an internal complaint process first. If that does not resolve the problem, the employee will need to go outside the company and file a formal charge with the state or federal government, and potentially a lawsuit.
The lawyers at Minnis & Smallets, LLP, have assisted many Oakland-area employers and employees in addressing workplace sexual harassment. We can help negotiate a resolution or, if necessary, pursue a client’s claims in court. Call us today at 1-415-551-0885 or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.