Employers must keep a workplace that is free from harassment. Affirmative actions, like enforcing anti-harassment guidelines and supplying sexual harassment training, should be taken to deter harassment at work.
Employers are legally accountable for the harassing behavior of their supervisors and managers. If a boss or manager harasses an applicant or worker, the employer is responsible for their acts. But an employer is only responsible for a coworker’s or customer’s harassing behavior if it knew or should’ve known about the harassment and didn’t prevent it.
Once an employer becomes aware of sexual harassment, it must promptly take steps to fix it. Employers are also required to take remedial action to deter future harassment. Immediate employer intervention minimizes injury to the victim and can send an explicit message that harassment is not accepted. Deliberately allowing sexual harassment may expose the employer to punitive damage liability.
Always discuss your rights with a sexual harassment lawyer in the Bay Area.
The harassing conduct doesn’t need to be sexual to comprise sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can include coercion or animosity directed at a worker because of the worker’s sex and/or gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. For instance, a supervisor who calls their female employees degrading names may be engaging in sexual harassment even though they have not made any sexual advances towards their female subordinates.
Also, the same behavior can be harassing for men, women, and individuals who identify as non-binary. For example, a coworker who watches pornography at work may start a harassing work environment for men, women, and non-binary individuals.
Behavior is “harassing” because of its impact on the harassed person. The critical question is whether the behavior conveys a hostile, intimidating, oppressive, offensive, or abusive message. In the example overhead, the supervisor’s use of demeaning names toward female workers might be perceived as hostile or oppressive. The manager’s behavior may be actionable harassment if it happens often enough to sour the work environment.
Sexual harassment can happen between people of the same sex. Harassing behavior directed at an employee because of the worker’s true or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is also prohibited.
Many individuals are understandably reluctant about reporting sexual harassment because they worry they might be retaliated against. Nevertheless, it is unlawful for employers to retaliate against workers for having made a good-faith complaint of harassment.
Notably, when you report sexual harassment, you may be seeking relief for others too. Usually, harassers target more than one individual, so there is a fair chance you are assisting others by reporting the harassment. Similarly, unreported and unaddressed harassment may escalate.
Sexual harassment harms us all. A harassment-free work environment is a safer and more effective place. If you see harassment in your workplace, speak up. You can be a supporter of others by offering help or reporting sexual harassment to your employer.
For more info about sexual harassment laws and the implications for both employees and employers, please contact the San Francisco offices of Minnis & Smallets, LLP. Our experienced attorneys can answer your questions or schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your case and help you understand more about our legal services in sexual harassment, discrimination, and other employment issues.
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