Attorney Advice |
July 31, 2018

Comparing Sexual Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in California

Many people use the terms sexual harassment and sexual discrimination interchangeably, which leads to a great deal of confusion regarding these two different forms of unlawful conduct. The fact that some acts may qualify as both harassment and discrimination does little to clarify the issue; plus, both sexual discrimination and sexual harassment are covered by the same California law: The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The following explanation may help you better understand the differences, since appreciating the distinction can help you realize when it is time to discuss your situation with an experienced sexual harassment and sexual discrimination lawyer in California.

Sexual Discrimination is a Denial of Rights

Federal and California law prohibits employers from treating employees unfairly due to their membership in a protected class or because they bear certain characteristics; in a sexual discrimination situation, that trait is gender. When your employer treats you unjustly with respect to job-related factors, the conduct may be a violation of your civil rights. Specific examples include:

  • Withholding job opportunities or promotions because of sex;
  • Not offering the same salary, benefits, or other employee perks to similarly situated employees of both genders;
  • Refusing to hire because of sex, since sexual discrimination can take place during the hiring and recruiting process;
  • Demoting, denying a promotion, or taking other adverse employment actions because an employee is pregnant or experiencing pregnancy-related health conditions; and,
  • Many other forms of sexual discrimination.

Sexual Harassment is Offensive Behavior

Offensive, obnoxious acts that are directed at one person fall under the umbrella of sexual harassment. There are two types of acts prohibited by California and federal law:

  • Hostile Work Environment: When a worker is subjected to comments, physical touching, unwanted advances, name-calling, and other onslaughts, he or she may have a sexual harassment claim because the employer has created a hostile work environment.
  • Quid Pro Quo: If a person in a supervisory or managerial position requests sexual favors of an employee, making the acts a requirement to advance or gain other benefits, this is quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Note that some of these actions may also be discriminatory, but sexual harassment is distinct because is it both harassing and sexual in nature.

Discuss Your Case with a California Sexual Discrimination Lawyer

While this description of the differences between sexual discrimination and harassment should be useful, it may not be enough to help you understand how the laws impact your rights as a victim and an employee. For more information on your legal options, please contact the knowledgeable sexual discrimination attorneys at Minnis & Smallets, LLP by calling 1-415-551-0885. You can also check out our website to set up a consultation or learn more about our employment law services in San Francisco and throughout California’s Bay Area.