Harassment |
December 28, 2016

Lawyers San Francisco: Behaviors that Could Be Considered Sexual Harassment

Types of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment lawyers in San Francisco representing victims of sex-based harassment in the workplace

Employees in San Francisco sometimes wonder whether they have been sexually harassed and, if so, whether they need help from a sexual harassment lawyer. In some cases, sexual harassment is obvious. In other cases, whether the employee is entitled to a legal remedy is less clear. The sexual harassment lawyers at San Francisco’s Minnis & Smallets suggest that Bay Area employees seek legal advice if they have experienced any of the following behaviors that could be considered sexual harassment.

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Conditioning Employment or Benefits on the Performance of Sexual Favors

One of the most egregious examples of sexual harassment is the boss or manager who tells an employee that providing sex is a job duty, who threatens to fire an employee who won’t have sex with him or her, or who promises a raise or promotion in exchange for sexual favors. All of those acts are typically unlawful. A San Francisco Bay Area employee who is subjected to this type of behavior should immediately contact a sexual harassment attorney.

Aggressively or Persistently Asking for Sex

Some co-workers may think it’s funny to ask for sex or to make sexually-charged comments at work. Whether they are joking or serious, their behavior is inappropriate in the workplace. The first time it happens, an employee should consider saying, “This conversation makes me uncomfortable, please don’t do it again.” The employee might also want to report the incident to management, but should certainly consider doing so if the conduct is repeated. If management takes no effective action to protect the employee from further unwelcome propositions, sexual harassment lawyers in San Francisco can provide the victimized employee with legal advice.

Inappropriate touching

Non-sexual touching does not always constitute sexual harassment, but frequent “friendly” touching — a hand that lingers on the employee’s back, putting an arm around an employee — can constitute harassment if it persists after the employee makes clear that the physical contact is unwelcome. If a simple “please don’t do that” or “that really makes me uncomfortable” doesn’t solve the problem, the employee should consider reporting the touching to management. If the physical contact continues, it’s time to talk to a sexual harassment lawyer.

Any form of uninvited intimate contact that would constitute a sexual assault under California law is almost always a form of sexual harassment. Even a single incident may entitle the employee to a legal remedy if the person who touched the employee is an owner, manager, or supervisor who has the authority to fire, demote, or otherwise affect the employee’s terms of employment. A co-worker who touches an employee sexually should be reported to management. Again, sexual harassment lawyers in San Francisco can help if the harassment persists.

Crude Comments or Sexual Images

Not all acts of sexual harassment involve physical touching or demands for sex. Sexually offensive remarks, pornographic images, and crude graffiti or cartoons that make sexual references can make a workplace uncomfortable for workers of a particular gender or sexual identity.

Workers should follow an employer’s sexual harassment policy (if one exists) to report sexually offensive remarks or materials in the workplace. If there is no policy, employees should consider talking to a manager or to the HR department. If the problem continues, an employee can bring a sexual harassment claim if the harassment is so severe or pervasive that the employee’s ability to work is hampered by the oppressive or abusive atmosphere that the harassment creates. In those cases, San Francisco sexual harassment lawyers can help the harassed employee pursue compensation and other remedies.

Rude Behavior

Not all rude behavior constitutes sexual harassment. Unfortunately, the law does not entitle any employee to work in an environment that is free from jerks.

On the other hand, courts recognize that some forms of rude behavior constitute sexual harassment. Ongoing rudeness or demeaning comments or behavior directed toward employees of a specific gender may constitute sex harassment. Gestures with an obvious sexual meaning also fit into this category.

A single instance of rude behavior does not usually constitute sexual harassment. But when the behavior is repeated so often that a reasonable worker would feel that the workplace has become threatening or oppressive, then the employee should get advice from a sexual harassment attorney.

Singling Out Employees of a Particular Gender or Gender Identity

Sexual harassment might be less obvious when the behavior has no sexual content. Insults that make no reference to sex or sexual characteristics, a refusal to work with a co-worker, and providing poor performance evaluations may nevertheless constitute sex-based harassment if the harasser is motivated by the employee’s sex or gender identity.

Treating some workers less favorably than others because of gender or gender identity is the essence of sex discrimination. When those behaviors do not affect a worker’s position or pay, but nevertheless make working intolerable by creating a hostile work environment, the employer may be liable for sexual harassment. Employees generally have an obligation to report the problem so that the employer has an opportunity to be aware of the harassment and to stop it, but workers should ask for advice from sexual harassment lawyers in San Francisco when the problem persists.

When you wonder whether you have been sexually harassed and if you need help from sexual harassment lawyers, do not hesitate to connect with us. We have advised many employees regarding behaviors that could be considered sexual harassment. Call us at 1-415-551-0885 or submit our online contact form.