California has long had some of the most comprehensive sexual harassment laws in the entire United States, and recent changes to state employment laws have expanded harassment prohibitions to an even wider range of business relationships. This means that employees are no longer the only ones who can have a sexual harassment claim in a business setting. Learn more about the new sexual harassment laws – and how the experienced employment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets fight to protect the rights of all Californians to be free from sexual harassment in their professional lives.
Sexual harassment is a prohibited form of gender discrimination. Because the terms and conditions of employment change based upon the target’s gender, it is gender discrimination in employment. Companies that allow sexual harassment to persist in the workplace can be liable for the damage it causes to their workers.
Sexual harassment is usually one of two types: either “quid pro quo,” in which a superior demands sexual favors from a subordinate, or “hostile work environment,” in which an employee is subjected to abuse that is so pervasive and hostile as to offend the reasonable person. Claimants must prove both that one of these two types of sexual harassment occurred and that they have suffered economic losses as a result of the harassment.
For many years, liability was limited to only situations in which a designated employee was harassed. Clients, vendors, venture capitalists, and even independent contractors had difficultly holding companies liable for sexual harassment in other professional relationships. A new California law seeks to address this problem by expanding sexual harassment protections under state law.
Section 51.9 of the California Civil Code now expands the prohibition on sexual harassment to any situation in which there is a business, service, or professional relationship between the plaintiff and defendant. The law makes sweeping protections for those who see doctors, dentists, therapists, and other healthcare professionals. Attorneys, real estate agents, and financial officers are also included. Lobbyists, teachers, and elected officials are also named in the statute, as are directors and producers. (These last prohibitions reflect the work of the #metoo movement within the entertainment industry.)
And this long list of professionals is not even the limit of who can be held liable for sexual harassment under the new law. The law covers all professional relationships that are “substantially similar” to those listed. This intentionally vague language allows a broader range of claims to be brought to court. Anyone who believes they have a claim for sexual harassment within the context of any professional relation should consult with an experienced employment lawyer about their legal rights.
Minnis & Smallets is a California employment law firm that protects employees’ rights to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced San Francisco employment law attorney. Fighting each case of sexual harassment helps to make the workplaces of California safer for all employees in the future.
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