What is sexual harassment and how does it affect employee rights?

Employees in California have the right to a safe work environment where they can thrive in their chosen profession. This not only refers to physical safety of employees, but to their right to work in workplace where they do not feel threatened or intimidated by employers or other employees. Sexual harassment can be very upsetting to the person who experiences it, though they may not be aware of how to recognize it or how it pertains to employee rights.

Sexual harassment can be defined as a person or persons making sexual advances to another which are not invited or welcomed that inhibits a person's ability to perform his or her job. Such actions may also cause an unpleasant or hostile workplace that is upsetting to employees. Some people may engage in behavior that can be considered sexual harassment without realizing that it is such. For example inappropriate sexual jokes, unwanted touching or the distribution of offensive material that is sexual in nature can all be types of sexual harassment, not just suggestive comments that people might originally associate with this type of harassment.

Legally, there are two types of sexual harassment. Quid-pro-quo involves a person who requires people under their supervision to accept and tolerate sexual harassment as a requirement for employment. Even a single instance of this type of behavior can be sufficient for a sexual harassment claim. The second type, hostile work environment requires that a continued pattern of harassing behavior that creates a threatening workplace be present to establish a claim. Several other conditions must be met for courts to rule that sexual harassment took place.

Employees who experience this type of unwelcome behavior have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In California, employee rights dictate that an employee should not have to tolerate instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. More information is available at Findlaw that expands on this important issue.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment at Work", , Aug. 24, 2014

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment at Work", , Aug. 24, 2014

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