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Do male workers file California sexual harassment claims?

Let's dispel some widely-held myths. Despite employment laws barring it, sexual harassment remains a common, disturbing problem in Los Angeles workplaces. Women traditionally have been targets of this gender-based discrimination, but you might be surprised to know how often males are victims.

California and federal employment laws forbid unwanted sexual comments or actions at work. Laws weren't designed to favor one gender. Male workers' complaints made up more than 16 percent of the 11,364 sexual harassment claims, filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in 2011.

There's no real way to know how many claims of sexual harassment go unreported. Not all employees are familiar with the boundaries of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other protected class laws. It is not unusual for employees to hear rude at-work comments or sexual references and wonder whether a worker crossed the line.

On-the-job sexual harassment, whether it is expressed verbally or physically, may not be immediately obvious. Remarks or behaviors can start out at a low-key, mixed message level and grow, until a work environment becomes uncomfortable or even intolerable. A victim's job status – pay, promotions or continued employment -- is threatened by the worker's response to the unwelcome behavior.

An employer is not permitted to promote sexual harassment in any form. Companies also aren't permitted to allow the illegal behavior to flourish among staff members or others in contact with employees. A claim may be filed by a direct victim or worker who witnessed incidents like unwelcome gestures and comments, touching or sexual communications.

Female and male workers sometimes can end sexual harassment by making it clear to the offensive individual the behavior is not wanted. You may hesitate to use this approach or file any complaint when a harasser has direct influence over your job status. Some employees understandably feel more comfortable discussing a claim with an employment attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment Facts" Sep. 29, 2014

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