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Recognizing sexual harassment in a Los Angeles workplace

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You sometimes hear words or see photos that, when taken literally, seem harmless but can have a different meaning. Innuendo, whether accidental or intentional, sends an indirect message that may have sexual implications.

How do you respond to sexual innuendo in a Los Angeles workplace? It's easy to be confused, since a sender's message can be interpreted in more than one way. Are you misconstruing the message or are you a victim of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment may be less obvious in today's workplace than any time in the past. Threats of job-related retaliation for failure to provide sexual favors -- known as quid pro quo harassment - have become less prevalent, as awareness of employment laws has grown. Consequently, sexual harassment frequently occurs in less obvious forms.

Sexual harassment is discrimination, according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Illegal conduct may include sexually-related offenses that create a hostile environment like lewd comments and jokes, unwanted touching, and widespread graphic photos or emails. An employer doesn't have to be the source to be liable for harm - an employer must act to prevent or end known sexual harassment.

One-time instances of offensive conduct normally aren't considered harassment, unless the incident is overtly physical in nature or falls into the quid pro quo category. In many cases, it's necessary to show a hostile work environment was due to repeated misbehavior.

Local and state laws and policies within some California companies offer protections that extend beyond Title VII. An employment attorney can help you learn more about workplace rights.

A lawyer also can offer valuable support, whether you are unsure about a claim or fear employer reprisal. An attorney will assess the claim and protect your rights to seek resolution without retaliation. Employers may not take actions against you for filing a sexual harassment complaint or supporting a co-worker's claim.

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