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How Do I Know If I Have a Sexual Harassment Claim?

As the sexual harassment controversy surrounding Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain grows, many employees are evaluating their own workplace incidents to determine whether it’s sexual harassment. This post will help explain the elements of sexual harassment to help California employees understand a harassment claim.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful under both Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and California state law. The law aims to prohibit harassment to allow employees to do their job in an environment that is free of inappropriate comments and actions. Sexual harassment doesn’t apply only to women either; men can also be subjected to impermissible sexual harassment. California law also requires that employers with more than 100 employees must provide sexual harassment training to prevent workplace infractions.

The elements of sexual harassment are rather straightforward, however, filing a sexual harassment claim and recovering financial compensation after a claim is more complex. The requirements of a viable harassment claim are as follows:

  • Quid pro quo harassment: Request of sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or raise or to avoid termination; OR
  • Atmosphere of harassment: Sexual harassment or intimidation that is inappropriate such as jokes, comments, touches, emails or other suggestive messages that are unwanted.
  • Severe or pervasive conduct: Either of the above listed forms of harassment must be severe and pervasive and create a hostile work environment.

Regardless of the elements of sexual harassment, if you are uncomfortable at work because of a sexually suggestive behavior by a co-worker, supervisor, vendor or contractor, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney to learn whether the conduct qualifies as sexual harassment.

Source: St. Louis Beacon, “Elements of sexual harassment,” Lana Stein, 11/4/2011

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