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How California workers handle on-the-job sexual harassment

Los Angeles workers and employers are keenly aware of laws forbidding workplace sexual misconduct. Employment policies and public awareness have not eliminated sexual harassment problems. Out-and-out demands for sexual favors, to prevent termination or ensure a promotion, occur less frequently now than in the past, but harassment can take subtle forms.

The prevalence of offensive sexual comments and unwelcome advances may be much more widespread than believed. Workers might not know whether a single off-handed sexual remark constitutes harassment. Plus, there are always nagging concerns about whether a complaint will be taken seriously and the long-term effects on the victim's job.

Sexual harassment hasn't disappeared, in part, due to responses by victims, witnesses and their employers. A 2013 survey of 1,000 working men and women, conducted by The Huffington Post and YouGov, found 13 percent of participants had been harassed by superiors and 19 percent by other colleagues. Broken down by gender, six percent of men and 20 percent of women were harassed by bosses; 14 percent of males and 25 percent of females were targets of harassment by other co-workers.

The survey also found sexual harassment often went unreported. It was more likely witnesses would report sexual harassment than victims. One-third of employees who observed sexual wrongdoing reported it but, among victims, 70 percent never filed official complaints.

Victims stay quiet for fear of employer or harasser retaliation, unfair feelings of shame and thoughts of a drawn-out conflict. However, silence also encourages company tolerance of illegal behavior. Harassers who aren't stopped and punished don't quit what they do -- the insensitive jokes, the sexually explicit emails or calls, the undesired touches and comments.

Sexual harassment victims often feel more at ease discussing this matter with third parties, before taking action. An attorney can review a job claim and suggest the proper steps to take. In some cases, this results in rightful compensation for wrongful behavior.

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