5 Things Women Should Know About Sexual Harassment

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Brad Nakase, Attorney


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I often hear women’s stories about sexual harassment, and I want to kick the perpetrator in the nuts; I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I am a father to young daughters and … (You get the idea) Sexual harassment in the workplace usually arises when one party has power or authority over the other and abuses that power with sex. Fortunately, this type of interaction under California law is prohibited, especially in the workplace. Most people assume sexual harassment arises only with women, but it can occur regardless of sex or gender. Sexual valid sexual harassment lawsuit often results in $100,000 to millions of dollars in compensation to the victim, depending on unique facts.

  1. What constitutes sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as “unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” It must be objectively seen as hostile, meaning a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes would also believe harassment has occurred. However, the victim must also have suffered their injury. The effect of the harassment must be so severe that the victim/employee’s work conditions have changed, and they do not feel comfortable in the work environment. This can arise through distress, anxiety, leaving their job, etc. Further, there must be more than just one isolated incident; the conduct must be more often than that. Moreover, the victim cannot claim sexual harassment if they welcome it. The State of California has a free sexual harassment prevention training for employers. Under federal law, the EEOC sexual harassment policy states, “Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.”

  1. Quid pro quo sexual harassment

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” In a sexual harassment claim, this type of interaction is just as it says, giving something in return for a sexual act.

Unlike hostile work environment sexual harassment, quid pro quo occurs when the aggressor does something for the aggressor, and in return, the aggressor gets sexual favors. An example would be an employee having sex with her boss to get a raise or a day off.

To prove a quid pro quo claim, the plaintiff must show tangible employment results because of refusing their aggressor’s demands.

  1. Who is liable if a sexual harassment claim arises?

If an employee files a sexual harassment claim, they can do so personally against the aggressor or her employer, or both. For instance, if the aggressor was another employee at a bank, the victim may sue the bank, regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known about the harassment.

Further, suppose the aggressor is a boss or supervisor. In that case, the employer will be strictly liable, meaning damages must be paid regardless of whether the employer knew or was at any fault. However, if the aggressor is another employee and not a person with authority, like a supervisor, the employer is not strictly liable. They will only be liable if:

  • Employer knew or should have known of the conduct and
  • Employer failed to take appropriate steps to alter the conduct.
  1. Is consent a defense to sexual harassment?

Consent, voluntarily entering into a sexual relationship, is usually a defense to many torts or claims. However, it is not determinative of sexual harassment. The court focuses on whether the sexual advances were unwelcome, not whether the victim participated in the conduct. This means the aggressor could try to argue the victim engaged in the sexual behavior freely. Still, in reality, the victim was coerced into the behavior, meaning consent would not apply.

  1. I think I have a case… what do I do?

If you feel violated, you may have three options: speak with your employer or the human resources department, bring an administrative claim, consult with an attorney, or file a lawsuit. It is important to remember there is a one-year statute of limitations from the time of harassment to bring a claim. To speed the process up and ensure you file within the allotted timeline, it is encouraged to seek help from an attorney.

Moreover, there may be fear that the employer will fire you if you complain. However, this is illegal under California law and is known as retaliation. An employer cannot terminate you because you have filed a claim against them.

When speaking with a lawyer, they will determine whether you have a case or not. Specifically, they listen for key factors or facts that may have been present during your harassment. These include:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Unwanted intrusive questions about your body
  • Pressure caused by sexual behavior
  • Touched without consent
  • Having to attend unwanted meetings, specifically outside work.

Although having a lawyer may seem expensive, in many of these cases, you will not pay for anything except costs associated with creating documents like printing fees, court fees, etc.; the lawyer will be paid for their services either by the defendant or from a percentage of your winnings.

100% Confidential: Want to know if you have a case? Please tell me your story. Keep it short.

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