What are the 3 Types of Sexual Harassment at the workplace? California's Constitution protects employees from being harassed within the workplace. Employees and employers should be familiar with the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Government Code § 12940(j)(1), which makes it illegal to harass an employee. Harassment isn't always physical and it is not always directed at a particular employee but it may still offend that employee. Employees may be targets of harassment based on their gender, gender identity, the way in which they express their gender, or based on an employee's pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (Cal Gov Code § 12940(j)(4)(C)). However, sexual harassment remains the most prevalent in the workplace above all other forms of harassment. Sexual harassment can come in the form of physical, verbal or visual acts.
What is expected of the employer and or organization?
It is not always an employer who is sexually harassing the employee, sometimes it can even be other employees sexually harassing an individual, however, this does not absolve the employer from being responsible for the occurrence of the harassment (Gov. C. § 12940(k)). Under FEHA regulations, employers are held accountable for not taking reasonable steps to prevent harassment from taking place. Reasonable steps taken by employers to ensure a safe and sexual harassment-free work environment includes providing prevention training. Employers are also expected to provide a copy of the California Fair Employment and Housing fact sheet to all employees upon being hired.
If an employee feels unsafe in their own workplace, it is important to discuss their potential claim with a Sexual Harassment Lawyer.
1- Physical Sexual Harassment
Physical sexual harassment is the most obvious and well-known form of sexual harassment. It is exercised through unwelcome touching such as rubbing up against a person or physically interfering with another's movements or preventing another from completing their work. Examples of unwanted touching would be if employee A placed his arms around employee B and employee B felt uncomfortable with this and asked employee A to stop. Another example would be if employee A would block employee B with his body from leaving the copy room, preventing employee B from leaving that area without having to touch employee A. An employee who has been subjected to physical sexual harassment should discuss the matter with a Sexual Harassment Lawyer.
2- Verbal Sexual Harassment
Remarks or comments that are disrespectful insults or slurs may also be considered as verbal harassment towards an individual. Under FEHA regulations, an employee may identify their experience with verbal comments as "harassment" even through nicknames, labeling, or titles. Examples of this would be employee A nicknaming employee B "Hot Stuff" or "Big Butt Balinda". These kinds of nicknames or titles are offensive and comment on an individual's anatomy and also have a sexual connotation.
Although the workplace is a space for professionals who are employed by an organization, some employees today are subjected to feeling uncomfortable and endure unwelcome interactions while at their place of employment. This can be distracting for a victim of this behavior, leaving him or her afraid to go to work. The Fair Employment and Housing Act regulations recognize verbal harassment as a form of harassment and specifies "romantic overtures" as a type of verbal harassment. But what exactly does that even mean? Put simply, this means romantic or flirtatious gestures from person A to person B in an attempt to progress a platonic or formal relationship to a romantic level. These attempts as in plural, are continuous and consistent.
In order to give rise to a claim, romantic or flirtatious remarks are still considered harassment whether the remarks are subtle or obvious. Subtle verbal overtures may be an invitation to go on a lunch or dinner date. In this scenario, although an invitation to lunch or dinner may be a way in which friends interact with one another, depending the particular circumstances this may be construed as harassment. An obvious verbal overture may be a comment such as "we would make beautiful babies together" or "I wonder what it would be like if we dated". These comments are obvious in an attempt to escalate a relationship into a romantic and or sexual realm.
An individual who has this issue at their place of work would need to contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer to see if they have a claim against their employer.
3- Visual Sexual Harassment
The Fair Employment and Housing Act recognizes that sexual harassment may come in the form of visual harassment (2. Cal Gov. Regs. § 11019(b)(1)). At first glance "visual harassment" by definition may seem obvious in that one individual is exposing themselves to another individual who does not appreciate the exposure. However, visual harassment comes in other forms that are not as blatant as perhaps a fellow employee exposing themselves. Visual harassment can be demonstrated through cartoons or drawings that are considered offensive and or insulting to the victim. For example, a male employee may draw a character of a fellow female colleague in which her breast size is exaggerated. In that scenario, the female employee is being sexual harassed based on the visual of herself which could be construed as sexual in nature while also making her feel uncomfortable.
More commonly, in an age of technology, one employee showing a video or picture to another employee in the workplace in which that individual finds the visual offensive or insulting, may be considered as visual harassment even though it does not involve that particular employee who is offended. For example, a female or male employee may show or attempt to show another coworker a video of herself or himself having sexual intercourse with his or her partner. In this scenario, although the video does not have anything to do with the employee who is being shown the video, this act is still considered as visual harassment because it is sexual in nature, offensive, and unwelcome.
Visual sexual harassment is also exercised through posters displayed within the workplace. Posters that would fall under this category of visual harassment as mentioned above, would contain visuals that are offensive in their sexual nature and offend the particular individual.
Lewd gestures are also recognized under the Fair Employment and Housing Act as visual harassment. This could be interpreted to cover an array of acts being performed by one employee that offends another particular employee. For example, one employee may gyrate or perform pelvic thrusts towards another employee. Although the employee carrying out the act is not touching this particular employee nor are they even conducting themselves in that way in reference to that particular employee, it is still considered visual harassment.