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While on the surface it might be hard to believe that sexual harassment is still a pervasive issue for people in the workplace, but this type of misconduct does in fact occur, and is even a growing concern among many places of employment. Every employee has the right to spend their time at work free from the deviancy of unwanted sexual advances or behavior – both men and women are protected from sexual harassment under state law, it applies to all employees.

What is the Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment?

The definition of sexual harassment is very broad and depends on what the harasser perceives as acceptable. Although you may have an uncomfortable situation, it can still be considered sexual harassment if there are actions taken by the employer that is a violation of Federal and State laws.

If the behavior is unwelcome or offensive, the victim is entitled to sue the employer for sexual harassment. It should also be made clear that a formal complaint will not have any effect on the legal claim.

Unfortunately, not all employees may recognize that they have been victimized. Most women, and men too, believe that it only occurs when an employee is sexually harassed by a superior. In fact, it can happen in every career, whether one is in the front office or an administrative assistant.

In such cases, it may be difficult to prove that the plaintiff was sexually harassed. Unfortunately, most people only report complaints of sexual harassment if they suffer severe and repeated mistreatment. However, the victim may not have a valid complaint, if there are some actions that are not considered sex discrimination.

Not every form of harassment, whether it be casual or extreme, is sexual harassment. Examples of abusive behavior would include:


Power Imbalance

A higher-ups may become arrogant and exploit their authority. If this occurs, there is a very high chance that it could be considered illegal.


A perpetrator may reach out to make an advance to the victim. This type of sexual advances is usually unacceptable. However, certain words used or gestures should not be interpreted as harassment, if there are no actions that violate federal or state law.

Predatory Practices

An employer may take advantage of its power. A supervisor who continues to communicate with subordinates, regardless of the level of communication, is also considered predatory. The boss may even use his power to hire, fire or promote employees, which has been found to be a form of illegal exploitation.
You may be wondering what is sexual harassment if the other person does not initiate the behavior. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another that creates a hostile work environment. There are several legal methods that can be used in order to prove the existence of sexual harassment.

Employment discrimination – This occurs when an employee is treated differently due to their actual or perceived gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, etc. Sexual harassment may be a part of the law because of these differences.

If the defendant is a state or federal agency, it is not necessary for the state or federal government to prove that the employee’s discrimination was intentional.

Harassment through the Internal Review Process – An employer may use a “professional standard” to determine if a claim should be filed. This involves evaluating complaints of sexual harassment through the same approach that is used to determine professional standards.

Know the Definition of Sexual Harassment & Your Rights

Knowing the definition of sexual harassment is very important for the victim of harassment to understand that their case can be successful if they have a strong case.

Many people do not know the difference between true and inappropriate sexual behavior and it is important to know the difference in order to protect yourself.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

This is the more frequent type of sexual harassment that happens in the workplace. This type of harassment is when a employees environment feels hostile or abusive.

Even if the misconduct of your employer is not sexual in nature, if there is openly expressed hostility towards a gender at your job, it still can fall under the definition of hostile environment harassment.

The logic of a hostile environment harassment lawsuit is as follows: an employee has found the workplace to be so abusive that they can no longer work there. This is also known as “constructive discharge” and although the employee has quit it is viewed as a termination because their resignation was technically involuntary.

Quid pro Quo Harassment

This type of workplace harassment occurs when a person’s job is conditioned on submitting to unwanted sexual behavior – whether it is expressly articulated or implied.

Literally defined as “this for that,” Quid pro Quo harassment might be a situation where a manager tells an employee that if they would like to remain employed, they have to have relations with them.

Similarly, an employer informing you that you will suffer some sort of negative consequence (like a demotion, decrease in pay, or less hours) if you do not submit to their advances can be a Quid pro Quo situation as well.

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Is My Employer Responsible To Stop Sexual Harassment If I’m Sexually Harassed?

When your employer does not take the reasonable steps that are necessary to stop sexual harassment or gender discrimination from occurring in the workplace, they can be held liable in court for sexual harassment. They can escape legal liability if they have clearly taken measures to correct the behavior of the harasser and have made a demonstrated effort to prevent discrimination and harassment.

Reasonable Steps might be defined as:

  • Demonstrating a strong disapproval of the harassment.
  • Integrating workplace policies to prevent sexual misconduct.
  • Raising the issue of harassment.
  • Encouraging employees to report any harassment and letting them know what their rights are.
  • Disciplining employees who violate workplace policies against harassment.
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Should I Contact A Lawyer If I’m Being Sexually Harassed? Do I Have a Case or Lawsuit for Discriminatory Workplace Practices?

As with many other matters involving workplace harassment, it is advised that you first exercise all administrative options by filing a complaint within your place of employment.

If your company has no administrative policies to prevent or correct sexual harassment make a point to clearly inform your employer that you are being subjected to sexual advances or harassment that you find unwelcome and unwanted.

If your employer approved of your harasser’s actions, or if they failed to correct this person’s behavior, you might want to seek a sexual harassment lawyer You are encouraged to consult a sexual harassment attorney because there are certain measures you must take to prove that sexual harassment has occurred.

California law also mandates that before you can pursue a civil suit, you must first file a complaint with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Please note that there is a statute of limitations governing sexual harassment lawsuits, which an attorney can assist you with meeting as well.

If you can prove that the sexual harassment was severe and pervasive, you might be entitled to recover damages including medical and psychiatric costs, emotional distress and punitive damages. If you have lost wages in the past, you might be able to recover these, or damages to account for wages lost in the future. Recovering damages for the expense of a sexual harassment lawyer is possible as well.

I’m Here to Help

The Employee Rights Law Group has been passionately defending the rights of workers for years, offering the services and attention of a small attorney’s office as well as the expertise and efficiency of a larger legal firm to employees in need of legal counsel. The legal team achieves their success by truly understanding what sexual harassment victims have been through. It is their ability to understand and articulate the nature of the harassment that has afforded them their previous success.

If you suspect that you are the victim of sexual harassment, please fill out our online form or call me today (310) 488-9020, as the period where you can file suit may be limited.

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