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California workers should know that the United States Department of Labor recognizes two types of sexual harassment. A hostile work environment is the result of sexual harassment that makes the work area offensive or threatening. Quid pro quo refers to using whether a victim succumbs to sexual harassment as a basis for making employment decisions, such as promotions or work assignments.

There are different types of behaviors that qualify as harassment. They include making unsolicited sexual advances, making unpleasant and nonsexual statements about an individual's sex, asking for sexual services and any other physical or verbal type of harassment that is rooted in sex.

The harassment is considered to be unlawful when it is not welcomed by the person subject to the behavior, the behavior targets the individual's protected status, it is enacted to abuse the other person or it results in a work environment that can logically be considered hostile.

The pervasiveness and severity of harassment are important factors. Elements such as the severity of the behavior, how often the unwanted behavior occurs, how the victim is affected psychologically and whether the behavior was embarrassing or threatening on a physical level are used to determine if the harassment can be defined as pervasive and severe. The position the alleged offender has within the company and whether the behavior affected the victim's work performance also has to be considered.

Victims of sexual harassment may be able to hold their abusers legally accountable. An attorney who practices employment law may file lawsuits against the offending individuals and their employer for harassing behaviors, including sexual innuendos and unwanted advances, in the workplace. Financial damages may be sought for acts of unlawful retaliation, such as demotions, terminations, lost wages or worse work hours, that a client endured for reporting the sexual harassment.

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