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What is sexual harassment in the legal sense?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2021 | Sexual Harassment |

Workplace sexual harassment happens every day in California. However, not every rude comment from a coworker or supervisor is considered sexual harassment in the legal sense. There’s no exact legal definition of sexual harassment, but courts look at the severity and the frequency of certain inappropriate behaviors.

Behaviors that the court views as sexual harassment

There are some behaviors that are almost always considered sexual harassment in the workplace, especially if they happen more than once. For example, if a supervisor touches one of their employees in a sexually provocative way, this would be sexual harassment. Another example is a supervisor who makes sexual requests of an employee or asks an employee out for a date.

Some other examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Comments about a worker’s looks or genitalia
  • Sending sexually explicit pictures to an employee
  • Texting lewd jokes or stories to an employee

How does the behavior impact the work environment?

When a court looks at a sexual harassment case, it is concerned with how certain inappropriate behaviors impacted the victim’s work environment. For example, were the sexually explicit jokes so frequent that they led to employees quitting? Or, did the boss retaliate against an employee who didn’t comply with sexual requests? For a sexual harassment claim to go forward, the court must be able to see that there was some adverse impact.

Speak up if you recognize sexual harassment

Reporting workplace sexual harassment when you experience it is not only important for you. It’s also important for your coworkers so that they don’t have to experience the same thing. If you are a victim of sexual harassment or you notice another person being victimized, report the behavior to a supervisor and consider contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.