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Understanding sexual harassment and assault

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2021 | Sexual Harassment |

People in California are much more aware of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace than they used to be. With movements like #MeToo and a lot of high-profile sexual harassment cases in the news, employees are more willing to speak up when they are mistreated. However, some people get the definitions of sexual harassment and sexual assault mixed up.

Sexual assault is a criminal offense

Workplace sexual harassment can get an employer in a lot of trouble, but it is not necessarily a criminal offense. Inappropriate jokes, unwelcome comments or promises of career advancement in exchange for sexual favors are all examples of sexual harassment. These actions can ruin an employer’s reputation and expose them to expensive lawsuits.

If an employer goes further and makes physical contact with their victim, this is considered sexual assault. Sexual assault could be anything from an unwelcome embrace to rape. A victim of workplace sexual assault can file a lawsuit against their employer, and the employer may also face criminal charges.

Workplace sexual harassment can have many victims

Sexual harassment and sexual assault don’t always happen behind closed doors. When one employee is being harassed or touched inappropriately by their boss or coworker, this behavior can have a negative impact on all of the other employees that witness it. Sexual harassment creates what’s called a hostile work environment, which is why you don’t have to be the actual target to be a victim of sexual harassment.

Another form of workplace sexual harassment is called “quid pro quo.” This is a situation where employees are given “something for something.” In other words, employees understand that if they sleep with the boss, they will be rewarded with work opportunities while employees that don’t give in to the intimidation are punished. Quid pro quo harassment can create a hostile work environment for everyone even if they aren’t directly targeted by it.