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Sexual Harassment in The Workplace: What You Should Know


There are many misconceptions surrounding the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace. While many people watch videos or take classes regarding sexual harassment as part of the employee orientation process, this issue continues to exist in workplaces in California and across the nation.

Regardless of what some people may think, sexual harassment in the workplace is not always directed toward female employees. Males can also be recipients of harassment. In 2014, 6,862 sexual harassment claims were filed in the U.S., according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Approximately 17.5 percent of those claims were filed by males.

What constitutes as sexual harassment?

The broad definition of sexual harassment in the workplace may leave some people wondering whether an uncomfortable encounter could be considered harassment. According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the most common instances of harassment may include but are not limited to:

  1. Offering job advancements or new employment opportunities to workers in exchange for sexual favors
  2. Showing employees sexually oriented pictures, posts, or making sexual gestures toward workers
  3. Touching or rubbing an employee inappropriately
  4. Making comments about a worker’s body, sending suggestive notes or sexually prepositioning an employee in any way.
  5. Threatening an employee with negative consequences if they don’t participate in a sexual act.

Sexual harassment involves any unwanted or unprofessional sexual behavior directed toward an employee. Senate Bill 292 revised the definition of sexual harassment to include sexually offensive conduct or statements that are not initiated by sexual desire. This includes harassment involving gender, pregnancy or any medical conditions of a sexual nature.

Victims of sexual harassment

In some cases, victims of sexual harassment may not know what actions to take following an incident. Some people may be hesitant to do anything at all in order to prevent facing a more hostile work environment. Employees have one year to report an incident, according to DFEH. Since the harasser may be a worker’s boss or supervisor, an employee may report the act to another company official. Once the employer is notified, immediate steps should be taken to start the investigation process. An employee in a sexual harassment case may be eligible for the following:

  1. Reinstatement of a position that the worker lost because of the harassment incident
  2. Back pay or promotion to compensate the worker for lost wages
  3. Compensation for emotional distress, both from the person responsible for initiating the harassment as well as the employer. This is true in cases where the employer failed to take the steps necessary to stop the harassment.

Sexual harassment cases may cause the company at fault to make changes in their sexual harassment policies and procedures.

Victims of sexual harassment may want to contact an attorney in California in addition to reporting the incident to their employer. A lawyer who has experience handling employment law cases may help to ensure your rights are upheld in court.

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