When most employees think of sexual harassment, supervisors and managers often come to mind first. However, co-workers are often perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Does California law protect you from harassment from your co-workers as well? A Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney has the answer—and it is often: “Yes!”
Co-Worker Sexual Harassment Generally
There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment involves demanding favors of a sexual nature in exchange for favorable treatment at work or to avoid a negative work consequence, such as losing your job.
In most situations, coworkers who have no power over your employment cannot engage in quid pro quo harassment. This is because they cannot adversely affect your job—they cannot fire you, promote you, or change your wages. Quid pro quo harassment in California must involve someone who can make these types of changes to your job.
Hostile work environment, on the other hand, can be created by co-workers in your workplace. How they act around you or others can create an environment that is generally offensive, intimidating, or unwelcome. A hostile work environment often includes things like:
- Inappropriate touching
- Sexual comments or comments regarding gender
- Visual depictions related to sex
- Sexual advances
A hostile work environment must consist of more than just one discrete act, but the actions do not have to occur every day to lead to legal liability.
Legal Liability for Co-Worker Harassment in California
When a co-worker is harassing you, you can sometimes involve both the co-worker and your employer in the lawsuit. The co-worker’s legal liability is a bit more obvious because he or she directly engaged in the harassment.
However, the employer’s liability requires that victims show additional proof of an employer’s involvement or inaction.
An employer must have known or should have known about the co-worker’s conduct and did nothing about it. In some instances, the employer may have taken some action, but the gesture was meaningless or did not change any behavior. Legal liability could arise in those situations as well.
Proving that an employer knew about the harassment and did nothing about it can be tricky. However, if a supervisor or manager saw the harassing acts or generally knew about it, that supervisor’s knowledge is inputted to the employer as a whole. That is, if a supervisor knew it was going on, then the employer knew it was happening.
It is a good idea to report the harassing activity when it happens. Reporting harassment forces your employer to take action or face legal liability. Failing to communicate promptly could signal that the actions were not really “unwelcome,” so complaining when the harassment is taking place is very important to your sexual harassment case.
Getting Help from a Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer
If co-workers are harassing you and your employer is doing nothing about it, you have legal options. The team at JML Law can walk you through your legal rights in a free consultation. Contact us to learn more.