Even after hundreds of high-profile sex scandals have gripped California and the rest of America in the past six months, we still need to answer the question: “What is a hostile work environment and how is it created by sexual harassment?”
Even though the problem of sexual harassment has been at the forefront of America’s trending topics, many employees in Los Angeles and all across California still have no idea how to recognize “a hostile environment” at work.
We invited our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney from the JML Law to spell out what constitutes a hostile work environment to know whether or not you can sue your employer, supervisor, manager, or others.
What is a hostile work environment?
This type of harassment can create a hostile work environment for the victim when harassment is severe or takes place frequently. In other words, a hostile work environment can be considered as such when it can be described as hostile, offensive, intimidating, and/or oppressive following acts of sexual harassment.
In order for the court to classify your work environment after sexual harassment as “a hostile work environment,” you will have to prove one or a combination of the below:
- It is difficult to perform your duties due to constant pressure, teasing, sexual advances, offensive jokes, etc.
- Sexual harassment becomes so serious that you fear going to work because of the hostile, offensive, and/or intimidating atmosphere created by your harasser
- Sexual harassment has been so severe that it has taken a toll on your mental, psychological, emotional, or even physical health.
How to prove hostile work environment sexual harassment?
Normally, in order for the sexual harassment in the workplace to meet any or all of the above-mentioned criteria, acts of inappropriate behavior, sexual advances, and other forms of sexual harassment must be severe, frequent, or both.
However, it may depend on the circumstances of your particular case. For example, even one severe act – like sexual or physical assault – is usually enough to prove a hostile work environment and pursue a sexual harassment claim to sue the harasser/abuser.
In most other cases, however, you must be able to present evidence and establish a pattern of sexual harassment, for which you will most likely require the legal help of a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer.
What factors are taken into account by California courts?
Courts in Los Angeles and all across California have always been taking sexual harassment claims very seriously, but even more so in the past six months, ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal made headlines.
Generally, courts in California consider the following three factors to determine whether or not sexual harassment caused a hostile work environment for the victim:
- Severity. The more severe the wrongful conduct is (i.e. sexist jokes -> verbal abuse -> unsolicited sexual advances -> inappropriate touching -> rape), the less frequently it needs to take place in order to be considered a hostile work environment.
- Frequency. Even mild behaviors (for example, a combination of sexist jokes and verbal abuse) can pass the “hostile work environment” threshold if they take place frequently. On the other hand, there can be only one severe act (inappropriate touching, groping or rape) that will prompt California courts to take action against the harasser/abuser.
- Context. This factor makes it impossible to predict the outcome of a sexual harassment claim unless you let a Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney to personally examine your particular situation. This is because what is considered “a hostile work environment” in one case may not be considered a hostile work environment in a similar situation of another case (just because the context was different). For example, inappropriate touching or verbal abuse may be considered less severe when they occur only outside of the workplace (regardless of frequency) than if they occurred in the workplace.
It is vital to speak to a sexual harassment lawyer at the JML Law to determine whether or not your case has any legal value and you are eligible to take legal action, and to evaluate the full value of your damages. Call our offices at 818-610-8800 or send us an email to get a free consultation.