Sexual Harassment Discrimination and Training
Recently, the department previously known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing changed its name to the Civil Rights Department (CRD). In addition, the Fair Employment and Housing Council changed its name to the Civil Rights Council (CRC).
CDC's statutory mandate is to “eliminate discrimination” in California, CRD receives, investigates, conciliates, mediates, and prosecutes complaints of alleged violations of numerous civil rights laws, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex/gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Individuals of any gender can be the target of sexual harassment.
Unlawful sexual harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual desire. Sexual harassment may involve harassment of a person of the same gender as the harasser, regardless of either person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
TWO TYPES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
1. “Quid pro quo” (Latin for “this for that”) sexual harassment is when someone conditions a job, promotion, or other work benefit on your submission to sexual advances or other conduct based on sex.
2. “Hostile work environment” sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct based on sex unreasonably interferes with your work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
You may experience sexual harassment even if the offensive conduct was not aimed directly at you. The harassment must be severe or pervasive to be unlawful. A single act of harassment may be sufficiently severe to be unlawful.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT INCLUDES MANY FORMS OF OFFENSIVE BEHAVIORS :
1. Unwanted sexual advances
2. Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
3. Leering; gestures; or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters
4. Derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, or jokes
5. Graphic comments, sexually degrading words, or suggestive or obscene messages or invitations
6. Physical touching or assault, as well as impeding or blocking movements
Actual or threatened retaliation for rejecting advances or complaining about harassment is also unlawful.
California law also requires all employers of 5 or more employees to provide training to its supervisory and nonsupervisory employees on sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention. Every 2 years, nonsupervisory employees must receive at least 1 hour of training and supervisory employees must receive at least 2 hours of training.
The training may be completed all at once or in segments, as long as the applicable hourly total requirement is met. The law requires the training to include practical examples of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
An employer is required to train its California-based employees so long as it employs 5 or more employees anywhere, even if they do not work at the same location and even if not all of them work or reside in California.
The CRD provides free online training courses on preventing sexual harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace that satisfy California’s legal training requirements.
Q: What can an individual do if they believe they have been sexually harassed in the workplace?
A: Employees or job applicants who believe that they have been sexually harassed or retaliated against should consult an experienced employment law attorney as to actions that may be take.
Q: Are all California employers covered by the sexual harassment laws?
A: Yes. All employers, regardless of the number of employees, are covered by the harassment provisions of California law. Employers are liable for harassment by their supervisors or agents. All harassers, including both supervisory and non-supervisory personnel, may be held personally liable for harassment or for aiding and abetting harassment.
Q: What must California employers do to prevent sexual harassment?
A: Employers should consult with an experienced employment law attorney regarding what reasonable steps they should take to prevent harassment.
Q: What are the legal remedies for individuals who have been sexually harassed?
A: Remedies include:
Damages for emotional distress from each employer or person in violation of the law
Hiring or reinstatement
Back pay or promotion
Changes in the policies or practices of the employer
Q: Can a California Employer terminate, suspend, demote, or take any other punitive action against an employee who files a sexual harassment claim against a co-worker, boss or the employer?
A: No. Many employees in California who are sexually harassed at work are afraid to report it for fear of being fired, demoted or given other adverse treatment. It is unlawful for any employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment and other workplace violations.
If you have any further questions about sexual harassment or need additional information, please contact me for a FREE confidential consultation at (916) 333-4653 or Stephen_Fiegel_Esq@comcast.net.
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