In the past, workers in California and throughout the United States who were dealing with sexual harassment on the job were generally shielded when they left their workplace. Today, however, people are working remotely more often and this is opening the door to extended harassment over the Internet and in other ways. There have been stories in the media about known personalities who exposed themselves to colleagues. This is a form of sexual harassment that is becoming prevalent — so much so that California lawmakers are doing something about it.
Graphic materials may soon be sufficient to file a lawsuit
The California State Assembly has recently passed a bill that would give workers the right to file a lawsuit if they receive unsolicited graphic sexual materials via electronic means. This is also referred to as “cyber flashing.” It passed the assembly unanimously and the state senate pushed it forward – also unanimously – to the governor. The images can be sent by text, email, through an app or by other methods.
According to the statistics, the most common victims for this behavior are young women. One in three under 35 said they dealt with online sexual harassment. As of 2017, a report said that over 50% of women from 18 to 29 received these types of images. Men were not immune to it either as 37% in that age group also received this imagery.
If the governor signs the bill, victims can subsequently receive $1,500 and up to $30,000 from the senders if they are over 18. They can also pursue punitive damages and try to have their attorney’s fees paid.
Sexual harassment is categorized as sex discrimination and violates the Civil Rights Act. In the past, it was limited to inappropriate comments, uncomfortable staring, showing inappropriate material in person and repeatedly asking for dates in an objectionable way. While this may have extended beyond the workplace with constant contact when people were off the clock, the cyber flashing is relatively new. Now, there is set to be a new avenue to put a stop to it and force those who are doing it to pay the price.
Professional help for victims of harassment
People who have been victimized in this way might still feel reluctant to speak out about it. They might fear that it will negatively impact their future with their employer. They could be ashamed of what happened. Or they may even be under the impression that complaining about it will not do any good. These are mistakes that should be dismissed entirely.
When a sexual harasser is free to continue with their behavior unabated, it will not only damage the victim in an individual case, but it may leave others vulnerable to it. The employer should be informed of what happened so it is on the record. Whether the employer does anything of consequence or not, the worker who was harassed should understand the value of being legally protected.
Consulting with professionals who are experienced in sexual harassment cases and will never stop fighting for their clients’ rights can be essential in achieving a strong outcome and holding the employer and the harasser accountable. Calling for advice is important and can provide information, guidance and representation to move forward with a claim.