What is “sexual harassment”? To many of our readers in California, the answer to that question might seem obvious, particularly when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. For many people, an image of a higher-level management worker engaging in physical or otherwise demeaning sexual conduct toward a lower-level employee might come to mind. But, there are several different ways for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace – it doesn’t always have to be physical.
Sexual harassment basics
On its website, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes a few of the basic concepts behind the term “sexual harassment.” For starters, yes – unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature between employees can be considered as one form of sexual harassment. But, what we say matters as well. If an employee is subjected to frequent and consistent comments from other employees or supervisors – comments such as requests for sexual favors or unwanted sexual remarks, for example – that could also constitute sexual harassment as well.
However, it is important to note that the EEOC also points out that one-time comments, a simple instance of “teasing” or some isolated incidents might not rise to the level of “sexual harassment” that could lead to legal disputes. As in all legal matters, the facts are everything.
If you believe you have been or continue to be subjected sexual harassment in the workplace in California, it is important to have the facts of your specific situation fully evaluated. And, you’ll want to consider all of your available options as well – sometimes these situations don’t lead directly to a lawsuit being filed right away.