FAQs: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is an illegal activity that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is a crime that unfortunately pervades thousands of workplaces around the U.S. Sexual harassment can lead to emotional distress, unlawful job termination, sexual assault and personal injuries. It is important to know the definition of sexual harassment as an employee in California, as well as to get honest answers to your questions about this crime. If you believe you have experienced sexual harassment, consult with a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer for further counsel right away.

What Counts as Sexual Harassment at Work?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s employment or ability to work, or that creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment. Any action that fulfills this definition may constitute sexual harassment.

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Groping, grabbing, hugging, kissing or cornering
  • Propositions or requests for sexual favors
  • Threats of a sexual nature
  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment
  • Sexual jokes or innuendos
  • Aggressive or intimidating actions based on the victim’s sex
  • Passing around or emailing sexually explicit images

Any of these actions could fulfill the definition of sexual harassment, regardless of the sexes of the perpetrator and victim. A harasser can be the same or opposite sex as the victim. A harasser may be the victim’s boss, supervisor, coworker or nonemployee. Anyone impacted by the conduct (not just the victim) may have experienced unlawful sexual harassment.

Is Discrimination Based on Sex Sexual Harassment?

Sex-based discrimination can meet the definition of sexual harassment. If a boss, coworker or another party discriminated against you because of your sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression or relationship status, and this negatively impacted your employment, you may be a victim of sexual harassment. The treatment of someone unfavorably because of that person’s sex is a crime within itself based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. You could file a complaint against your employer for sex-based discrimination alone.

Can I Report Sexual Harassment Without Losing My Job?

It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against you in any way for reporting sexual harassment, including by terminating your employment. If you lose your job, suffer a demotion, get a pay cut or face other negative repercussions shortly after complaining about or reporting sexual harassment, speak to an L.A. employment attorney about a possible retaliation lawsuit, even if your employer says he or she is letting you go for an unrelated reason.

How Do I Report Sexual Harassment?

Report sexual harassment first to the company’s Human Resources department and then to the EEOC if the company does not remedy the issue. Most companies have internal systems for responding to harassment. Expect your employer to promptly investigate your allegations and take action against the harasser as necessary. If your employer fails to properly respond to the situation, take your case to the EEOC instead. The EEOC will investigate the incident and potentially host a mediation to remedy the issue. If this fails, you will then have the right to file a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment.

What Kind of Injury Do I Have to Suffer to File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?

You may bring a claim based on sexual harassment or discrimination without any type of injury, emotional harm or psychological damage. Enduring the harassment or discrimination alone is enough to give you grounds to file a claim, as these actions are against federal employment laws. Your employer may face consequences such as fines and penalties for permitting sexual harassment or discrimination to occur in your workplace. If you wish to bring a personal injury lawsuit for damages, however, you must have suffered compensable losses such as physical injury, emotional or psychological harm, or loss of your job. Speak to a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer for more information about a potential sexual harassment claim in California.