Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. The following is a partial list of violations:
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
- Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances
- Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of suggestive objects or pictures,
- cartoon or posters
- Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, jokes, sexual advances or propositions
- Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body
- Sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or
- Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements
All employers are prohibited from harassing employees in the workplace. If harassment occurs, an employer may be liable even if management was not aware of the harassment. Employers are strictly liable for harassment by their supervisors or agents. The harasser can be held personally liable for damages. Additionally, Government Code section 12940, subdivision (k), requires an entity to take “all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring.” If an employer has failed to take such preventative measures, that employer can be held liable for the harassment. A victim may be entitled to monetary damages even though no employment opportunity has been denied and there is no actual loss of pay or benefits.
- Employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.
- Employers must help ensure a workplace free from sexual harassment by posting in the workplace a poster made available by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
- Employers must help ensure a workplace free from sexual harassment by distributing to employees information on sexual harassment. An employer may either distribute a brochure that may be obtained from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or develop an equivalent document, which must meet the following requirements: The illegality of sexual harassment.