With the rise of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment has been a major news story over the past year or so. Women and men have discussed their own personal experiences with sexual harassment, sometimes in gut-wrenching detail. The consensus is that sexual harassment is something no one should have to put up with. But, what exactly is sexual harassment? This blog post will describe sexual harassment in more detail.
The federal government defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person's job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can include offensive touching, persistent offensive sexual jokes, posting offensive material in the workplace, and more.
Sexual harassment is not allowed under federal and California law. Under federal law, sexual harassment is divided into two categories: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is where a supervisor or other authority figure demands that a subordinate tolerate sexual harassment to be hired, to be promoted or to avoid being fired. One instance of quid pro quo sexual harassment is enough to sustain a federal sexual harassment claim.
Under federal law, a hostile work environment is when an employee experiences unwelcome conduct based on their sex that is so severe or pervasive that it creates an offensive or abusive working environment.
If an individual proves in court that they endured sexual harassment, they may be entitled to compensatory damages, such as monetary loss and pain and suffering. They may also be able to recover punitive damages.