Sexual harassment does not have to be tolerated in the workplace and California laws protect workers from it. To better understand their rights, workers should be familiar with what sexual harassment is and what types of behaviors it includes.
According to state laws, sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual behavior, including unwanted sexual advances or any physical, verbal or visual conduct that is sexual in nature. The definition of sexual harassment in California is broad enough to include many forms of offensive behavior. It can also refer to instances of harassment when the victim and harasser are of the same sex. A variety of different behaviors are prohibited that would create a hostile work environment or suggest quid pro quo related to sexual favors.
Specific sexually harassing behaviors can include physical conduct such as touching, assaulting or limiting the movements of the victim; verbal conduct, such as making sexually derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes or verbal abuse that is sexual in nature; and unacceptable visual conduct can include leering at the victim, making sexual gestures directed at the victim or displaying sexual material to the victim. Sexual harassment can also include offering employment benefits or threatening retaliatory action in exchange for sexual favors or in response to sexual advances that have been rebuffed.
When a worker thinks they may have been a victim of sexual harassment, it is important for them to know what behaviors that includes. Legal protections from sexual harassment are available and victims should be aware of what they are.