Updated: Mar 4
What is considered workplace harassment in California and how to report it.
In California, as in most states, harassment in the workplace may be a violation of the law. California law prohibits harassment of all kinds and requires employers to coach supervisors on the way to prevent and any kind of harassment in the workplace
Under the CA Fair Employment and Housing Act, there are two kinds of harassment in the workplace: quid pro quo (literally, "something for something") harassment and hostile work environment harassment. An employment lawyer will help you assess your case.
Workplace Harassment # 1: Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo harassment in the workplace happens when a supervisor, either expressly or impliedly, requires a subordinate to undergo sexual advances by threatening the subordinate with an adverse employment action, like a nasty review, demotion, or termination. For example, a supervisor has engaged in quid pro quo harassment by conditioning a promotion on the subordinate's agreement to go on a romantic date.
Quid pro quo harassment in the workplace happens when an employee in a position of authority who is using his or her position to require a subordinate to do something in exchange for a sexual favor.
Coworkers in the same position who demand sexual favors aren't engaging in quid pro quo harassment. However, they'll be creating a hostile work environment, as defined below.
Workplace Harassment # 2: Hostile Work Environment
The other sort of harassment in the workplace recognized under California law is named a hostile work environment. As opposed to quid pro quo harassment, any employee can create a hostile work environment. With this sort of harassment in the workplace, there doesn't get to be the threat of adverse employment action. Instead, the harasser engages in unwelcome conduct, supported sex, which creates a workplace that's intimidating, hostile, or offensive to an inexpensive person.
The conduct could be specifically targeted at a private, but it doesn't get to be. For instance, a coworker could create a hostile work environment by posting offensive or degrading photos. A hostile work environment claim must meet some requirements.
Based on Sex
While the stereotype of harassment may be a lecherous male employee subjecting a female employee to sexual innuendo or advances, workplace harassment covers a way wider range of conduct. Harassment includes any conduct supported "sex," which during this context means gender.
As a result, the conduct doesn't necessarily have to be sexual in nature to become harassment. A good example is a well-known case in California where the court found that male workers on a construction company engaged in workplace harassment and created a hostile work environment for female counterparts by hiding their tools, calling them names, and otherwise bullying them due to their gender.
An employee doesn't need to be the direct target of the harassment to experience a hostile work environment. A male employee who witnesses another male employee engaging in sexually harassing conduct may have his own claim of hostile environment harassment.
The conduct must even be considered unwelcome. However, "unwelcome" isn't an equivalent as "nonconsensual" under California harassment law. In other words, if the victim goes along with the harassment, the conduct remains considered harassment if the employee found the conduct unwelcome. Many employees feel they need no choice but to "consent" to offensive conduct within the workplace for fear of losing their jobs.
An employee filing a harassment claim must have found the challenged conduct unwelcome; however, if an employee goes along and participates in such behavior such as telling sexual jokes, he or she risks
having their claim thrown out because it will be difficult to explain that they actually found that behavior unwelcome.
Offensive To Any Reasonable Individual
In addition to truly being unwelcome and offensive to the complaining employee (called the "subjective standard"), the alleged harassment must even be objectively offensive. This suggests that it must be of a kind that might have offended an inexpensive man or woman standing within the victim's shoes.
The "reasonable person" requirements takes into consideration the whole context of the victim's circumstances. If, for instance, the victim of harassment had previously suffered sexual abuse, and because of that, he or she is a lot more sensitive to certain situations. Her history of workplace harassment would be taken into consideration when deciding whether the conduct would be offensive to anyone else.
Severe or Pervasive
California law defines harassment as conduct that's either so severe approximately pervasive that it creates an abusive working environment. Under this definition, one severe act, like a physical assault, can amount to workplace harassment. However, more often, harassment is predicated on multiple acts occurring over time, like daily denigrating and insulting comments or jokes, which are pervasive enough to taint the workplace.
Employer Training Requirements To Avoid Workplace Harassment
California law requires larger companies to carry harassment training on a daily basis. Companies with 50 or more employees should offer two hours of workplace harassment training every two years to supervisory employees according to the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Employers must also train new management employees within six months of hire. Additionally, as of January 1, 2015, California requires employers to supply training on the way to prevent "abusive conduct." This training is meant to scale back bullying within the workplace that's not supported gender or another protected class (and therefore not illegal), but harmful to employees nonetheless.
If an employer fails to provide these training requirements, that fact could also be raised later during a harassment lawsuit to point out that the employer didn't take reasonable steps to stop and/or correct harassment.
This will affect the employer's defense of the harassment claim. More importantly, training can help avoid harassment in the workplace. This may not only create a more productive and happy workplace, it'll also reduce the probabilities of harassment lawsuits.
How To Find a California Workplace Harassment Lawyer
If you have experienced any type of harassment in the workplace, you must seek the advice of an employment attorney as soon as possible. You can get an unbiased lawyer referral 24 hours a day by submitting your request here. You'll get an answer within 5 minutes.
We pre-screen and monitor California employment lawyers to make sure they are in good standing with the California State Bar and that they have all their continuing education and insurance requirements up to date.