Sexual Harassment Can Happen to Anyone at Any Time, So Here’s How to Handle It

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Sexual Harassment Can Happen to Anyone at Any Time, So Here’s How to Handle It

Sexual harassment happens when you least expect it. It’s not just something women experience. Men can be sexually harassed, too. A 1999 case demonstrates this. Two men quit their assistant manager positions at a grocery store after their female manager flashed them, rubbed her body on one, and made comments that made the men uncomfortable. One quit and the other complained to a superior and lost his job for complaining.

Of all the discrimination cases filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 31.7% involve sexual harassment. Retaliation complaints account for more than half of all complaints, and some go hand in hand with these sexual harassment cases. In 2020, 16.8% of sexual harassment cases were filed by men. Women are still more likely to file than men. It’s important for men to feel just as comfortable filing a sexual harassment in the workplace complaint.

Understand the Laws

Sexual harassment laws protect workers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, from harassment of a sexual nature both in and outside the workplace. Pregnancy is also covered. It may be continual unwelcome advances, inappropriate comments, physical harassment, or requests for sexual favors. People don’t always understand the full extent of the law. If another worker overhears a co-worker making regular sexual comments about a customer, the worker can file the harassment claim. The actual victim is not the only one who can file the complaint.

You don’t have to be at the workplace. If you’re at a company party in a local restaurant, sexual harassment laws still offer protection. The same is true if you’re on a business trip or working from a home office and get harassing texts and emails sent to you by another employer or customer.

When these illegal actions or comments happen, it can be between a boss and employee, an employee and co-worker, or an employee and customer. It can also occur between a delivery person or contractor and staff in the workplace. For example, the contractor who comes in to service the office equipment keeps making sexual comments to the female office workers. The women could file a sexual harassment claim against the contractor.

In most cases, you have 180 days to file a complaint. If you’re a federal employee, you only have 45 days, so it’s essential to take immediate action. State laws may extend these time limits. Employees must have 15 or more employees for the laws to apply to them.

Specifics With California’s Sexual Harassment Laws

California defines sexual harassment as being one of two types: Quid Pro Quo or Hostile Work Environment.

  • Quid Pro Quo harassment occurs when a job promotion or perk of the job is offered in exchange for something of a sexual nature or is based on sex.
  • Hostile Work Environment sexual harassment covers situations like unwelcomed or unwanted comments or behaviors that interfere with an employee’s comfort within the workplace.

Sexual harassment in California may be:

  • Conditional (Sexual favors requested in exchange for something)
  • Physical (An assault, blocking someone from leaving, grabbing or holding, etc.)
  • Verbal (Jokes of a sexual nature, derogatory comments, slurs, etc.)
  • Visual (memes, cartoons, drawings, etc.)

It’s important to know that harassment doesn’t have to be linked to a sexual desire. If a co-worker tells a crude joke that someone overhears and finds offensive, it can count as sexual harassment.

New hires must go through sexual harassment training within six months of their start date. After that, retraining must occur every two years. This includes seasonal and temporary hires. For temporary and seasonal employees, the training must occur within 30 days of hiring them or within 100 hours of work, whichever comes first.

Examples of Recent Sexual Harassment Cases

El Vallarta Restaurant Group was sued by a teenager who was groped by a manager and subjected to repeated sexual comments by her co-workers. She ended up quitting and filing a complaint with the EEOC. She was awarded $85,000 in April of 2021.

Dollar General had to pay a worker $50,000 after transferring her to a less convenient location and cutting her hours following her sexual harassment complaint. Her boss ripped her blouse, grabbed her head and forced it to his genitals, and massaged her shoulders. When she complained to management, she was moved to another store.

In 2020, a company that manufactures automotive lighting fixtures was sued by several women. Their floor manager had been sexually harassing them. When they filed a complaint, management didn’t take action. The company had to pay more than $300,000 in damages to the four women, update the sexual harassment policy, and provide yearly training.

A casino had to pay an employee $105,000 after a customer sexually harassed her. After her manager instructed her to escort a drunk guest to his room, the guest kissed her and made sexual advances. When she and others complained about sexual harassment in the workplace, they were forced to quit or fired.

What Do You Do?

You’re a victim of harassment. Get a copy of your employee handbook and read what it says about filing a complaint. Follow those steps first.

Keep a journal of what is said or done and when the events took place. If you get pornographic images sent to you by a coworker, even if you find it repulsive, save the email for evidence. Don’t delete it. If your boss keeps asking you to go to dinner and drinks to get a promotion, keep saying no and record the dates. If others overhear, note who they are. If your boss leaves messages on your voicemail, save them.

Take whatever you can to the person it lists in your employee handbook. It may be human resources or the boss/supervisor of the person who is sexually harassing you. If a contractor is harassing you, go to your boss. File a sexual harassment complaint. You are protected against retaliation. If you are fired or demoted after filing a complaint, that’s illegal. You may need to go up a level.

You may not want to file a complaint with anyone in your company. It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable filing a complaint that way. EEOC has an online system where you can file a Charge of Discrimination online. To do so, you must answer a few questions. They include:

  • Who discriminated against you?
  • On what date did the discrimination occur?
  • What type of discrimination did you experience?
  • Were you paid less or given fewer perks and rewards because of your gender or sexual orientation?
  • How many employees work for the company?
  • Where did the discrimination occur?

Once you file this form, an inquiry begins. The EEOC will start remediation to figure out what happened. If it’s determined what happened does meet the criteria, you’ll file a lawsuit for discrimination after that. Arm yourself with as much proof as you can, but don’t avoid filing if you can’t back it up with physical evidence. Witness statements also get taken into account.

You’ve filed your complaint. You should get a list of the next steps. It gives you a good idea of how long things will take and what is needed of you and others. If you’re not provided with a response, demand one. If you’re still not provided with any information on what to expect next, it’s time to seek an expert’s help.

What if you’ve filed a complaint with your employer or the EEOC and don’t feel you were treated in accordance with the law? Talk to an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment complaints. Shegerian Conniff has helped many victims of sexual harassment. You do not have to continue to deal with this illegal behavior. Let us help you stand up for your rights.

Fill out the online form on our website or call us at 310-322-7500. Consultations don’t cost you a penny. We offer virtual consultations, so you don’t even have to leave your home. Reach us 24-hours a day and let us know how we can help.

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