California Workplace Sexual Harassment Examples (2024)

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California Workplace Sexual Harassment Examples (2024)
Jul 07

No one should have to experience unwanted harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, sexual harassment often occurs to people of all genders and in many different forms.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

California law considers sexual harassment to be any inappropriate conduct motivated by sex or gender. To count as sexual harassment, the behavior must be unwanted, pervasive, and targeted. Often behavior that qualifies as sexual harassment falls under one or more of the following categories:

  • -Unwelcome sexual advances and physical contact
  • -Sending inappropriate sexual messages, photos, or videos
  • -Making sexual comments or jokes about another person
  • -Bribing or blackmailing, or attempting to bribe or blackmail someone into sexual activity
  • -Requesting sexual favors
  • -Asking intrusive questions about someone’s sexuality or anatomy

Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

California labor laws identify two main types of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • -Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment – If a person with power, like a manager or supervisor, tries to bribe or blackmail a subordinate into performing sexual favors, this is called quid pro quo harassment. For example, if a manager tells a new hire that in order to get a promotion, they need to engage in sexual activities with them, this is quid pro quo harassment. Although unwelcome behaviors usually have to be pervasive to qualify as sexual harassment, California law takes severe one-time incidents of quid pro quo harassment seriously, and you should contact a trustworthy lawyer if you have experienced one.
  • -Hostile Work Environment Harassment – If offensive behavior is severe and pervasive to the point where it creates an intimidating work environment, this is called hostile work environment harassment. For example, if an employee continues making targeted, explicit jokes to a colleague after being asked to stop several times, this creates an offensive work environment. This type of harassment is not limited to sexual harassment and can include inappropriate conduct based on other factors, such as race, ethnicity, or pregnancy.

Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace:

Unfortunately, sexual harassment can take many forms and range from subtle, hard-to-identify behaviors to blatant direct action. For instance, all of the actions in the list below are examples of sexual harassment. Bear in mind that sexual harassment could appear in other similar forms. Consulting a Los Angeles, CA sexual harassment attorney is the most effective way to evaluate if you have experienced sexual harassment.

  • -Unwanted sexual advances and physical contact
    • -A person in your workplace continually touches or gropes you without consent
    • -Someone tries to engage in sexual activities with you against your will
    • -A colleague repeatedly makes sexual gestures or expressions toward you
  • -Sending inappropriate sexual messages, photos, or videos
    • -Somebody frequently uses sexual innuendos in work emails, messages, or texts
    • -A superior sends you or makes you look at explicit images
  • -Making sexual comments or jokes about another person
    • -Colleagues constantly mock an aspect of your physical appearance
    • -Someone makes frequent jokes about you engaging in sexual activity
    • -A person continually makes fun of your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • -Bribing or blackmailing, or attempting to bribe or blackmail someone into sexual activity
    • -Your boss tells you that you will get promoted if you perform sexual favors
    • -Your manager says they will fire you if you do not accept their sexual advances
  • -Requesting sexual favors
    • -A colleague asks you all the time to sexually engage with them
    • -Other employees try to trick you into participating in sexual acts
  • -Asking intrusive questions about someone’s sexuality or anatomy
    • -Someone asks invasive questions about your gender identity or anatomy
    • -Colleagues inquire about your sexual history or behaviors

You should speak to an experienced sexual harassment attorney right away if you’ve experienced sexual harassment in any form or suffered consequences such as getting fired for refusing to engage in sexual behavior. Your lawyer will respectfully evaluate if sexual harassment occurred and help you understand your legal options moving forward.


Q: What Constitutes Harassment in California?

A: In California, any unwelcome policy or behavior on the basis of sex, gender, race, or religion is considered harassment. Sexual harassment, in particular, involves any unwanted sexual advances, physical content, inappropriate messages or comments about someone’s appearance or sexual activity, or requests for sexual behavior.

Q: What 3 Factors Determine Workplace Harassment?

A: The behaviors constituting harassment must be unwanted, continued, and targeted. If a person asks the person harassing them to stop after one incident, and the behavior does, in fact, stop, it likely will not qualify as sexual harassment. However, severely isolated incidences of harassment, particularly quid pro quo sexual harassment, often still qualify. If you’re wondering if a specific experience qualifies as sexual harassment, a lawyer can help you figure it out.

Q: What Is the Punishment for Sexual Harassment in California?

A: The punishment for sexual harassment will vary based on the precise context of the case. However, in the case of quid pro quo harassment, the company will often have to provide financial compensation to the person who was harassed.

Q: How Does Human Resources Handle Sexual Harassment?

A: All employers in California are required to have sexual harassment policies and methods for handling sexual harassment. The exact way an HR department will handle a violation of that policy will vary based on the workplace, but typically HR will investigate the sexual harassment claim and enact disciplinary action for those violating sexual harassment policies,

Get Help for a Los Angeles, CA Sexual Harassment Claim

You shouldn’t have to handle sexual harassment alone. Consulting a capable legal team can help put an end to the harassment and help you and others feel comfortable at work. At Clark Employment Law, APC, we understand how complicated and distressing it can be to experience sexual harassment in the workplace, and we know that you may feel pressure to stay silent. But the safest way forward is to seek legal action so the harassment comes to an end for good and those involved are held accountable for their horrible actions. Contact us today to get the support you deserve.

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