Sexual Harassment Happens in the Virtual Workplace, Too

Remote work is here to stay. Businesses left with no choice but to find ways to survive during the pandemic turned to virtual technologies to keep them on course. After some initial growing pains, many businesses see little reason to backtrack now that their employees have adapted to staying productive via Zoom, Slack, and GoToMeeting (to name just a few popular virtual work tools). Workers like the flexibility of the virtual workplace, and businesses have warmed to the savings they can realize on rent, utilities, and other overhead when their employees work remotely. 

The accelerated transition to working virtually has not, however, eliminated problems that have long plagued the workplace. Instead, the new work format has merely evolved new ways for employees to misbehave. 

Sexual harassment, in particular, continues to intrude on the lives of workers everywhere. If anything, its devastating, disruptive effects can now reach further into employees’ lives than ever, because when it happens remotely it can find its victims anywhere they use a screen. 

Let’s take a look at some emerging types of sexual harassment in the virtual workplace, and how a skilled business and employment lawyer can help enterprises and victimized employees address them. 

Sexual Harassment Overview

To quote the Office of the California Attorney General, workplace sexual harassment consists of “unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.” Sexual harassment is a form of illegal discrimination barred by state and federal civil rights laws. 

Under California law, conduct constituting sexual harassment is illegal even if it is not motivated by sexual desire. It is equally unacceptable when instead motivated by actual or perceived sex or gender-identity, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or by an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related health condition. 

Sexual Harassment in Virtual Spaces

You don’t have to spend much time online to know that the virtual world is rife with offensive sexual material and conduct. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that virtual workplace sexual harassment has emerged so readily as work spaces have increasingly come to resemble internet spaces. 

But that does not make it any less damaging for workers and the businesses that employ them. The following conduct constitutes sexual harassment that, while virtual in its medium, is undeniably real and devastating in its effect on employees and employers.

Sending Sexually Offensive Messages  

A fast-growing segment of today’s workforce uses text-based messaging applications as its default mode of work and personal communication. The convenience and familiarity of messaging tools, and the text and emoji-based shorthand that have evolved from them, can foster sexually offensive behavior. Sexual harassment can occur when co-workers send or share messages containing crude jokes, innuendo, sexual double-meanings, and emoji with suggestive or explicit connotations. 

Sharing Sexually Offensive Imagery

The internet-age adage that if something exists, then so does internet pornography related to it, translates into real and persistent problems in virtual workplaces. The tools businesses have adopted to foster productivity, like messaging and team-working applications, are designed to make sharing imagery effortless. Unfortunately, that means it is also easy for a sexually offensive meme, .gif, video, or still image to make the rounds of a workplace, creating a hostile, sexually-inappropriate environment that harms employees and employers alike. 

Video Meeting-Related Misconduct

We have all laughed at now-(in)famous Zoom-meeting mishaps from early in the pandemic when everyone was still adjusting to work-from-home. However, thinking of video conferences gone awry only in terms of those lighthearted moments ignores a troubling and increasingly-common downside of meeting virtually.

To start, video conferencing applications can facilitate the types of offensive messaging and image-sharing discussed above. In addition, they can also become an outlet through which employees make unwanted sexual advances, mock or gang-up on a co-worker, attend meetings from inappropriate settings, wear offensive attire, and even expose themselves.

Additionally, video conferencing with work-from-home employees raises the specter of unwelcome intrusions on employee privacy. Commenting on items seen in the background of another co-worker’s at-home work space, for example, or taking and sharing screenshots of co-workers participating in meetings, can constitute illegal harassment.

Problematic 24/7 Access to Subordinates

In pre-smartphone times, leaving work for the day essentially severed communication between bosses and their subordinates until the following morning. That changed once everyone began carrying devices that ran email, messaging, and document management apps that enabled employers to demand their employees’ attention at all hours.

The move to remote work and its exclusive reliance on virtual technologies has pushed that trend into overdrive, resulting in a rise in sexually-tinged violations of employee boundaries. For example, routinely and knowingly sending messages to a subordinate during times the subordinate has set aside for personal activities that are arguably tied to sex or gender, such as going on a date or attending a pregnancy-related doctor appointment, can constitute sexually harassing behavior.  

How Business and Employment Lawyers Can Help

Employees who have been on the receiving-end of sexually harassing behavior in virtual workspaces, or who have suffered from a sexually hostile virtual workplace culture, may have the right to receive compensation for the harm they have endured. An experienced employment lawyer can advise them of their rights and options for taking legal action, and can seek compensation on their behalf if they decide to do so.

Businesses contending with virtual workplace sexual harassment can also benefit from timely, sophisticated legal advice. An experienced business and employment attorney can help business leaders craft legally-appropriate responses to instances of virtual workplace sexual harassment, and can work with them to develop policies and procedures aimed at eliminating sexual misconduct from their workforce. 

Perkins Asbill helps employees and employers alike in tackling the legal and practical challenges of virtual workplace sexual harassment. We advocate for employees in California who have suffered harm from sexual harassment in workplaces both physical and virtual. We also advise small and mid-sized Sacramento-area businesses on how to keep their brick-and-mortar and online workspaces free of sexual misconduct. 

To learn more about how we can help you address virtual workplace sexual harassment, contact us online or call us at 916-446-2000 today. 

How Should I Report Sexual Harassment at My Job?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing problem. According to the EEOC, over 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed in 2018, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.  Pew Social Trends reports that 27% of men and 59% of women experienced harassment. More than half of women report sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. Experiencing harassment at work can be distressing, especially since the average worker spends significant time at work. Workers do not and should not have to put up with it. However, a survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 72%of workplace sexual harassment victims don’t report it. There are many reasons why a victim does not report the harassment. In some cases, they simply don’t know how to report it. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, start within your workplace to report the harassment before pursuing other remedies.

What is sexual harassment?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, job applicants and employees are protected under law from harassment in the workplace. However, some employees are unsure whether what they are experiencing actually is sexual harassment.

The key issue in sexual harassment is what the harassed person thinks or feels, not whether the person doing the harassing believes it to be harmless or even welcomed. It is one-sided in that only one person feels good about it. It may be offensive sexual behavior, either explicit or implicit. Victims feel intimidated, uncomfortable, degraded, or bad about themselves. Even if you do not immediately object or say “stop,” it still is harassment.   

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be subtle or blatant. The perpetrator can be a person of the opposite sex or the same sex.  It can come from supervisors, coworkers, or customers, and it comes in many forms. It may consist of acts or behaviors such as:

  • Physical behavior, including touching, unwanted sexual advances, and any type of sexual assault.
  • Sexual comments and jokes, whether or not you are the subject of the joke.
  • Displays of pictures, photos, drawings, etc., of a sexual nature, such as erotic calendars, computer backgrounds, or pornography.
  • Sending or sharing messages of a sexual nature, whether by text, emails, or an internal company messaging system.
  • Offensive comments on social media sites.
  • Unwelcome requests for sexual favors or dates
  • Sexual propositions
  • Facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements of a sexual nature
  • Staring or leering at your body
  • Inappropriate comments about someone’s body or appearance
  • Intrusive questions about your private or sex life
  • Sexual innuendo or gender-based or sexual orientation-based objectionable language
  • Gossiping about someone’s personal relationships or sex life
  • Physically blocking a person’s movement

How to report sexual harassment in the workplace

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to report the issue for your own protection and to prevent it from happening to anyone else in the future. You may feel intimidated, nervous, or daunted, but you must speak up. Unless you feel unsafe, if a coworker has done something, like name call or violates your personal space too often, you may wish to send them an email clearly stating your boundaries and asking them to respect those boundaries. However, if the email has no effect, the email is proof that you tried to resolve the issue before reporting the problem.

Check your employer’s sexual harassment policy

All employers must have a sexual harassment policy in place. This policy can help you understand how your workplace handles harassment. Take note of information concerning how and to whom you should make your complaint, such as your supervisor, manager, human resources person, union representative, or employer. The person who will be investigating your complaint should be impartial and not have preconceived opinions about you or your harasser. Your employer probably gave you a copy of their sexual harassment policy when you were hired, but you may not have read it carefully. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with it in light of your current situation. 

Make notes

As your complaint moves forward, there will be many questions. At some point, you will probably meet in person with the employer or their representative so that they can ask follow-up questions. It helps to have notes on any unwelcome and unwanted behavior of a sexual nature.  Avoid vague accusations. When you report sexual harassment, include as many details as possible. If possible, include:

  • What was said or done.
  • The date(s) it happened.
  • How it made you feel.
  • Others victims of the behavior.
  • Anyone who may have witnessed the behavior.

Put your complaint in writing

Write the details of your complaint in a letter, email, or another document, and always keep a copy. Even if you have discussed the matter with a supervisor or other appropriate person, you need to create a paper trail. Then send the complaint to the person listed as responsible in the sexual harassment policy. In the event that this person is the one you are complaining about, submit your complaint to somebody else in a senior position of authority.

Workplace retaliation is illegal

If possible, all claims of harassment should be handled and resolved in the workplace. You should receive the opportunity to fully explain your complaint and the resolution you want from it, for example, if you want an apology from the perpetrator or further action from the company.

Many employees are reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs or positions. Many are not fully aware of their legal options. In some cases, even if the employee reports the harassment, the employer may stall, ignore or deny the complaint. The employer may retaliate against the employee by termination or failure to hire, reduced hours, a demotion, or a decrease in pay. Under EEO laws, employers may not retaliate against job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination. This includes sexual harassment.

Contact an attorney

How Should I Report Sexual Harassment at My Job?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing problem. According to the EEOC, over 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed in 2018, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.  Pew Social Trends reports that 27% of men and 59% of women experienced harassment. More than half of women report sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. Experiencing harassment at work can be distressing, especially since the average worker spends significant time at work. Workers do not and should not have to put up with it. However, a survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 72%of workplace sexual harassment victims don’t report it. There are many reasons why a victim does not report the harassment. In some cases, they simply don’t know how to report it. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, start within your workplace to report the harassment before pursuing other remedies.

What is sexual harassment?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, job applicants and employees are protected under law from harassment in the workplace. However, some employees are unsure whether what they are experiencing actually is sexual harassment.

The key issue in sexual harassment is what the harassed person thinks or feels, not whether the person doing the harassing believes it to be harmless or even welcomed. It is one-sided in that only one person feels good about it. It may be offensive sexual behavior, either explicit or implicit. Victims feel intimidated, uncomfortable, degraded, or bad about themselves. Even if you do not immediately object or say “stop,” it still is harassment.   

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be subtle or blatant. The perpetrator can be a person of the opposite sex or the same sex.  It can come from supervisors, coworkers, or customers, and it comes in many forms. It may consist of acts or behaviors such as:

  • Physical behavior, including touching, unwanted sexual advances, and any type of sexual assault.
  • Sexual comments and jokes, whether or not you are the subject of the joke.
  • Displays of pictures, photos, drawings, etc., of a sexual nature, such as erotic calendars, computer backgrounds, or pornography.
  • Sending or sharing messages of a sexual nature, whether by text, emails, or an internal company messaging system.
  • Offensive comments on social media sites.
  • Unwelcome requests for sexual favors or dates
  • Sexual propositions
  • Facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements of a sexual nature
  • Staring or leering at your body
  • Inappropriate comments about someone’s body or appearance
  • Intrusive questions about your private or sex life
  • Sexual innuendo or gender-based or sexual orientation-based objectionable language
  • Gossiping about someone’s personal relationships or sex life
  • Physically blocking a person’s movement

How to report sexual harassment in the workplace

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to report the issue for your own protection and to prevent it from happening to anyone else in the future. You may feel intimidated, nervous, or daunted, but you must speak up. Unless you feel unsafe, if a coworker has done something, like name call or violates your personal space too often, you may wish to send them an email clearly stating your boundaries and asking them to respect those boundaries. However, if the email has no effect, the email is proof that you tried to resolve the issue before reporting the problem.

Check your employer’s sexual harassment policy

All employers must have a sexual harassment policy in place. This policy can help you understand how your workplace handles harassment. Take note of information concerning how and to whom you should make your complaint, such as your supervisor, manager, human resources person, union representative, or employer. The person who will be investigating your complaint should be impartial and not have preconceived opinions about you or your harasser. Your employer probably gave you a copy of their sexual harassment policy when you were hired, but you may not have read it carefully. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with it in light of your current situation. 

Make notes

As your complaint moves forward, there will be many questions. At some point, you will probably meet in person with the employer or their representative so that they can ask follow-up questions. It helps to have notes on any unwelcome and unwanted behavior of a sexual nature.  Avoid vague accusations. When you report sexual harassment, include as many details as possible. If possible, include:

  • What was said or done.
  • The date(s) it happened.
  • How it made you feel.
  • Others victims of the behavior.
  • Anyone who may have witnessed the behavior.

Put your complaint in writing

Write the details of your complaint in a letter, email, or another document, and always keep a copy. Even if you have discussed the matter with a supervisor or other appropriate person, you need to create a paper trail. Then send the complaint to the person listed as responsible in the sexual harassment policy. In the event that this person is the one you are complaining about, submit your complaint to somebody else in a senior position of authority.

Workplace retaliation is illegal

If possible, all claims of harassment should be handled and resolved in the workplace. You should receive the opportunity to fully explain your complaint and the resolution you want from it, for example, if you want an apology from the perpetrator or further action from the company.

Many employees are reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs or positions. Many are not fully aware of their legal options. In some cases, even if the employee reports the harassment, the employer may stall, ignore or deny the complaint. The employer may retaliate against the employee by termination or failure to hire, reduced hours, a demotion, or a decrease in pay. Under EEO laws, employers may not retaliate against job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination. This includes sexual harassment.

Contact an attorney

If reporting your complaint proves to be unsuccessful, you may wish to consult an employment attorney who will know the law and can guide you through the legal process. You may be entitled to compensation and other legal remedies, even if an employer dismisses sexual harassment complaints as unimportant or not worth investigating. For more information, please contact the experienced, dedicated attorneys at Perkins Asbill. Call 916-446-2000 or contact us online.

Preserving Your Rights: Filing a Timely Sexual Harassment Claim

While we might like to believe that sexual harassment doesn’t occur very often, that is unfortunately not true. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives approximately 7,000 claims of sexual harassment each year — and this number only represents workplace harassment that is reported. Sexual harassment is not reported far too often — and even when it is reported, sometimes the victim can’t recover because they have waited to long to bring the claim.

Read on to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and important considerations for bringing a timely claim to ensure you don’t lose the opportunity hold the perpetrator accountable.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Broadly defined, sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior that is:

  • Made a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Used as a basis for employment decisions affecting an individual; or
  • Unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment

While there is no exhaustive list of behaviors that constitute sexual harassment, examples include:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault;
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors;
  • Unwanted deliberate leaning over, cornering, touching, or pinching;
  • Unwanted sexual gestures or looks;
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions;
  • Pressure for dates;
  • Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks; and
  • Spreading rumors or telling lies about an individual’s sex life

Sexual harassment reports in California are higher than the national average, by 5% for women and 10% for men. More than 86% of women and 53% of men in California reported experience some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Verbal sexual harassment is most common, followed by physically aggressive forms of sexual harassment and cyber sexual harassment. Marginalized populations including foreign-born men, lesbian and bisexual women, and gay and bisexual men all report increased rates of harassment or assault.

How Long Do I Have to Report Sexual Harassment?

Every state places a limit on the amount of time a victim has to file a claim for sexual harassment, called the statute of limitations. In 2020, California tripled the amount of time an employee has to file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) after an alleged violation. Previously, an individual only had one year from the date of the incident to report a violation. The law now allows employees three years to file a claim after the incident occurred.

The extension of the statute of limitations is intended to address the unique concerns associated with sexual harassment, including victim’s need for significant time to come to terms with the incident and to feel comfortable coming forward. Sexual harassment victims often also face serious concerns of retaliation.

Even though the statute of limitations has been extended, it is important to file a claim as soon as the victim is able. The more time that passes, the more likely evidence will be lost or witnesses memories will become hazy. An experienced attorney will work with you to prepare your claim and ease the stress associated with the process. Additionally, if you were the victim of sexual harassment in 2019, it is important to bring your claim as soon as possible.

How Do I Initiate a Claim?

Once you have confirmed that the statute of limitations has not passed, you will need to file a sexual harassment claim. If you have experienced sexual harassment, take the following steps:

  • Be familiar with your employer’s sexual harassment policy;
  • Document evidence of the harassment, including witnesses, after it occurs, including putting all complaints in writing;
  • Notify your employer about the harassment in whatever manner advised in the sexual harassment policy, or, if no policy exists, to a human resource or other responsible employee; and
  • File a complaint with either the DFEH or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — a lawyer can help you determine which agency should receive your claim;

After a complaint is filed with DFEH, the department will evaluate the facts and decide whether the complaint warrants further investigation. Once accepted, the DFEH will investigate the facts and legal issues and determine whether to pursue a complaint on your behalf.

You also have the option to file your own lawsuit for employment discrimination instead of using the DFEH investigation process. You will need to complete a Right to Sue notice. It is important to work with an experienced lawyer if you choose to pursue action against outside the DFEH investigation process.

Preventing Workplace Harassment

Employers should take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, including having a clear sexual harassment policy. The policy should include a clear and safe reporting path for employees who have suffered sexual harassment, including appropriate assurances that the employee will not suffer retaliation.

California requires every employer of more than five employees to provide one hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention to non-supervisory employees and two hours of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to supervisors and managers once every two years. The training must include practical examples of harassment in a variety of categories including gender identify, gender expression, and sexual orientation. This training requirement is the minimum standard required of employers. If employers identify a need for additional training, they should take steps to provide the necessary training.

In addition to trainings and policies, employers must take active steps to discourage inappropriate jokes or other actions that create an environment that accepts or encourages sexual harassment.

Contact a Lawyer Immediately

One of the most important steps you can take after becoming the victim of sexual harassment is to contact an experienced attorney. At Perkins Asbill, our lawyers believe that every case matters and treat their responsibilities as more than a job. We are focused on protecting the rights of employees from all backgrounds and industries and believe that every employee deserves competent representation to enforce his or her rights.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in California, contact Perkins Asbill today at 916-446-2000 or through our website to schedule a consultation.

California Compliance Deadline for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Still Set For January 1, 2021

In 2018, California extended its law regarding anti-harassment training requirements to employers with five or more employees and mandated that non-supervisors and supervisors also had to receive this type of training. Yet, even though the original deadline for this prevention training was set for January 1, 2020. In 2019, Governor Newsom signed legislation extending this deadline to January 1, 2021. However, this amendment also clarified that any employer that provided sexual harassment training in 2019 was compliant with the requirements and did not have to provide any further training again for two years.

Yet, even with these updates, many employers are still confused with the sexual harassment prevention training requirements and their specific obligations. That is why, in this blog post, we will dive into these training details and provide you with answers to some frequently asked questions many employers have.

Anti-Harassment Training Requirements

Current California laws require that employers provide the following anti-harassment training:

  • One (1) hour of sexual harassment prevention training to non-supervisory employees.
  • Two (2) hours of sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors and managers.
  • This specific interactive training has to occur every two years. It includes the prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the program, as well as practical examples of harassment based on gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

COVID-19 Delay

Unfortunately, many employers delayed their anti-harassment training because of COVID-19 and California’s stay at home orders. Most hoping that by the summer, they could reschedule. However, based on the current state and county guidance, the ability to have in-person training remains challenging. Plus, there has been no further update about the Governor extending the deadline. As a result, it looks like the January 1, 2021 compliance deadline remains, and employers must provide the sexual harassment training to their employees by then.

How to Make the Training Work for You

Even though you may not provide in-person training, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) allows these live pieces of training to occur online, in a classroom, or in any other adequate, interactive format. This training:

  • May be completed by employees as part of a group or individually.
  • May be completed in portions as long as the total hourly requirements are met.
  • Is accessible on a mobile device or computer.
  • Is available in English, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Tagalog.
  • Can have closed captioning turned on or off in any version.
  • Can have alt-text for all images and icons.

It is critical to note that the training module will not save progress. As a result, if you reload the page, you can end up losing your progress. Once complete with the training, your employees will be able to obtain a certificate of competition. This means that no matter whether they are using a mobile device or computer, they will be able to print, take a screenshot, save, or email the certificate of completion to you.

What are the Employer Requirements in California for this Training?

Regardless of how the training is completed, employers need to make sure they take the following actions:

  • Retain records of all their employees’ training for at least two years.
  • Provide abusive conduct and sexual harassment prevention training to their employees every two years.
  • Provide their employees with a fact sheet or poster developed by the Department regarding sexual harassment or comparable information.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training FAQs

Since 2018, there have been many concerns regarding the sexual harassment prevention training. Typically, some of the most common questions include the following:

1. Why is this Training Required?

Sexual harassment is taken very seriously in California. Yet, despite it being against the law and there also being a greater awareness of the harms that come with sexual harassment. Many individuals are still subject to harassment because of a protected characteristic or their sex. As a result, this training was designed to remind and educate everyone about what is appropriate behavior and what is not appropriate behavior at work.

2. Who Needs To Be Trained?

Per the requirements, employers with five or more employees, all supervisory and non-supervisory employees must be trained. Regardless if they work at the same location or even if not all of them reside in California.

3. What Does the Training Need to Cover?

The Sexual Harassment Prevention Training needs to include practical guidance and information regarding the federal and state laws concerning:

  • The prevention, prohibition against, and correction of sexual harassment and any available remedies to victims of sexual harassment.
  • Practical examples of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
  • Information about preventing harassment or abusive conduct based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

4. By When Does The Training Need to Be Completed By?

There has been no indication that the date will be extended due to COVID-19. As a result, all employees must receive this training by January 1, 2021. Those employers who have 50 or more employees still have an ongoing obligation to train any new supervisory employees within six months of them assuming their new supervisory role. However, beginning on January 1, 2021, new supervisory employees in workplaces of five or more employees have to be trained within six months of starting their supervisory position. Additionally, new non-supervisory employees must be trained within six months of their hire.

5. Do I Have to Take California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing Training?

No. The DFEH provides training as a resource to help employers. However, to meet the obligation, you do not have to use their training. Instead, you are allowed to take part in your own sexual harassment prevention training as long as it meets the specific California training requirements.

Let Perkins Asbill Help You Meet Your Training Requirements

Time is running out. If your employees still need to be trained, call the Perkins Asbill law firm at 916-446-2000. We can discuss your sexual harassment prevention training questions and provide your employees with a compliant training webinar making sure they get the required training done, even if they are remote. Please do not wait any longer. Contactus today.

Common Types of Harassment in the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

Harassment at a place of work is nothing to joke about. As an employee, you have a right to work at a site that is free from insults, intimidation, and bullying. And yet, even though there are established laws that protect you against these harassment tactics, this sometimes-illegal behavior still occurs. What makes this situation even worse is that there are so many different types of workplace harassment that even the most diligent of supervisors can miss the signs. However, as an employee experiencing this type of harassment, you should not just have to deal with it.

To help you better understand if you are getting harassed at work, we have prepared the following blog post, which will explain the most common types of harassment found in the workplace, and what you can do about it.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment refers to the physical or verbal conduct that shows hostility towards another individual based on their race, gender, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, or other protected personal characteristics. Such workplace harassment is considered illegal under both state and federal law.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment involves harassment due to your skin color, ancestry, citizenship status, or race. This harassment can include racist jokes, insults, slurs, racial disgust, and even degrading comments.

Gender Harassment

Gender harassment results from discrimination against another individual because of their gender. This harassment often involves stereotypes indicating how a man or a woman should act.

Religious Harassment

Religious harassment is more focused on an individual’s religious beliefs. However, it can sometimes overlap with harassment based on race. Religious harassment can involve comments or jokes about religious traditions, holidays, clothing, and customs. Or it can be in the form of pressure to convert an individual into a different religion.

Age Harassment

Age harassment often includes any teasing, unfair criticism, insults, or being left out of activities because of an individual’s age. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers 40 years or older.

Disability Harassment

It is illegal to discriminate against another employee because of their real or perceived disability, their relationship to a disabled person, or their use of disability services. This type of harassment is often experienced through patronizing behavior, crude jokes, or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations.

Personal Harassment

Personal harassment is a type of harassment that is not based on one of the protected classes. But rather, it is the most basic form of bullying that is not illegal. Often this behavior creates an offensive or intimidating work environment for the victim, that includes

  • Crude Jokes
  • Offensive Comments
  • Personal Humiliation Tactics
  • Critical Remarks
  • Intimidation Tactics
  • Excluding Behaviors

Physical Harassment

Physical harassment, often referred to as workplace violence, is harassment that involves physical threats or attacks. In some instances, it can even be regarded as an assault. Physical harassment needs to be taken very seriously in the workplace and explained clearly to make the actions more defined.

Some examples of physical harassment include the following:

  • Threats of direct harm or an intent to inflict this harm
  • Physical Attacks that include shoving, kicking, or hitting
  • Threatening Behavior (such as shaking your fist angrily)
  • Destructive Behavior that is meant to intimidate another employee

Depending on the industry (health care, social services, law enforcement, education), the employees may be at a higher risk of workplace violence.

Power Harassment

When there is a power disparity between the harassed and the harasser, it is often referred to as power harassment. The harasser who has a higher status in the workplace hierarchy bullies someone in a lower rank, making excessive demands of them, intruding into their personal life, providing verbal intimidation, demeaning comments, or physical threats.

Psychological Harassment

Psychological harassment often involves specific actions that hurt an employee’s mental wellbeing. Victims of this harassment feel belittled or put down on a professional and personal level, and this harassment can quickly escalate into impacting their health, social life, and work product.

Psychological harassment can include actions such as:

  • Isolating the victim
  • Ignoring the victim
  • Trivializing the victim and their ideas or thoughts
  • Spreading rumors about the victim
  • Challenging anything the victim says

Online Harassment

Technology has significantly improved our working environment. However, as more employers embrace technology’s power, online harassment or cyberbullying is continuously on the rise. This type of harassment often includes:

  • Spreading gossip or lies about the victim through social media channels
  • Sharing humiliating information about the victim by mass chat or mass email
  • Sending harassing text messages or other instant messages to the victim

Retaliation Harassment

Retaliation harassment is a form of harassment used in retaliation against another employee for participating in a lawfully protected activity. For example, if employee A files a complaint against employee B, and employee B finds out, and they start harassing employee A as revenge for filing the claim- this type of harassment is called retaliation harassment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is sexual in nature and includes unwanted sexual conduct, behavior, or advances. Not only is this type of harassment always on the news, but what makes it so prevalent is that it can happen on any worksite, affect both men and women, and impacts the victim’s life immediately. Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Sharing sexual photographs
  • Making sexual comments or jokes or posing sexual questions
  • Posting Sexual Posters
  • Inappropriate sexual touching or gestures
  • Sexually invading another employee’s space.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment also translated to “this for that” is a form of exchange-based sexual harassment. It is often experienced when a supervisor or manager conditions work benefits in exchange for some sexual favor. It can also occur if the harasser turns to blackmail to coerce another employee into a sexual act. This type of harassment can be either explicit or implicit, meaning the harasser can outright ask for the sexual exchange or hint at it.

Third Parties Harassment

Third-party harassment is a type of harassment in the workplace instigated by a third-party or someone outside the organization, such as a customer, supplier, or vendor. The victims of this type of harassment are often low-status workers or low-power jobs (such as a sales associate or cashier). And even though this type of harassment does not fit the typical workplace harassment narrative, it still is the employer’s responsibility to stop this behavior.

Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is often the result of personality conflicts that have escalated into something serious. Even though this harassment is not illegal, a verbal harasser usually involves a consistently unpleasant individual who is constantly throwing insults, swearing, yelling, or making public and private threats. These insults can be particularly damaging since they often go unnoticed by supervisors. It is also important to remember that if this harassment is based on a protected class, it is illegal.

How Can an Experienced Employment Lawyer Help?

If you are getting harassed at work, and you have taken the necessary actions to get this behavior to stop. Yet, your employer has not appropriately responded. You need to contact an experienced employment lawyer today. The legal team at Perkins Asbill is ready to provide you with the legal representation that you need and the help that you deserve. Do not wait any longer; call our office at 916-446-2000.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAS EMOTIONAL CONSEQUENCES

We recently discussed how victims of sexual harassment might have trouble coming forward regarding the accusations. There are several reasons for this; however, these victims need to come forward if they want the harassment to stop. We understand how hard this is to speak out but we can stand by your side.

Sexual harassment impacts victims in more ways than just physical issues. In fact, not all sexual harassment involves touching. The emotional impact of the events is what has a real impact on the victims. It is also what makes it so hard to handle the aftermath. Physical injuries will heal over time, but you might have to work hard to overcome the mental impacts.

One of the first things that you have to do when you are being harassed at work is to let the person know that their behavior isn’t wanted. Tell them to stop. You also need to file an official complaint with the appropriate person at the company. Oftentimes, companies will have one person who takes these complaints; however, you should be able to file it with any person in authority with whom you feel comfortable.

We can help you find out what other actions you need to take. Escalating things beyond the local company might be in order, especially if the company isn’t doing anything to address the issue. We know that you might want to just put this behind you, but you might be able to receive some compensation for the event. This could help you get medical care and mental health care to help you learn to live your life.

VICTIMS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT MIGHT NOT WANT TO FILE A REPORT

Being sexually harassed at work is never a pleasant experience. These situations often come with a lot of uncertainty. People don’t always realize that the mental and emotional turmoil can often be greater than the physical impacts. This is one of the reasons why some people never speak up.

Oftentimes, it takes victims of sexual harassment time to work through their own feelings so they are able to speak up about what happened. This is difficult for some people to understand because they haven’t been through it themselves. In many cases, the victim simply doesn’t want to have to relive the incident through having to discuss it over and over again.

A victim of sexual harassment might feel like they are inferior to their attacker. The attackers usually try to make power plays to ensure that their victim doesn’t feel like they have any options for addressing the harassment.

Sometimes, victims of sexual harassment will try to avoid the harasser and forget about the incident. Unfortunately, this might mean that they are at risk of it happening again. This sets them up for repeated emotional and mental turmoil.

Even though it is difficult, victims of sexual harassment should speak up as soon as possible. Most employers have established a set of rules about who you need to discuss these matters with. While there might be one employee who is charged with handling all reports of sexual harassment, workers should be able to make their report with any supervisor, manager or executive with whom they feel comfortable and who can take action on the report. In some cases, filing a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is also necessary.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS CAN COME FROM WITNESSES

Being sexually harassed at work can mean more than just someone touching you in a sexual manner. In fact, many instances of sexual harassment are verbal. This can make the entire workplace uncomfortable. They are all completely unacceptable. We realize that a hostile work environment has a negative impact on you.

Many people don’t realize just how large the scope of sexual harassment is. They think that the person who is making the complaint has to be the person who is being harassed. This isn’t the case. You can file a complaint about sexual harassment even if you only hear another worker having to deal with unwanted advances. We are here to help you learn about the forms of sexual harassment that might occur and to learn how you might address them if they happen to you.

We know that it is often scary to file these complaints. People sometimes worry that they will face retaliation for reporting this type of behavior. We want people to know that retaliatory employment measures are against the law if the complaint that was made is factual. This means that employers can’t take negative actions for making the report.

Whether you are the victim of sexual harassment or someone who has seen it happen, you have options. One thing to consider is following the established chain of command for the complaint. The other is to take immediate legal action. You should learn about the options you have and move on from there. We are here to help you assert your rights from the start of the case through the final resolution.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK DEMANDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION

Being sexually harassed at work can make you not even want to return to your job. This is a difficult position to be in, because you know that you need to go to work to earn an income. Without an income, you can’t support yourself.

We understand that the impacts of sexual harassment can go far beyond the workplace seeming hostile. We are here to help you determine what options you have for handling these situations. The top priority is making sure that you don’t have to deal with the sexual harassment in the future.

Every workplace should have clear guidelines addressing this type of atrocious behavior. It shouldn’t ever be allowed by anyone who you come into contact with during the course of a shift. Customers and clients, vendors, coworkers and supervisors all have to be held to a high standard.

There must also be an established procedure for handling these matters. If this isn’t set or if the company doesn’t do anything, you might need to take action beyond just alerting your superiors of the issues. We can help you to evaluate the options so that you can resolve this serious issue.

We realize that you probably never thought you would be in this situation. We are here to help you through it all. One thing that you might have to consider is getting mental health help so that you can work on moving past the issue. This might not be easy to do, but it can assist you in finding ways to cope so that your future isn’t marred by the incident.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE MILITARY MUSTN’T CONTINUE

Nobody should ever have to deal with sexual harassment while they are at work. It doesn’t matter what job they do, the workplace should be free of this atrocious behavior. This is true even in traditionally male-dominated professions. Unfortunately, some high profile individuals don’t realize that they are encouraging sexual harassment.

It has recently come to light that White House’s deputy chief of staff for communication’s wife believes that women who join the military should expect to be sexually harassed. While this is an older comment, the fact that it is now making headlines shows just how far women still have to go in their fight for hostile-free workplaces.

In her comment, she notes that the women who are taking assignments in a mostly male space, such as on a submarine, should basically prepare for this type of harassment. This is simply wrong because the men should be able to control themselves when they are working.

Women in the military have the right to expect to be able to do their jobs without having to worry about males behaving inappropriately. In bootcamp, members of all branches are taught to have military bearing. Just because a man is working in close proximity to a woman doesn’t mean that he should forget his military bearing.

Any servicewoman who is harassed in a sexual manner should find out her options for handling the situation. Some women might feel wary of standing up against this behavior, especially when the person is a superior. Still, not taking any action is an almost surefire way to ensure the behavior will continue.