Often times, sexual harassment is deemed to be blown out of proportion. However, recent polls have show that 43 percent of males and 81 percent of females have experienced some form of abuse in their lifetime. This data was analyzed by the Center of Gender Equity and Health at the University of California.
Ending sexual harassment starts with legal remedies that punish the offender and encourage victims to report abuse. Many people do not know they are in abusive situations, so educating and awareness is vital in identifying this type of behavior. Sexual harassment laws in Los Angeles state that it is illegal for an employer to harass employees.
Types of Harassment
A person may not realize harassment is even taking place, but it can come in many forms. Sexual harassment can include:
- Unwanted physical contact
- Verbal and non-verbal sexual advances
- Sexist remarks
- Homophobic slurs
- Sexual assault
More than three out of four females have been verbally harassed. The CDC closely monitors sexual violence against males and females. Studies show that victims suffer from depression and anxiety. Abuse is often experienced starting at an early age. This type of behavior is recalled most prevalently between the ages of 14 to 17 years old.
Industries Where Sexual Harassment is Most Prevalent
Unfortunately, every industry has had problems with sexual harassment. In recent years, sexual harassment in the entertainment industry has received attention from the press and TV news outlets. However, sexual harassment is more pervasive in some industries than in others. The Center for American Progress reports that women in low-wage service jobs and industries where men traditionally outnumber women are more likely to encounter sexual harassment in their workplace. In these industries, women of color are most often susceptible to sexual harassment.
Which Industries Have the Highest Occurrence of Sexual Harassment
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) studied sexual harassment charges it received over the period of 2005 through 2015. Accommodation and food services workers filed the highest percentage of charges of sexual harassment with the EEOC (14.23%). This industry, which accounts for 7.2 percent of the American workforce, includes restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels. Workers in this industry are wait staff and housekeepers who work not only for wages but also for tips. Such workers experience harassment not only from managers and coworkers but also from customers. Though these are typically low wage jobs, women remain in them in spite of the sexual harassment they experience because the tips are an important source of their income.
In descending order, the percentages of charges of sexual harassment against the following industries were also very high: retail trade, manufacturing, and healthcare and social assistance. Charges of sexual harassment at the EEOC were lowest in the following industries: mining, utilities, agriculture, and management of companies and enterprises. However, we cannot conclude that the absence of charges filed with the EEOC signals an absence of sexual harassment in a particular industry. While the charges of sexual harassment at the EEOC against the entertainment industry were not among the highest overall, a study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that 41% of women in media and entertainment say they have been sexually harassed by a coworker or supervisor at some point in their careers. This same study found that sexual harassment in the financial sector had the lowest rate of reports by women. Workers such as janitors, domestic care workers, hotel workers, and agricultural workers labor in isolated spaces (outside of the presence of witnesses). This makes them particularly vulnerable to harassers who believe they’ll never be caught in the act.
Workers without lawful residency status (undocumented workers) are commonly found in low wage jobs in agriculture, food processing, and garment factories. They fear reporting harassment because of the belief that it may jeopardize their immigration status. In industries where women are in the minority, such as construction, they are also vulnerable to sexual harassment: About six in ten women in construction report being touched or asked for sex. Law enforcement — a historically male career path — also has problems with sexual harassment. The Los Angeles Police Department paid out several million dollars to a female officer after male officers exposed their genitalia to her and excluded her from training opportunities and the one male officer who defended her. Professors from Harvard and Tel Aviv University concluded that harassment flourishes in workplaces where few women hold the core jobs, even where women are in positions of authority and are high on the company ladder. Women are also susceptible to sexual harassment in industries where there are significant power differentials between women and their male coworkers who are “rainmakers” (high earners for the business, law partners with many high-paying clients). Such rainmakers believe they may with impunity harass the women they work because of their perceived importance to the business.
According to California state regulations, sexual harassment is defined as unwarranted physical, verbal, non-verbal, and visual sexual misconduct. Bullying can take place at:
- Socially, such as at a party or public establishment
Two main areas of law are civil and workplace harassment. Statutory law states that harassment is unlawful violence that is sexual in nature like battery, assault, and stalking. There has to be a credible threat of abusive behavior. Credible threat violence means a person perpetrates unwanted contact that makes the victim feel reasonably afraid for their safety.
This inappropriate conduct can exist in different types of relationships. For example, a distant relative, such as an aunt or uncle, roommate, or neighbor may exhibit abusive sexual behavior. You may want to get a restraining order or take further steps in reporting an incident. A sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles can give you confidential legal advice on this matter.
The workplace can become a hostile atmosphere when sexual harassment exists. Employers and coworkers may be aggressors and victims. Here are some topics covered in sexual abuse in the workplace:
- Quid pro quo is when a manager or an authoritative figure demands or hints at possible promotion or other advancements in exchange for sexual favors. For example, a hiring decision may be made depending on rejection or acceptance of an employers sexual advances.
- Sexual Bullying is a type of harassment that occurs when discrimination is made against a person's gender, body, or sexual orientation. This can be in the form of verbal or physical abuse.
- Sexual harassment that happens at work may be when a person is passed up for a promotion, unequal pay, inappropriate behavior, and sexual innuendos.
Many companies have policies that cover harassment. If you experience unwanted behavior, you should report it to management immediately. Follow the employment procedures included in the employee handbook. Document the incident, including occurrences, date, and time.
If the harassment can’t be resolved by the employer, then you may want to take civil action. Seeking advice from an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment will give you guidance in deciding the proper legal steps.
When Discrimination Becomes Retaliation
Retaliation occurs when an employee is punished for taking legal action. This may include salary deduction, demotion, shift changes, and termination. If a person is let go of their job because they reported harassment this is unlawful termination. An employers actions that obstruct a reasonable person’s rights in a situation from making a formal complaint is illegal retaliation.
If you feel that your employer is retaliating against you the first step is to speak with your supervisor or human resources department. If they can’t give you a legitimate reason for the adverse change to your employment relationship, then it is time to speak with a sexual harassment attorney.
Sexual Harassment Law Los Angeles
If you feel that you are a victim of sexual harassment, then it is time to speak with a lawyer about what legal actions should be taken. They can help identify remedies and help prevent future discrimination. With a thorough knowledge of the sexual harassment law in California, courtroom procedure, and expertise, a sexual harassment attorney at the Spivak Law Firm will protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call today for a free consultation!
California has its own law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. It is in many respects markedly different from the federal corollary and a victim of sexual harassment in California would be advised to sue under California law instead of federal law. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits sexual harassment. It begins at section 12940 of the California Government Code. The federal law prohibiting sexual harassment is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which may be found at Title 42 of the United States Code at section 2000e (“Title VII”).
Both laws require a victim of sexual harassment to submit their claims to a government agency before filing them in court. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) receives complaint of harassment and discrimination for the State of California. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) receives them for the federal government under Title VII. Until January 1, 2020, the FEHA requires the victim to file her complaint of harassment within one year of the harassment. Under the SHARE, a victim of sexual harassment will have three years to make such a claim to the DFEH as of January 1, 2020. Under Title VII, the harassment claim must generally be filed with the EEOC within 180 days.
Under Title VII, a victim of sexual harassment can recover no more than $300,000.00 in damages for emotional distress and humiliation (referred to as a “cap” on damages). Under the FEHA, there is no statutory limit on the amount in damages for emotional distress and humiliation the victim can recover.
Title VII only permits sexual harassment lawsuits against employers of 15 or more people, while the FEHA permits harassment claims against employers of only one person. In addition to employees, the FEHA extends its protections to unpaid interns, volunteers and independent contractors.
The FEHA broadly prohibits harassment because of sex. This includes harassment because of the victim’s sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Title VII limits harassment claims to those based on sex, transgender status, and sexual orientation.
Both Title VII and FEHA claims can be litigated in State and federal courts. A FEHA lawsuit against a California employer may be filed in State Court where only 9 out of 12 jurors are required to render a verdict in the victim’s favor. If the victim sues under Title VII in State Court, the employer will have the option of “removing” the case to federal court where the victim will need a unanimous jury to win.
Title VII generally requires an employee to prove that the harassment was severe or pervasive. Under the FEHA, a single incident of sexual harassment can justify a lawsuit.
Title VII shields an employer from liability for sexual harassment if the employer can prove that it took reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment and the victim did not take advantage of the protections the employer offers against such harassment. This is known as the Faragher/Ellerth defense. There is no strict liability for harassment under Title VII unless the employer fired the victim or subjected her to some other “tangible employment action.” Under the FEHA, in contrast, an employer is strictly liable for harassment by a supervisor, though the employer may limit the recovery of damages with evidence comparable to the Faragher/Ellerth defense.
The FEHA allows lawsuits against a coworkers for sexual harassment (known as “individual liability”), while Title VII only permits claims against the employer for a coworker’s harassment.
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