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What behaviors constitute sexual harassment?

One of the more significant issues that arise in the workplace in California is the occurrence of sexual harassment. Such harassment can have a long-term negative impact on both the victim and the accused. In order to prevent sexual harassment in the office, it is important for employees to know what constitutes sexual harassment, as opposed to questionable behavior. However, this distinction is at times difficult to make without the appropriate training and education.

Sexual harassment is a form of employer discrimination based on sex, which is a protected class. It is typically defined as unwanted advances, requests, language and conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with an employee's performance or exposes them to a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment claims are typically based on one of two categories, quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo claims are based on harassment activities perpetrated by a supervisor in which sexual acts are requested from an employee in exchange for favorable treatment or as a condition of retaining their employment. Hostile work environment claims, on the other hand, encompass inappropriate conduct that rises to the level of creating an intimidating work environment for the exposed employee. Although sexual harassment can be defined, the definition is often difficult to apply to a specific case. When a sexual harassment claim is brought to a court, the court will consider many factors in making their decision including the frequency and severity of the behavior, the conduct of the victim and a reasonable person standard.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a positive issue for an organization or any of the employees involved. It is therefore important that all employees are aware of what sexual harassment is and the types of conduct that evidence such harassment. This distinction is not always easy to make, but the more education provided to employees, the better the likelihood that they will be more careful in their actions in the workplace.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment: What is it?," accessed Jan. 25, 2015

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Law Offices of Allan A. Sigel, P.C.

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