California employees have 17 legally-protected characteristics, and it is illegal for an employer to harass or to allow an employee to be harassed because of any of those characteristics. Employees’ “legally protected characteristics” are their race, color, sex, age, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, military or veteran status, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic information. When an employer harasses or tolerates harassment of an employee because of one of the employee’s legally-protected characteristics, that’s illegal harassment.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
There are three types of illegal harassment. The most common type of harassment is hostile work environment harassment. A “hostile work environment” exists when an employee is subjected to severe or pervasive harassment that a reasonable person in the employee’s circumstances would consider hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, or abusive.
Examples of “severe” harassment include physical assault (e.g., punching, pushing, touching, grabbing, or groping), or the threat of physical assault. “Pervasive” harassment is when less-severe harassment occurs frequently enough to cause a reasonable person in the employee’s circumstances to consider the work environment hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, or abusive. Pervasive harassment may consist of obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, unwanted sexual advances, or offensive comments, gestures, text messages, emails, or pictures.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Another type of illegal harassment is quid pro quo harassment, which is a form of sexual harassment. When a harasser leads his victim to believe that to keep her job she must accept unwanted sexual advances, or tolerate unwanted sexual conduct or comments, that’s quid pro quo sexual harassment. Such conduct or comments may consist of sexual propositions, uninvited graphic discussion of sexual acts, or comments about the employee’s body or the sexual uses to which it could be put.
Widespread Sexual Favoritism
Another type of illegal harassment is widespread sexual favoritism. “Widespread sexual favoritism” can occur when an employee receives preferential treatment at work because he or she is having a sexual relationship with someone at work who has authority to give the preferential treatment, such as a supervisor. To rise of the level of illegality, sexual favoritism in the workplace must be severe or pervasive enough to cause a reasonable person in the employee’s circumstances to consider the workplace to be hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, or abusive.
If you’ve been harassed in the workplace, we can take legal action to get you compensated for the damages you’ve suffered.