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Redondo Beach California Employment Law Blog

Humor can cross the line into harassment

Telling jokes may be a big part of your office culture. That's fine. However, many jokes are made at someone else's expense. That's when they can cross the line into harassment.

How do you know if things go too far? It can be hard to tell, as there is no strict definition that applies to all cases. That said, if the jokes tend to target a certain group, such as men, women or minorities, then there is a good chance they're crossing that line.

4 things you can do when you experience sexual harassment at work

If you experience sexual harassment at work, you may well feel powerless. What if your supervisor is the one harassing you? You know you do not hold the power in that relationship and you worry about losing your job.

What you must know is that sexual harassment is always illegal, no matter who is involved. You are not powerless. You do have options. Here are four things you can do:

  1. Make sure you understand the company's policies. The handbook will tell you exactly where the company stands and who to contact. It may also give you examples in case you're not sure if your case qualifies.
  2. Write down everything that happens and gather evidence. Save things like voicemails, text messages or email messages. When you file your report, you want to have as much evidence as possible on your side.
  3. Talk to your boss or the person the company handbook instructs you to contact. Take this to the top. Companies take sexual harassment very seriously. File a prompt report and let them know that you also take it seriously.
  4. Learn about government bodies that you can get in touch with. Perhaps you fear that your boss won't do anything productive. You may also want to contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), for instance, or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They share information, so filing with either one is the same as filing with both.

Examples of sexual harassment without physical contact

People sometimes make the mistake of assuming that sexual harassment in the workplace has to come as physical contact, or it somehow does not constitute harassment. They take other types of offenses far too lightly. In fact, this is sometimes why harassers continue their treatment of others, assuming that they can't get in too much trouble if they don't cross that line.

It is very important for employees to know that harassment absolutely does not have to be physical to count. It is still harassment. It can still create a hostile work environment. It can still violate your rights. Some examples of this type of harassment include:

  • Leaving notes or letters with explicit content on someone's desk or in their office mailbox
  • Sending someone explicit emails or text messages
  • Repeatedly asking someone out or making comments about a potential sexual or romantic relationship
  • Making sexual gestures or hand motions
  • Sharing pictures or videos that are explicit; this can create a hostile environment even for workers who are not directly targeted
  • Making inappropriate jokes; people often try to pass harassing comments off by saying they were "just joking" but this does not mean it wasn't harassment, even if true

Your right to religious accommodations at work

You practice a religion that requires you to avoid working on specific religious holidays, wear various traditional clothing or pray at various times of the day. Due to your religious practices, you would require your employer to make alterations to the employee handbook regarding your uniform dress and your working hours, as well as make arrangements to allow you to pray during the work day.

In California, you have the right to reasonable accommodations from your employer. Religion falls into a category of protected classes under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and your employer’s refusal could constitute discrimination, and it may face legal consequences. Know that if you practice a religion that requires company accommodations, you may hold the right to enforce these alterations in your workplace.

Sexual harassment at fast food workplaces

Fast food workers, like all employees, deserve a safe and respectful work environment. Unfortunately though, some such workers are denied such an environment through being exposed to sexual harassment.

It appears that sexual harassment might be a particularly prevalent problem in the fast food industry. For example, data from Hart Research Associates points to such harassment being experienced by 40 percent of female fast food workers.

Sexual harassment at work? How to spot this behavior

No one ever wants to believe that they are being harassed sexually, but it does happen. The signs are not always obvious, which can create confusion as to whether someone is actually sexually harassing you. If someone is making you uncomfortable at work, it may be because they are behaving in a sexually harassing manner.

What Sexual Harassment Victims Need to Tell Their Lawyers

The "me too" movement has given many victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault the courage to report it and to seek legal help.  Usually people do not know what information a lawyer needs to determine whether they have a legal claim. If you are considering contacting a lawyer about your potential sexual harassment or sexual assault claim, below are some of the types of information that you should be prepared to provide your attorney or their office when contacting them about possibly representing you:

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It can be hard to take the first steps in these cases when your livelihood is at stake, but know that you have rights available to you. Let us help you determine what you can do to bring an end to your employer's unlawful behavior.