Sexual harassment is an extremely traumatic and disturbing experience to have to suffer through, especially in the workplace where trust and collaboration are so important. Obviously, it is difficult to work closely with someone who is sexually harassing you, and depending on the circumstances, your own productivity and peace of mind will likely be detrimentally affected by the behavior. But if you confront your harasser, you may be told to “lighten up” and that it’s all “just a joke.”
If you are made uncomfortable by another coworker, you should never treat it as a joke or as though there is something wrong with you. He or she cannot tell you that you do not feel uncomfortable. However, there is a difference between behavior that might make you uncomfortable and behavior that is illegal sexual harassment. Sexual harassment will usually have some of the following characteristics:
- Offensive sexual language.
- Unwanted sexual approaches, either physical or verbal.
- Unwanted exposure to graphic sexual images.
Essentially, if something sexual is directed toward you, and you do not desire the contact, then it is likely that you are being sexually harassed. Additionally, if your employment is directly tied to your response to sexual advances, such as being passed for promotion because you refused a supervisor’s sexual proposition, you could also be a victim of sexual harassment.
No matter what the circumstances of your situation, it is highly recommended that you meet with an attorney if you feel that you are being sexually harassed. California law offers employees a great many protections, including protection from sexual harassment, and with the expertise of a lawyer, you can better determine if the behavior you are experiencing is sexual harassment.