At Nelson Law Group, we represent individuals throughout San Mateo, California, and surrounding areas who are facing sexual harassment and hostile work environments.
What Is Sex Harassment and ‘Hostile Environment’ Harassment?
Harassment is the single most misunderstood employment law claim. Many people think that simply being bullied, yelled at or micromanaged in the workplace automatically gives them a claim for harassment. This is not necessarily so. Whether and to what extent someone may have a claim for harassment depends largely on whether the harassing behavior they are experiencing is because of a protected criteria (e.g., race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, etc.). If a manager is an “equal opportunity jerk” and treats everyone badly, then his/her conduct may not constitute harassment. But if harassing behavior is selectively targeted only at particular groups of employees (e.g., women only), then the harassed employees may have viable legal claims.
There are two broad categories of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo, which occurs when an employer or manager conditions an employment benefit on sex (e.g., “go to bed with me or you’re fired”)
- Hostile work environment, which occurs when an employer subjects an employee to severe or pervasive harassing conduct because of the employee’s sex. “Severe or pervasive” harassment can mean unwanted touching, crude remarks, “come-ons” or any other conduct that creates a sexually hostile work environment (e.g., hanging inappropriate posters or pictures in the workplace, looking at Internet porn, etc.)
A male manager at a restaurant frequently tells one of his employees, a hostess, how attracted he is to her. The hostess is not interested, but the manager nonetheless persists by graphically telling her how he fantasizes about being with her. The manager finally demands that the hostess sleep with him, but when she refuses, she is fired. The hostess has viable claims for both hostile environment and quid pro quo sex harassment: hostile environment because of the pervasive “come-ons” and inappropriate comments she was subjected to by the manager; quid pro quo because the manager eventually fired her when she refused to submit to his sexual demands.
A one-time event, such as asking an employee out on a date, is generally not enough to, by itself, qualify as hostile environment harassment. However, if someone keeps asking for dates even after being told no, then harassment may indeed occur. For these reasons, romantic relationships between co-workers can be risky, especially if the relationships are between managers and subordinates. Unlawful harassment can also occur because of factors other than sex (e.g., race, ethnicity, national origin, etc.). In some circumstances, harassed employees can have claims against both their harassers and the employers they work for, who can be held responsible for harassment in the workplace.
Free Consultation With a Bay Area Employment Lawyer
If you think you are a victim of sexual harassment or wrongful termination after complaining of sexual harassment, I offer a free case evaluation by telephone. Call 415-689-6590 (866-290-0424 toll free) or contact me, a San Francisco employment lawyer, online to talk about your case.