UNWANTED PHYSICAL TOUCHING IN THE WORKPLACE
In the workplace, touching others can leave someone open to misinterpretation or accusations of harassment. Certain actions are simply not appropriate in the work environment, as they may be considered demeaning, humiliating, harassing, or otherwise offensive by the recipient.
EXAMPLES OF UNWELCOME PHYSICAL CONTACT
Other than overt grabbing or pinching of breasts, groin, or buttocks (which most would agree constitute sexual harassment), there are other forms of physical contact should be avoided at work, including:
- Kissing (even on the cheek)
- Handshakes held too long
- Linking arms
- Light (or otherwise) slapping of the buttocks
- Hip bumping
- Putting an arm around someone’s shoulders or a hand on their arm
- Holding someone’s hand
- Poking or pointing with a finger
HOW TO HANDLE UNWANTED PHYSICAL CONTACT AT WORK
If you are dealing with a co-worker who consistently violates your personal space and makes physical contact that you are uncomfortable with, you should calmly ask him or her to stop the behavior. It might be entirely innocent, and once your fellow employee realizes that the touch is unwanted, it may never happen again. Problem solved. But if the unwanted touching continues after you’ve made your wishes clearly known, you may need to take the problem to the next level and speak to a manager about it.
It is the responsibility of a company’s management to maintain an environment where everyone is respected, and this includes being aware of and honoring each employee’s sensitivities about physical touch. If you have made your preference not to be touched clear and have approached your supervisor about the problem and it has not stopped, it may have created a hostile working environment in the eyes of the law.
FILING A CLAIM
At this point, you may need to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You should consult an employment attorney to help you file your complaint and advise you on initiating a lawsuit against your employer.
If the touching that offends you is not associated with your sex or inclusion in a class that is protected by law, you may be able to makes a claim for civil assault or battery.
The Haeggquist & Eck team offers a free initial consultation and will provide you with the advice and assistance you need in filing your sexual harassment or civil battery claim. We will determine if you have valid cause to make a complaint and help you file it with the appropriate agency. Once we receive a “right to sue” letter, we can initiate a lawsuit on your behalf against your employer.