REPEATED INAPPROPRIATE AND UNWANTED SEXUAL OR GENDER-RELATED STATEMENTS
Sexual harassment may not necessarily be related to actual sexual interest — it may, instead, be a type of bullying based on gender, gender identity, or gender stereotyping. In either case, verbal sexual harassment is defined as inappropriate sexual or gender-related statements that become so serious or so pervasive that they create a hostile work environment in which the victim becomes unable to perform his or her job function. To bring a discrimination case based on a hostile work environment claim, the inappropriate comments must usually be more than an isolated incident.
A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR “SERIOUS AND PERVASIVE” HARASSMENT
When the statements are made repeatedly, the targeted employee may have a strong case against the employer for severe or pervasive sexual harassment that has resulted in a reasonable fear or inability to go to work. Sexual or gender-based bullying may include comments about the person’s appearance, dress, mannerisms, sexual tastes, or sexual preference. It might include use of loaded words like bitch, whore, fag, dyke, or tranny.
Your employer has the responsibility to create an environment free of this type of harassment by establishing clearly-articulated anti-harassment policies and an creating an internal system for dealing with complaints. Anyone who is offended by the repeated remarks, whether he or she is the target of the harassment, or is another employee who is exposed to the ongoing sexually demeaning language, can make a complaint.
CALIFORNIA LEADS THE NATION IN PROTECTING FROM SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE
California leads the nation in protecting its workers from harassment through unwanted and repeated verbal comments on the job. It is a fundamental human right to be able to work for a living, and if the behavior of others effectively prevents you from doing your job, you may be able to recover damages for lost wages and psychological distress. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act offers more protection to employees than comparable federal legislation with a less burdensome burden of proof and none of the damage caps that federal protections contain. It also allows up to a year from the last occurrence of the harassment to file suit (as opposed to 180 days under federal laws).
LEGAL COUNSEL FOR SEXUAL OR GENDER-BASED COMMENTS AND OTHER SEXUAL HARASSMENT
If your job has become unbearable because of constant put-downs, insults, and inappropriate comments based on your gender, gender identity, sexual preference, or any other sex-related characteristic, your first step is to demand that the harasser stop the behavior. If this doesn’t work, check your employee handbook for your company’s complaint procedure. If there is none, report it to your human resources department.
If this doesn’t produce results or if you are subjected to additional harassment as retaliation for your objections, consult an employment lawyer with experience in sexual harassment cases. In California, make Haeggquist & Eck your first choice.