Q. A male co-worker frequently comes up behind me and massages my shoulders, commenting on how tense I am. I feel very uncomfortable with this and have asked him to stop, but he continues to do it. My friend tells me I’m nuts not to want a free massage and thinks I’m making too big a deal of it, but it feels wrong to me. I’ve started to dread coming to work. Is this sexual harassment, or am I just too uptight?
A. Any unwanted touching can be considered sexual harassment if you have made your feelings known and asked the person to stop. Your next step should be to check your employee handbook to learn the procedure for making a complaint. If there is none, take it to your Human Resources manager. If you can’t get a response, consult an experienced sexual harassment attorney to learn about your legal options.
Q. My supervisor called me into his office and told me about a position opening up at a much higher salary than I’m now making and said he was considering recommending me for the promotion. He then unzipped his pants and asked me to perform oral sex on him. I refused, but ever since that time he’s given me piles of documents to file in the basement. I have a business degree and am not a file clerk. I need this job. What should I do?
A. This is called “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, in which a superior offers you a benefit in return for sexual favors. It is illegal and you have recourse against the company. Contact an employment attorney for advice in how to proceed with a claim.
Q. I applied for a position in a company for which I am well qualified. I was led to believe that I would be hired and was invited back to meet the vice president. He kept asking intrusive questions about my personal life and whether I was looking for a boyfriend. I told him that I do not date men. I was then told that they had decided to eliminate the position, but I later heard they hired someone else whose qualifications were less than mine. It seems clear that my lack of interest in a sexual relationship caused me to lose the opportunity to be hired for a job exactly suited to my abilities and qualifications. What should I do?
A. It is illegal to discriminate against an applicant for a position based on sex. Consult a California employment attorney who will review the facts and advise you on how to proceed.
Q. My female boss has asked me out several times, but I am not interested. She does things like unbuttoning the top buttons of my shirt, squeezing my biceps, commenting on my build, and speculating on the size of my equipment. I dislike being objectified and I want this to stop. Does this count as sexual harassment since I’m a man and she’s a woman?
A. Either a man or a woman, whether gay or straight, can be a perpetrator or victim of sexual harassment, and it is illegal. Tell your boss in unequivocal language that her attentions are unacceptable to you and must stop. If the behavior doesn’t stop, follow your company’s procedure to make an internal complaint. If that doesn’t solve the problem, consult an experienced San Diego area sexual harassment attorney. You can schedule a free case review at the law firm of Haeqquist & Eck to get the help you need in filing a discrimination complaint under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and bringing a lawsuit against your company for damages. Remember, your supervisor or your company may not legally retaliate against you in any way for filing a complaint.
Q. What are the steps to filing a sexual harassment lawsuit in California?
A. First, tell your harasser to stop. If that doesn’t help, let your employer know and ask that the problem be handled in accordance with stated company procedure. Next, consult a California employment attorney who handles sexual harassment cases, such as Haeqqquist & Eck, LLP, in San Diego.
Workers in California are protected from sex discrimination and sexual harassment by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Your attorney will help you file a complaint with the appropriate agency, which must be done before you can initiate a law suit.
State law offers some benefits that go beyond the protections offered by the federal law, so you will probably file with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH); alternatively you can file with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Once you have received a “right to sue” letter, your attorney can put your case into suit.