What started as innocent touching, or offhand comments, or harmless flirting, now seems like it’s never going to end. And it seems like your co-worker or boss doesn’t take you seriously. No one wants their colleagues to view them as a sex object, rather than a valued member of the team. So what can you do? What protections does the law provide? What level of conduct is illegal under sexual harassment law? Answers to these questions and more, below.

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Sexual Harassment Law in the Workplace

The main federal law on sexual harassment in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, the same law that prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace also prohibits sexual harassment. The harassment doesn’t have to be a co-worker or supervisor, it can also be from customers or clients.

(a) Harassment by a Co-Worker or Supervisor

Generally, Title VII does not prohibit simple teasing or isolated incidents that are not severe. It does, however, prohibit unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexual assault, and severe and pervasive sexual remarks that degrade working conditions, making it hard to work there.

Types of Sexual Harassment

The three forms sexual harassment often takes are:

(1) Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo is when a boss or supervisor demands sexual favors in exchange for being hired, promoted, or receiving other favorable working conditions. Employees often feel coerced into going along with it. Even if you’ve given in, you may still claim for sexual harassment.

(2) Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment exists when co-workers’ or supervisors’ conduct would cause a reasonable person to become so uncomfortable that it would impact their ability to do their job. A hostile work environment is judged by the totality of the conduct.

(3) Retaliation

A co-worker or manager may retaliate against an employee for rebuffing a sexual advance. Retaliation can take the form of reduced hours, pay cuts, a transfer to a worse department or location, a demotion, being passed over for a promotion, pretextual disciplinary actions, or being fired. All these forms of retaliation of prohibited by sexual harassment laws.

(b) Harassment by Customers or Clients

Employers are not supposed to tolerate repeated sexual harassment of their employees by customers or clients. Once you have informed your employer of the sexual harassment, they are required to take corrective measures to protect you from being harassed again by that customer or client. Your employer could ban the customer, assign someone else to the client’s account, send another person (such as HR) to any meeting between you and the client, or threaten to end the business relationship with the client if the harassment does not cease.

Our Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Karen Barth Menzies

Karen Menzies has more than twenty years of experience in federal and state mass tort litigation. Courts throughout the country have appointed Karen to serve in case leadership positions.

Steven Tindall

Steven Tindall has specialized in employment and class action litigation for eighteen years. He has been lead or co-lead counsel on several cases that resulted in settlements worth over $1 million.

Amy Zeman

Amy Zeman represents clients in a wide variety of class actions and medical mass torts, including individuals harmed by transvaginal mesh, Yaz and Yasmin, Actos, Risperdal, and Mirena.

Amanda Karl

Amanda represents employees, consumers and investors in complex class action lawsuits throughout the country. She previously served as a law clerk to the Honorable Richard A. Paez, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and to the Honorable Claudia Wilken, Northern District of California.

About Us

Gibbs Law Group is a California-based law firm committed to protecting the rights of clients nationwide who have been harmed by corporate misconduct. We represent individuals, whistleblowers, employees, and small businesses across the U.S. against the world’s largest corporations. Our award-winning lawyers have achieved landmark recoveries and over a billion dollars for our clients in high-stakes class action and individual cases involving consumer protection, data breach, digital privacy, and federal and California employment lawsuits. Our attorneys have received numerous honors for their work, including “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California,” “Top Class Action Attorneys Under 40,” “Consumer Protection MVP,” “Best Lawyers in America,” and “Top Cybersecurity/ Privacy Attorneys Under 40.”

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