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Employers Guide to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

(posted: September 20th, 2014)

Employers Guide to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

As a California employer with more than 50 employees you know that you must provide sexual harassment training for your supervisors and managers every two years, according to state law AB 1825. But do you know what constitutes sexual harassment under the law?

Ignorance is not bliss in this case, and being blindsided by a harassment suit can take you and others away from productive work for long periods, cause morale to tumble, and affect your bottom line, directly and indirectly.

What, Exactly, IS Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined in law as "unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment." Let's break this down a bit further so that we can better understand how these elements might look in practice.

"Unwelcome"

In order for someone to be violating sexual harassment laws, the person needs to know that their behavior is unwelcome to the recipient. This is why it is crucial for an employee who feels harassed to communicate to the harasser that what they are doing is offensive.

'"Conduct of a sexual nature"'

Conduct qualifying as sexual harassment can take many forms, including verbal, such as sexual jokes, comments about a person's body or repeated requests for dates; physical acts such as touching, hugging, kissing or patting another person; and visual, such as displaying sexual posters, drawings or screensavers.

"Severe or pervasive"

To prove that an employee's actions are sexual harassment, the law says the behavior in question needs to occur for a significant length of time or, if it is only one incident, be extremely severe - such as rape or attempted sexual assault.

"Affects working conditions or creates a hostile working environment"

If the actions of a coworker or supervisor make an employee so uncomfortable that he or she avoids certain duties or passes up opportunities specifically to avoid the person engaging in the conduct, it is probably sexual harassment. A hostile work environment is not a place employees want to be.

Harassment Training

We offer more examples to illustrate these concepts in our AB 1825 Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, so your employees come out with a very clear understanding of what can be considered harassment. Our training also explains what to do if sexual harassment is witnessed, what to do if one is accused of sexual harassment, harassment prevention methods, and more.

Related Blogs

Stay tuned for future posts in the Employers Guide to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, including articles on types of sexual harassment, and compliance with AB 1825.

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Harrassment Prevention

HRSPI offers comprehensive, interactive, AB1825-Compliant training. Programs include introduction to recent anti-bullying legislation.

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