Omid Nosrati

Debunking some of the myths about sexual harassment

If an individual works in a place where the notion of someone being victimized by sexual harassment seems utterly inconceivable given a universal effort to treat everyone with dignity and respect, they should consider themselves fortunate.

Indeed, an unacceptably large number of employees in this nation are subjected to this deplorable -- and illegal -- conduct by their co-workers, clients or even managers with stunning regularity. To illustrate, consider that a recent survey found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 have experienced sexual harassment at some point during their career.

In light of this regrettable reality, it's important for employees to understand more about what the law has to say in this area, as knowledge is truly power.

First, however, it's important to establish some basic facts about sexual harassment that might not be obvious:

  • Sexual harassment encompasses not just discrimination based on gender/sex, but also sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
  • Both women and men can be victims of sexual harassment.
  • The underlying motive for sexual harassment does not have to be sexual desire to constitute sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment may be perpetrated by an individual who is the same gender as the victim, regardless of either person's gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • For an employer to be held responsible for sexual harassment at the workplace, there is a different legal standard if the harasser is a supervisor vs. a non-supervisor.
  • California also protects unpaid interns from unlawful employment practices, including sexual harassment.

It's also important to establish that sexual harassment is not just limited to the overtly aggressive or threatening actions that so many of us have seen portrayed in popular films and television shows. Rather, it can take on more subtle -- but no less pernicious -- forms.

We'll examine more about this in our next post, exploring the two forms of sexual harassment: "hostile work environment" and "quid pro quo".

If you have been victimized by sexual harassment and want to learn more about your options for pursuing justice, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible. 

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Omid Nosrati
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