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Sexual Harassment as a Workplace Equalizer

A recent study published by the American Sociological Review on sexual harassment in the workplace has found that female supervisors are more likely than low-grade female employees to be victims of sexual harassment. In reaching this view, the authors of the study concluded that gender plays a major role in determining workplace relations, in addition to organizational rank. Furthermore, it was found that male co-workers, clients and supervisors who sexually harass female supervisors see their supervisory role as illegitimate, and use harassment as a tool for equalizing status, rather than expressing sexual desire.

When does irritating behavior become sexual harassment?

Those accused of sexual harassment towards a female supervisor may try to defend their behavior as mere banter, playfulness, or casual friendliness. They may argue that the victim just needs to “lighten up.” Nonetheless, sexual harassment can cause a victim substantial emotional, psychological and professional harm. Furthermore, there is a point at which acceptable, albeit irritating, behavior becomes sexual harassment. Behavior constituting sexual harassment consists of a sexual element and a harassment element. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, the sexual element could take the form of requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and other physical or verbal behavior of a sexual nature. In order for this behavior to be considered harassment, the sexual element must interfere with the victim’s work performance or create an offensive or hostile work environment.

Who should I complain to if I am the boss?

If you are the subject of sexual harassment from your employees, you should file a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). After an investigation, the DFEH may file a formal accusation, leading to either a hearing before the DFEH’s Commission, or a lawsuit against the perpetrator. In addition, the offending behavior may also constitute gross misconduct, which would allow you to terminate the employee’s contract.

For support throughout the difficult process of pursuing a sexual harassment complaint, get in touch with a knowledgeable Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer.

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