Sexual harassment is an incredibly painful experience for anyone to go through, and every workplace should always do its best at preventing it from happening. In fact, California law requires any employer of 5 employees or more to provide training on sexual harassment and abusive behavior prevention training to both regular employees and managers.
Meeting the California Harassment Requirements
Many forms of sexual harassment are easy to identify as sexual harassment. Unwanted kissing, touching of personal areas, sexual comments and gestures, and sexual assault all very clearly fall under the definition of sexual harassment. However, other forms of sexual harassment can be harder to identify. Sachi Barreiro describes how certain actions “…can be sexual harassment if they happen often enough or are severe enough to make an employee uncomfortable, intimidated, or distracted enough to interfere with their work.” Barreiro says these actions can include:
- Frequent unwanted compliments of an employee’s appearance
- Commenting on the attractiveness of others in front of an employee
- Discussing one’s sex life in front of an employee, or asking an employee this information
- Making sexual jokes
- Sending suggestive messages or emails
- Leaving unwanted gifts of a sexual or romantic nature
- Spreading sexual rumors about an employee
- Repeated hugs or unwanted touching (grabbing by the shoulders, hand on employee’s back, etc)
To clarify, certain behaviors, like complimenting an employee, aren’t bad in isolation. Most people enjoy receiving compliments, and this could bring a positive effect to their day. Opening the door for a coworker or complimenting their haircut aren’t inherently a problem. This behavior becomes a problem when it is done in a repeated manner that is unwanted by the recipient. When these behaviors happen in a way that makes someone uncomfortable in its severity or frequency, that is when it starts to cross the line into harassment.
Preventing Sexual Harassment
Preventing harassment helps to keep workplaces comfortable and efficient. As mentioned previously, there are laws in place that require employers to provide training on harassment awareness and prevention. Employers should also have a defined sexual harassment policy in place to address these issues should they ever come up. These policies ensure that employers can promptly and fairly help any victims.
If you are a victim of harassment or witness a coworker being harassed, there are measures you should take. The California Office of the Attorney General outlines that victims or witnesses have options to address this harassment and receive support. These options include utilizing your company’s harassment policy, informing employers of the harassment so that actions can be taken, and filing complaints with state or federal agencies. In emergency situations, victims may need police or healthcare services, or support from outside groups like friends and family. California law requires training to be performed for employees to increase awareness and help prevent harassment from happening. Check out the Hard Hat Training Series on Sexual Harassment for more information on protecting your workplace from sexual harassment. Good luck, and stay safe!