Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited by law.

The law recognizes that an employee has a claim for sexual harassment if a “hostile environment” is created where sexual conduct had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

In California, to establish a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim under FEHA, an employee must show he or she was subjected to sexual advances, conduct, or comments that were:
•Because of sex; and
•Sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of his or her employment and create an abusive work environment.

Lawsuits on this area of law are numerous and the court rulings on topics such as the legal meaning of “unwelcome”, “because of sex”, and “abusive” are extremely vast.

Now, at least in California, it is clarified that harassment in the workplace does not need to be motivated by sexual desire to be sexual harassment. This new law was the result of a case that was ruled upon in 2011 where the court ruled that the employee in a same-sex harassment case must prove that the harasser harbored a sexual desire.

However, the California legislature overturned that ruling by the amendment of the FEHA. The amendment to FEHA took effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

If you have employment related issues that you believe would benefit from a legal consultation, please contact Henk Leonard.