California Labor Laws: Types of Harassment in The Workplace
In one year alone, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing received almost 5,000 complaints of sexual harassment. Because of the recent uptick in complaints and the uproar from the #MeToo movement, there are now many labor laws to mandate sexual harassment training for California businesses. Employers have to understand and comply with the law's mandatory training requirements in order to avoid large compliance fines.
Not only is it required by law, but a harassment lawsuit can also financially hurt any business, and result in potential harm to your future career prospects. Here are the many types of harassment in the workplace you should be aware of.
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Types of Harassment in California
What constitutes unlawful harassment in the workplace takes different forms and is outlined below.
- Inappropriate jokes and innuendo.
- Physical harassment like touching.
- Implied and verbal threats.
- Poster or signs construed as visual harassment.
- Aggressive or repeated requests for sexual favors
- Showing favoritism based on protected characteristics, ( younger workers may be favored over older workers).
Common Protected Characteristics
- Race, color, or ancestry.
- Religious beliefs.
- Physical disabilities
- Mental disability, with a few exceptions, like compulsive gambling.
- Medical conditions, like cancer.
- Genetic information.
- Marital status.
- Sex including gender identity.
- Sexual orientation
What Constitutes Harassment
The law prevents both employees and employers from harassing any worker when the harassment is motivated by any of the above unlawful reasons. In most harassment cases, it must be decided if a hostile work environment has been created. In order to claim this, the employee would have to prove they were emotionally affected by the harassment and in turn, affecting their ability to do their job.
The law is extremely complicated, and to cover all their bases, all companies would be advised to take advantage of the harassment training offered by EasyLlama. They offer both 'face to face' staff training and LMS ( learning management systems). Human resource experts have designed over 15 engaging and fun training modules around the subject.
In the case of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment need not necessarily apply for harassment to be determined. These cases often involve some type of unwanted sexual advance in the form of discussions or remarks about the employee's body. This could also happen when the employer offers the employee a raise in pay in return for sexual favors.
Male and Female
Both sexes are protected equally by the law, making gender irrelevant. In both sexes, this behavior can involve different behaviors by men or women.
- Unwanted physical touching
- Derogatory comments, especially when based on gender.
- Inappropriate propositions
- Favoritism and unequal treatment
- Other offensive behaviors.
Determining if there was a violation can be tricky, as people have different levels of comfort when it comes to jokes or touching in the workplace.
Employers have a legislated duty to provide a harassment-free workplace by educating employees on what is defined as harassment.
Policies and Procedures
Most companies now have written policies and procedures in place to prevent discrimination and harassment, and there are a few requirements for inclusion in the policy (law in California).
- The policy lists all categories under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
- A complaint process must be created, and the complaint service can bypass the immediate supervisor.
- A company representative must be appointed to receive the complaint.
- Receipt of complaint must be dated and dealt with in a timely manner.
- Confidentiality of complaint must be kept by the employer
- If misconduct is found, measures must be taken to fix it.
- There must be no retaliation against the employee.
- Sexual harassment brochures should be distributed in the workplace.
- Antidiscrimination posters must be displayed on the notice board.
Under California labor laws, many victims have the right to recover money from the harasser. The way the law is written means that the employer can become directly liable for the misconduct.
Preventing Harassment in Workplace
Under California labor laws, these types of harassment in the workplace are not tolerated. If an employer is unaware that harassment is going on, he should have known and this is no excuse. Once a complaint reaches the employer he must take steps to stop further harassment from happening.
If you employ 50 or more people you must by law, provide training to your supervisors. The training is a two-hour session and should be completed within 6 months of a new supervisor being appointed. This can be easily managed by scheduling a mandatory training session annually in the first half of every year, this way you will get anyone new trained, and it provides good revision training for existing staff, who may have forgotten what is expected of them!
Violations of California's Anti-Harassment Laws
In spite of the law, some employers still violate the rights of the employees, and if your rights have been violated, you have three options.
- Informally resolve the dispute with the employer
- Bring a claim for damages
- File a lawsuit
Liability for Harassment in Workplace
This causes suffering for the victim, and should not be happening. If a coworker is responsible for the harassment, it needs to be reported to the employer so that they can take action.
If the employer is informed and does not take immediate action he can be held liable.
So employers are prohibited under California law from harassing employees on the following basis: gender, gender identity, or gender expression, and can include appearance and behavior, for example, transgender employees and gender-fluid employees are protected along with everyone else from discrimination.
Under California labor laws, types of harassment are complex. EasyLlama is a compliance training resource that simplifies required training for companies by presenting easy modules for the employer to present in the workplace. New training is added regularly and one of the latest is COVID-19 infection control, which will be really useful to all employees.
The fines for non-compliance are high in California, so solve all your training problems at once and call EasyLlama today.
Written by: Maria Malyk