California Harassment Laws: Understanding Abuse and Harassment Laws in the State

Nov 19, 2019 | Business Insurance

When you run a business, it’s particularly important that you get to know all about your potential liabilities and how you can address them. 

In this regard, civil cases are always a possibility. Harassment happens to be one of the most common forms of workplace civil litigation.

Business aside, it pays to understand harassment in all of its forms if you ever run into a personal issue. 

Understanding California harassment laws will play a key role in how you respond to these situations. Consider the information below so that you know what to expect. 

What Constitutes Harassment?

When you are trying to understand harassment law, you need to know first and foremost what constitutes harassment. 

By definition, harassment is some form of harm, annoyance, or threat that unlawfully invades a person’s space and sense of well-being. This can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, which is why it’s important to have a legal advocate whenever one of these situations arises. 

If you own a business, it’s important that you make provisions for legal cases in case one of these lawsuits is filed. 

What are the Different Types of Harassment?

Keeping a workplace harassment-free is a big part of maintaining a safe workplace for your employees. 

This starts by understanding what types of harassment are the most common. Here are the many different types that you need to know about:

1. General Harassment in the Workplace

As a business owner, you definitely need to understand harassment in the workplace. 

This type of harassment deals with intimidation, workplace violence, unwanted advances, and any other actions that lead to an unsafe or unhealthy work environment. These forms of harassment extend toward co-workers and anyone in management.  

In the wake of recent sexual harassment claims and cases, a number of officials in California have begun taking a detailed look at many of the sexual harassment laws on the books. 

Aside from sexual harassment cases being common, this is also a deeply explored area of law because the instances and types of sexual harassment vary greatly. 

It could refer to unwanted comments and advances, physical touching, flashing private parts, sending unwanted messages or multimedia, and so many other situations. 

There’s a certain burden of proof that has to be satisfied in these cases, which is why having a lawyer who deeply understands harassment law is so crucial. 

2. Offering Employment Advancement For Sexual Favors

One of the biggest violations is to hold professional standing over someone’s head in exchange for sexual favors. 

This could mean a boss offering a promotion or pay raise, or a manager or executive offering some other form of advancement or social standing within the company. A higher-up might also attempt to exchange sexual favors for preferred work shifts, additional vacation days, access to company cars and benefits, and other such perks. 

The law refers to this violation as quid pro quo sexual harassment. 

Even if the employer in question isn’t aggressive and leaves it alone after the favor is denied, this is still very much illegal and grounds for a lawsuit. The entire place of employment can be found liable if one of its managers or supervisors commits quid pro quo sexual harassment. 

3. Making Threats if Sexual Advancements are Turned Down

In the workplace, employers might sometimes make threats if their advances are rejected. 

While you might not have filed suit for the initial harassment, you still have a grievance when your employer or manager makes the workplace hostile or uncomfortable due to your negative reaction. 

4. Sexual Jokes, Leering and Making Sexual Gestures or Physical Representations

Employees and people within management all need to be very careful about the speech that they use in the workplace. Making sexual jokes or comments, either in general or directly about someone, is prohibited based on sexual harassment laws. 

This means verbal comments, drawing pictures, hanging posters, leering, or making any sort of lewd, suggestive, or sexual gestures. Harassment also refers to taking general objects and sexualizing them in the form of a joke, comment, or re-enactment. 

These sorts of comments, even if made openly and not directed at a specific person, can lead to a hostile environment. When this sort of activity is mixed with peer pressure and becomes part of company culture, it leaves that company wide-open for lawsuits and other issues. 

Any workplace should curb this type of activity in their environment. 

5. Making Sexual Comments About a Person’s Body or Appearance

Employees and managers should never make sexual comments about a person’s body, appearance, or any other aspects. 

This often happens in a way that is aggressive and demeaning, or that includes a graphic commentary about what the harasser enjoys about a person’s body or appearance. It may involve a sexual comment about a wardrobe choice or a physical change that they made. 

Either way, this sort of activity is a detriment to the workplace. 

6. Physical Touching, Assault, or Physical Blocking and Intimidation

Workplaces need to aggressively crackdown on any sort of physical touching or assault in order to keep the workplace safe. 

This could include groping or any other form of sexual touching. It also means using physical force or intimidation to carry out unwanted touching or to block a person’s path. People also shouldn’t pull or grab a person toward them or otherwise control their body in a sexually harassing manner. 

These are some of the most hostile workplace instances of harassment and should be dealt with directly. 

7. Workplace Related Cyberstalking and Online Harassment

This form of workplace harassment deals with online communication from fellow employees or supervisors. 

It could pertain to unwanted advances, comments, and sexual proposals via company e-mail or workplace platforms like Slack or internal direct messages. It also refers to advances or forms of cyberstalking from people within the company. 

If you have someone within your company constantly sending you unwanted direct messages even after being blocked, making threats, hacking your personal information, or trying to extort you to prevent them from leaking private information, you’ll definitely have a harassment case on your hands. 

When you understand how these sorts of threats are carried out, it’s easier to highlight these forms of harassment and deal with them accordingly.  

Stay Aware of the Law and Train Your Employees Properly

California companies need to be especially mindful of the law in light of recent changes. 

For example, Law AB 2053 states that you need to provide your employees with training that specifically includes the prevention of abusive conduct. This is in addition to the current sexual harassment training requirements outlined in Law AB 1825. 

These new training requirements are intended to curb things like verbal abuse and conditions that lead to an unsafe and uncomfortable work environment. Focusing on training in your workplace will help you both stay in compliance legally and prevent liabilities. 

Also as part of the law, the training must include an in-house sexual harassment policy and procedure in writing, they must post a physical copy of the law, discuss clear strategies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and make sure that managers and employees are trained. 

According to California law, companies that have five employees or more will need to have the training in place by Jan. 1, 2021, to stay in compliance. After the initial training period, companies are required by law to provide follow-up training every two years. 

What Should I Know About California Harassment Laws?

California law books speak in-depth about harassment law. 

Sexual harassment refers to both unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex.

When a person feels like they have a harassment case on their hands, they should immediately report it to the governing body that deals with that specific form of harassment. Start collecting evidence and documenting everything, and retain the services of an attorney. 

Anyone accused should likewise begin putting together a case and paying close attention to detail. You’ll need to lean on the help of a harassment attorney that is skilled and experienced.  

Get Help With Your Harassment Training

If you run a business in California, it’s vitally important that you get to know California harassment laws. This primer will help you get started, but it’s only the beginning.

If you’re looking for support with this type of training to ensure that you’re compliant with the regulations, then Advantage Insurance Solutions can help. 

Take the time to contact us to see how we can provide the solutions you need. 

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