Under California Civil Code Section 51.9, in case a person was sexually harassed by another person in their business, service or professional relationship, that person can be legally liable in an action for sexual harassment.
Such relationship may exist where the opponent is the victim’s psychotherapist, physician, dentist, qualified social worker, attorney, real estate agent, investor, accountant, financial planner loan officer banker, trust officer, building contractor, administrator, trustee, landlord or property manager or any other relationship that is substantially similar to the ones on this list.
A victim of sexual harassment can be a woman or man, and also can be of the same sex as the harasser.
Elements the Plaintiff Must Prove
According to CACI 3065 to establish the claim of sexual harassment the plaintiff must be able to establish all the following elements:
- The plaintiff had a business, service, or professional relationship with the defendant
- The defendant made sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, demands for sexual compliance to the plaintiff or engaged in verbal, visual, physical conduct of a sexual nature, hostile nature based on gender
- Defendant’s conduct was unwelcome and also sever or pervasive
- The plaintiff was unable to easily end the relationship with the defendant
- As a result of the defendant’s illegal conduct, the plaintiff has suffered or will suffer economic loss or disadvantage, personal injury, the violation of a statutory or constitutional right.
- Fair Employment and Housing Act – the law which prohibits sexual harassment at workplace applies to all California employers.
- California law protects all workers – including independent contractors, volunteers and interns.
- According to California, law employers don’t just have to respond to sexual harassment but they are obliged to take steps to prevent it from happening. Employers are required to have a written policy on sexual harassment where the employees can find information on where and how to report or complain about sexual harassment.
- California employers who have five or more employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training to the employees at least once every two years.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
As mentioned above, sexual harassment can occur in different ways, but employment discrimination laws divide prohibited sexual harassment into two categories: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when victim’s supervisor, either expressly or impliedly, requires him to submit to sexual advances by threatening with an adverse employment action, such as a demotion, bad review, or termination. This type of sexual harassment can only be committed by a supervisor, manager, or another employee who is eligible to undertake some tangible employment action against the victim.
Hostile Work Environment
The hostile work environment is the unwelcome conduct which irrationally interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates intimidating, or abusive work environment. A hostile work environment exists when a reasonable employee would feel abused or intimidated by pervasive or severe conduct which is based on the employee’s gender, gender identity or sexual characteristics.
Examples of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace:
- Sexual pranks, repeated sexual jokes, teasing in person or via e-mail
- Verbal abuse of a sexual nature
- Grabbing or touching of a sexual nature
- Giving gifts or objects which are sexually suggestive
- Repeatedly making sexually suggestive signs
- Making or posting offensive pictures or, cartoons or other materials at the workplace;
In case of the successful claim the victim of sexual harassment can get the following remedies:
- Compensation for lost wages and other economic losses in case the sexual harassment resulted in a loss of work or income
- Compensation for emotional distress and physical pain or suffering
- Punitive damages
- Make the employer change the policies and practices.