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What Is Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment?

The Basics of Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

“There are two theories upon which sexual harassment may be alleged: quid pro quo harassment, where a term of employment is conditioned upon submission to unwelcome sexual advances; and hostile work environment, where the harassment sufficiently alters the conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment.”

“To prevail on a claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment, an employee must demonstrate that he or she was subjected to sexual advances, conduct, or comments that were

  1. unwelcome,
  2. because of sex, and
  3. sufficiently offended, humiliated, distressed or intruded upon the victim

“Whether an environment is ‘hostile’ or ‘abusive’ can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances including whether or not the harassing conduct sufficiently offends, humiliates, distresses, or intrudes upon its victim, so as to disrupt the victim’s emotional tranquility in the workplace, affect the victim’s ability to perform the job as usual, or otherwise interfere with and undermine the victim’s personal sense of well-being.

Therefore, to establish liability in a FEHA hostile work environment sexual harassment case, a plaintiff employee must show she was subjected to sexual advances, conduct, or comments that altered the conditions of her employment and create a hostile or abusive work environment.”

“To be actionable, a sexually objectionable environment must be both objectively and subjectively offensive, one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one that the victim in fact did perceive to be so. That means a plaintiff who subjectively perceives the workplace as hostile or abusive will not prevail under the FEHA, if a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position, considering all the circumstances, would not share the same perception. Likewise, a plaintiff who does not perceive the workplace as hostile or abusive will not prevail, even if it objectively is so.”

Further, the employer is not vicariously liable for hostile environment sexual harassment created by plaintiff’s co-workers. The employer may be directly liable for a co-workers’ alleged sexual harassment, only if the employer knows of the harassment and fails to stop it. Mathieu v. Norrel Corp., 115 Cal. App. 4th 1174, 1184 (2004).

For additional information, please call our Los Angeles employment lawyers who focus on sexual harassment at (310) 499-0140.

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