Sexual harassment in the workplace is a type of employment discrimination that is illegal and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also has regulations that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are an employer and have workers in lower-paid jobs, you should understand that the laws apply equally to all persons in the workplace. Learn what you should do as an employer to respond to sexual harassment claims for lower-paid workers.
Every worker has the legal right to be free from any kind of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may take many forms and include physical acts or verbal language that makes an employee feel threatened or uncomfortable. The Center for Employment Equity indicates that 99.8% of people who experience workplace sexual harassment never file formal charges. This means that as an employer, if you are faced with a formal charge from an employee, it is likely one that should be taken seriously.
In most cases, the research from the Center for Employment Equity also finds that most people who file complaints of sexual harassment with their employer are not seeking substantial monetary compensation, but simply want their job back, the working conditions improved, or the perpetrator of the sexual harassment punished. For those employers that have employees in lower-paid jobs, this is significant because it simply is a call to action to create an environment free from sexual harassment in which all workers can feel safe and comfortable. This is an important piece of research because it means that those who file sexual harassment charges simply are trying to do their job and are not “troublemakers.”
As an employer, you should have policies and procedures in place in your workplace in order to effectively and efficiently handle sexual harassment claims. If you do not have such procedures in place, visit with an experienced employment or business attorney to help you establish practices that deal with sexual harassment claims. Make sure to take all sexual harassment claims seriously and make sure to conduct a full and unbiased investigation into the matter. If you find that the sexual harassment claim has merit, you should make sure to punish the perpetrator and attempt to improve overall working conditions. Many employees are afraid to submit a sexual harassment claim for fear of retaliation. Make it clear to employees that they have the legal right to bring any claim of sexual harassment to management without fear of losing any job, low-paid or higher in salary.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment still occurs in the workplace, in both higher-paid and lower-paid jobs. If you find that you either do not have appropriate policies already established to handle these types of claims or are faced with a sexual harassment claim by one of your employees, contact one of our experienced employment attorneys at (415) 693-0300 to help you ensure that your workers’ rights are protected.