Whether you’re a man or a woman, being the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace can be a harrowing experience. According to the American Association of University Women, when workers are sexually harassed on the job, it can have negative effects on their psychological and economic health, as well as make them a target for ridicule from other people in the workplace.
But it doesn’t have to go that far: Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers have a responsibility to take steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces—and to act on it when it does occur.
California Employers Must Educate Workers About Sexual Harassment
One of the legal responsibilities that California organizations have to their employees is to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The law requires employers to educate their workers by distributing literature from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The agency has a poster that outlines what sexual harassment is and what employees can do if they are harassed on the job. In addition, employers can distribute brochures supplied by the DFEH to their workers, or create literature of their own. If they choose the latter, they must ensure that their in-house literature includes the following information:
- The state and federal definitions of sexual harassment
- A description of what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace, including concrete examples
- How workers can file an internal complaint, as well as a complaint with the DFEH, and how the complaint process works
- Legal remedies available to workers who have been sexually harassed
- The definition of workplace retaliation and how workers are protected from retaliatory behaviors after filing a sexual harassment complaint
In addition to literature, organizations with over 50 employees must provide sexual harassment training to their supervisors. These training classes must be about two hours long and must be held every two years. In addition, new supervisors must be given this training within six months of being hired.
California Employers Must Implement Sexual Harassment Policies
The Fair Employment and Housing Act requires organizations in California to create sexual harassment policies that adhere to state law. There should be a procedure in place for employees to file internal sexual harassment complaints, as well as a process to investigate those claims. Sexual harassment investigations must be thorough and objective, and should be conducted in a timely manner. If the investigation reveals that sexual harassment did indeed occur, employers are required to take prompt action against the harasser, as well as take steps to prevent future occurrences. In addition, if the employee filing a complaint has suffered a loss, the employer is required to take immediate action to remedy it.
Have You Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment?
Although the law is clear about the obligations your employer has to prevent and handle sexual harassment, some cases do fall through the cracks. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment and could not get your employer to take action, you have the right to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the incident. The agency will investigate your claim and determine the appropriate remedies—whether it be reinstatement to a job, reimbursement for lost wages, or compensation for emotional distress. In addition, an organization may be required to create or update its sexual harassment policies in order to meet California standards.