What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in California?

Explained by our Los Angeles Harassment Lawyers

Generally, only employers can be sued for sexual harassment. For example, if a man grabs a woman’s breast in a bar, that is not sexual harassment, although it may be assault and battery. However, if a woman’s boss grabs her breast (and she does not want him to) that is probably sexual harassment.

The law has recently been changed to allow people to sue others for sexual harassment, even when the harassment is not at the job.

The following people can be sued for sexual harassment, when they have a business, service, or professional relationship with the person they harassed:

  • a person’s physician, psychotherapist, or dentist,
  • attorneys,
  • marriage, family or child counselors, licensed clinical social workers, and masters of social work,
  • real estate agents and real estate appraisers,
  • accountant bankers, trust officer, financial planners and loan officers
    collection services,
  • contractors, escrow loan officers, executors, trustees, or administrator beneficiaries,
  • landlords and property managers,
  • teachers,
  • people who are in a relationship that is substantially similar to any of the above.

The sexual harassment must occur in the context of the relationship. For example, just because a person is a doctor does not mean he can never legally sexually harass anyone. The law says that he cannot sexually harass his patients. Teachers cannot sexually harass their students, etc. Our Los Angeles harassment lawyer can help you make the distinction.

What Counts As Harassment?

Sexual harassment by someone in one of the positions listed above is when he or she does the following:

  • makes sexual advances
  • makes solicitations
  • makes sexual requests
  • makes demands for sexual compliance
  • This is generally called “quid-pro-quo” harassment.

When Is the Harassment Illegal?

Sexual harassment is illegal when there is a business, service, or professional relationship between the harasser and the victim.

Request to Stop

For the harassment to be illegal, the victim must also have made a request that the behavior stop. This means that the first request or advance is never illegal. If you ask your harasser to stop and he or she does not, our Los Angeles harassment attorney can help determine proper action to take.

Inability to Leave

For the harassment to be illegal, the victim must not be able to easily terminate the relationship without tangible hardship. In other words, if the victim can just leave without any trouble, it’s not illegal.

This does not mean that the victim has to be physically restrained. For example, if a person is about to undergo surgery, and her doctor harasses her, it would probably be difficult to find another without “tangible hardship.” That would be expensive, and if she really needs the operation, maybe deadly! Having to find a new attorney in the middle of a case might also be a tangible hardship.

Other Harrassment?

“Harassment”, standing alone, is not illegal. The harassment in the workplace must be based on an illegal factor, like those listed above under “discrimination in the workplace.” In other words, the employer cannot harass the employee because of his race. But he can harass him because he just doesn’t like him.

If an employer treats an employee badly because of race, it is racial harassment. If it is because of sex or gender, it is sexual harassment, etc. But there is no law against general “harassment” or bad treatment of an employee.

Connection to Workers’ Compensation and Disability

If an employer treats an employee badly enough, that employee may be forced to take a stress leave. This may result in a workers’ compensation or disability claim. However, the employee still does not have a right to sue.

If you are sexually harassed while on the job in LA, contact a Los Angeles harassment attorney at our law firm today to set up a consultation. Our Los Angeles employment attorney gives clients information about what to do if they encounter harassment at work.