Workplace sexual harassment doesn’t always involve someone in a managerial or higher-up position. Sometimes harassers are other employees – the victim’s coworkers. Legal actions and consequences are different in these scenarios than in other cases. It’s important to understand how employer liability may factor into cases involving employee-employee harassment or discrimination. If you’re involved in such a situation, come to Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, for one-on-one legal services. Our sexual harassment attorneys in California are passionate about preserving the rights of workers to a safe, fair, and productive work environment.
Types of Coworker Employee Harassment
An isolated incident with one of your coworkers or actions that constitute simple teasing aren’t examples of sexual harassment. While these things may be irritating, they aren’t sexual harassment unless they create a hostile work environment. A “hostile work environment” is one in which the behaviors or actions of an employer or coworker affect your ability to do your job comfortably. There’s a wide range of inappropriate actions and behaviors your coworker could perform to make your workplace environment feel hostile, including:
- Inappropriate sexual touching
- Offensive sexual jokes or innuendos
- Discrimination based on gender or sex
- Verbal sexual abuse or berating
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Offensive sexual emails, bulletins, or photos
- Sexual gestures, body movements, or looks
The action or behavior must be consistent or severe enough to disrupt your workplace and affect your ability to perform your job. For example, you may feel uncomfortable, threatened, or harassed enough to not want to come to work. An employee’s actions may also constitute harassment if they adversely affect your employment. An example is if one employee doesn’t reciprocate a coworker’s sexual advances and then finds him/herself ostracized from group employee activities and training sessions. Any action or behavior from a coworker that creates a hostile work environment may be grounds for a sexual harassment claim.
How to Stop Harassment From a Coworker
If an employee’s actions are making your workplace hostile, first broach the subject with the harasser. Tell him or her that what he/she is doing is making you feel threatened, uncomfortable, or discriminated against. It’s possible that the person wasn’t aware of how others perceived his/her actions. A simple conversation may solve the issue. If this doesn’t work, seek help from your employer and/or human resources office. Your employee handbook should have guidelines for how to file an official sexual harassment complaint within the company. Follow these rules or go straight to HR for assistance.
After an official complaint, your employer is liable for resolving the issue. Failure to come up with an effective solution to address the problem is negligence. If your employer knew or should have known about employee-employee harassment and failed to do something about it, the company may be liable for the victim’s damages. Federal and state laws obligate employers to take steps to prevent and stop sexual harassment in the workplace. You may have the right to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if a coworker harassed you and your employer didn’t resolve the issue.
Contact Employee-Employee Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP Today
At Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, our mission is to help employees that have experienced a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment. No one should have to live with inappropriate or unwelcome sexual behaviors in the workplace. Whether an employer, coworker, client, or third party is responsible for your harassment, come to our firm for assistance. We can help you file a charge with the EEOC, and later with the civil courts if necessary. We have offices in LA, Newport Beach, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Woodland Hills.