Does physical touching need to be involved for conduct to be considered sexual harassment?

No, physical contact does not have to take place for sexual harassment to have occurred. Sexual harassment can also be verbal. It can take the form of inappropriate sexual jokes, derogatory comments, lewd remarks or propositions for sex. Verbal harassment that is hostile or offensive has the potential to affect an employee just as seriously as physical harassment.

There are many other ways in which sexual harassment can occur in the workplace without any physical touching. Displaying pornographic images, making sexual gestures, sending obscene emails, threatening retaliation after a sexual advance is rejected, or offering benefits in return for sexual favors are examples of unwanted conduct that can qualify as sexual harassment.

In California, the legal definition of sexual harassment covers many types of offensive behavior. What can be considered sexual harassment may vary based on the circumstances. When sexual harassment does not involve direct physical contact, it typically must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment and be unlawful. However, under California law, one incident of harassment can be enough to create a hostile work environment.

Speaking up in cases of workplace harassment can be difficult. An experienced employment law attorney can answer all your questions about work-related sexual harassment and explain your legal options. Contact Erlich Law Firm for a free consultation.

Other Sexual Harassment FAQs:


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