Both the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. One form of prohibited sexual harassment is “hostile work environment” harassment, which involves sexual conduct which has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
The elements of a prima facie claim of hostile-environment sexual harassment are:
- plaintiff belongs to a protected group;
- plaintiff was subject to unwelcome sexual harassment;
- the harassment complained of was based on sex;
- the harassment complained of was sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment; and
- respondeat superior (A Latin legal term that means “the master must answer.” Basically, the doctrine in which an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees during their employment.)
(Fisher v. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital (1989) 214 Cal.App.3d 590, 608.)
Hostile work environments
Hostile work environment harassment can occur when a supervisor favors a subordinate with whom he or she has a romantic relationship.
The United States Equal Opportunity Commission has explained that “if favoritism based upon the granting of sexual favors is widespread in a workplace, both male and female colleagues who do not welcome this conduct can establish a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII regardless of whether any objectionable conduct is directed at them, and regardless of whether those who were granted favorable treatment willingly bestowed the sexual favors …” (See EEOC Policy Statement No. N-915-048.)
The same is true under California law. An employee may establish an actionable claim of sexual harassment (akopyanlaw.com/sexual-harassment) under the FEHA by demonstrating that widespread sexual favoritism was severe or pervasive enough to alter his or her working conditions and create a hostile work environment. (Miller v. Department of Corrections (2005) 36 Cal.4th 446, 466.)
Sexual favoritism by a manager may be actionable when it leads employees to believe that they can obtain favorable treatment from the manager if they became romantically involved with him, the affair is conducted in a manner so indiscreet as to create a hostile work environment, or the manager has engaged in other pervasive conduct which created a hostile work environment.
Contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. for advice
At Akopyan Law Firm, A.P.C., we believe that the first step towards justice is finding the right legal representation. We understand the challenges our clients face when coming forward and we are committed to standing up for them during their time of need.
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If you’re looking for sexual harassment attorneys in Los Angeles, CA, contact us for a complimentary case evaluation and find out if we’re the right fit for you.