Workplace sexual harassment can be stressful and demoralizing, but California employees who are facing it can take steps to make it stop. They should not just quit or try to avoid the problem. People are entitled to work in an environment where sexual harassment is not taking place.
Sexual advances from clients toward California employees often go unreported because victims worry about losing status at work. A survey of working women between 18 and 34 revealed that a full third of them had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Although survey data indicates that the experience is common, actual complaints to employers remain rare. Fears about retaliation such as losing a prestigious account, loss of promotion opportunities and outright dismissal keep most victims silent.
California workers who are protected by laws against sexual harassment would not have had that coverage just a few decades ago. For many years, women in the workplace had little choice but to put up with sexual harassment or quit. There was not even a single word that described the experience until a group of women came up with the phrase "sexual harassment" in 1975. It was soon popularized by media, and in a survey done by Redbook magazine, 80 percent of women reported that they had been sexually harassed in their workplace.
According to some researchers, employers in California and other parts of the country may not be implementing sexual harassment policies effectively if they leave their interpretation up to employees. A study conducted at the University of Missouri showed that when employees interpret how their company policies define sexual harassment, they do so through the filter of their own perceptions. This could completely counter the intent with which such policies were written in the first place.
Those who are sexually harassed at work may feel angry and vulnerable, which could cut into their productivity. However, sexual harassment is not necessarily an isolated event, as a large number of workers have revealed that they have received unwanted attention on the job. Although there are thousands of reported cases, it is believed that 70 percent of women do not report the abuse that they experience.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not always reported by victims. However, such behavior is strictly prohibited by both federal and California law, and it may be possible to pursue legal action against an employer. Generally, a worker is advised to follow company procedures before pursuing legal action, but there are circumstances in which this may not be possible, such as where a worker is being harassed by a supervisor.
On March 16, a former lead kitchen worker at Chipotle filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that she and other women were sexually harassed by four managers. Among other claims, the former employee says that the managers would use security cameras to spy on women arriving to go to a nearby fitness center.
In March 2016, serious allegations of sexual harassment by ex-workers at a San Francisco restaurant were filed against Michael Chiarello, its chef and owner. According to the complaints, Chiarello and his restaurant's executive chef took numerous sexual actions that contributed to a hostile work environment. Two workers allegedly felt so uncomfortable that they were forced to leave.
Bureau of Justice Statistics related to the frequency of sexual violence in the workplace indicate that there are over 43,000 rapes and sexual assaults in workplaces each year. However, this data is called into question by anti-rape advocates. It is believed by many that this number is much higher because harassment is frequently not reported.
The struggles of immigrant workers extend beyond California. A sexual harassment case at a resort in Colorado illustrates the abuses some workers face. The case arose at 54-unit ski resort timeshare managed by Global Hospitality Resorts, and it resulted in the employer agreeing to a $1 million settlement.