Do employers have a legal obligation to prevent harassment?

| Nov 24, 2014 | Sexual Harassment |

California employers are held strictly liable for sexual harassment at the workplace when the harasser is a supervisor or the employer’s agent. Even when the harasser is a non-management employee, the employer may still be liable, even in cases when the employer was unaware of the harassment.

The law provides that employers have a legal duty to prevent the occurrence of workplace sexual harassment. In order to fulfill this duty, employers are supposed to take all reasonable steps to ensure such harassment does not occur. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has a poster about sexual harassment that employers are mandated to display.

Employers are also required to distribute brochures concerning workplace sexual harassment to all employees. They may obtain brochures from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or they may make their own. If they make their own, it must include the state and federal definitions of sexual harassment, the fact that such behavior is illegal, descriptions and examples of sexual harassment, the employer’s internal complaint process for sexual harassment, the legal remedies that are available, contact information for state and federal regulatory bodies, and the fact that workers are protected from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment when it occurs.

Sexual harassment on the job can be more than just unwelcome. Such harassment can make the work environment hostile to the victims as well as to those who witness it. Individuals who have been victims of workplace sexual harassment should initiate a complaint with their employer. They may benefit by consulting with an employment law attorney regarding filing a complaint with the appropriate state and federal regulatory agencies as well.

Source: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, “Fair Employment and Housing – Sexual Harassment”, November 21, 2014

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