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Common sexual harassment myths

Many California employees may believe some common myths about what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. For example, temporary or contract workers may think they are not protected from sexual harassment in the same way that other workers are. However, this is not the case. Anyone performing work for a company has equal protection along with regular employees.

Another commonly-held belief is that rules about sexual harassment only apply to perpetrators who are employed by the victim's company. This is also incorrect. Because the laws require that an employer protect employees from sexual harassment, this means the employer also must make sure that customers, vendors, repair people and anyone else who comes into contact with the employee in the course of doing their work do not harass them. If they do, the employer is required to take steps to put a stop to it.

Finally, many people believe that a single incident constitutes sexual harassment. This can lead to the idea that a misplaced comment or joke might be grounds for a sexual harassment accusation, but it is necessary to demonstrate a pattern of harassment. "Persistent and pervasive" is one legal standard used to describe the type of harassment that is illegal. A compliment about an individual's clothing choice is not harassment as long as it is done in an appropriate way and does not make reference to the person's body.

Those who feel they have faced sexual harassment on the job may first wish to speak with a supervisor or someone in human resources. However, if victims are unable to get the issue resolved at work or feel they have faced retaliation as a result of reporting sexual harassment, they may wish to obtain the advice of an employment law attorney concerning the next steps to take.

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