While it may be common for people to make sexual jokes or comments to their friends or family, sexual jokes, comments or images are almost never appropriate at work. Despite this fact, sometimes sexual innuendo, or sexually explicit behavior makes its way into the workplace. When this behavior is unwanted and creates a hostile work environment then it can constitute sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is not tolerated in California’s workplaces. Employment laws protect employees from being sexually harassed and allows workers to collect both attorney’s fees and damages if they file a lawsuit.

Nationally, the rates of employment lawsuits based on sexual harassment have been falling. In 2011, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 11,364 sexual harassment complaints. That number was down from almost 16,000 complaints in 1997.

However, California’s statistics show a different story. The rates of complaints by employees about sexual harassment has actually been increasing in California. In 2012, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing received 6,169 sexual harassment complaints, whereas the department was only averaging around 3,800 complaints per year between 2008 and 2011. Some people have blamed the recent rise on the fact that people can now file complaints electronically. Experts also say that these numbers may not reflect the actual number of sexual harassment complaints since many of these cases settle out of court and are never made public.

Complaints of sexual harassment are taken seriously in California – which boosts some of the toughest sexual harassment laws in the country. These laws are in place to help workers feel secure and avoid harassment. Workers who are suffering from a hostile work environment should know that these employee laws can help them. These laws can make the harassment stop and help to compensate employees for the terrible way they have been treated.

Source: The Modesto Bee, “Public Eye: Sacramento County fights sexual harassment claim,” Richard Chang, Sept. 15, 2013