California Male Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Male Victims of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
When we speak of sexual harassment, we often refer to women as the victims. Although it’s true that women are far more likely to face workplace sexual harassment, men also commonly fall victim to illegal discriminatory conduct at work.
Men who stand up against sexual harassment have to find a massive amount of inner strength and courage. Society doesn’t take male victims of sexual harassment as seriously as female victims, partly because the notion of a man as a victim challenges long-held beliefs and stereotypes about masculinity.
If you are a male victim of sexual harassment, you are not alone. You may feel miserable, anxious, and depressed, but you don’t have to continue feeling this way. You must stop your harasser in his or her tracks, not just for yourself, but to protect future victims. Before you take a stand, however, contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer who can explain your legal rights and guide you through the process of seeking justice.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment in the workplace includes two broad types of harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. One’s gender has no bearing on the type of harassment they may experience—men can experience both types just as well as women.
- Quid pro quo. Quid pro quo, which means “something for something” in Latin, reveals the power dynamic that is often part of workplace harassment. In quid pro quo harassment, someone in a position of power, such as a supervisor or manager, uses employment or employment-related benefits as a tool to make unwanted sexual advances or demand sexual favors.
- Hostile work environment. Hostile work environment harassment includes a wide array of inappropriate behavior committed by anyone with whom an employee interacts at work, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere. Victims may feel intimidated, offended, and, in some cases, fearful. Quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment often go hand in hand; unwanted advances and requesting sexual favors both contribute to a hostile work environment.
Common behaviors that contribute to a hostile work environment for men include:
- Discussing sexual acts and using crude language
- Telling sexist jokes
- Unwanted touching
- Making lewd gestures that display sexual acts
- Commenting on physical attributes
Laws About Sexual Harassment
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) bars employers from discrimination based on the protected categories of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person. Sexual harassment constitutes a form of discrimination under FEHA. Businesses with more than five employees must comply with FEHA. Many counties and cities also have their own laws that bar sexual harassment.
Trends About Men and Sexual Harassment
Very little research attention has focused on male victims of sexual harassment, but one recent study stands out. Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a survey and found that some men are more vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace than others.
The study specifically focused on men, of all sexual orientations, who engaged in feminist activism. They concluded that sexual harassment is a form of punishment for men who stray from society’s notions of masculinity. Furthermore, it turns out that company culture forms the single biggest predictor of workplace sexual harassment of men. Some businesses tolerate this behavior and others do not. An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help male victims of sexual harassment in the workplace stand up to a culture that allows bad behavior toward other employees and/or subordinates.
When Does Bad Behavior Cross the Line?
Poor behavior, such as telling sexist jokes and making lewd gestures, does not create a hostile work environment until it meets a certain threshold. California law does not protect against teasing, off-color comments, or isolated incidents. In some cases, the behavior may unintentionally offend others. Similarly, some stereotypes are so ingrained in society that those who behave badly don’t even know they’re offending others. Oftentimes, bringing these things to the offender’s attention will prompt an apology and put a stop to the offensive behavior.
According to California law, these conditions are present when harassing behavior violates the law:
- Harassing conduct must be unwelcome.
- Harassing conduct must be based on one’s protected status, such as race, age, sex, etc. In the case of sexual harassment, the conduct is typically based on sex or gender.
- You must view the behavior as subjectively abusive.
- A reasonable person must find the behavior severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) looks at the following factors to determine if a case is severe or pervasive:
- How often did unwelcome conduct occur?
- How severe was the behavior?
- Was the victim physically threatened or humiliated?
- Did the conduct interfere with work performance?
- How did the conduct affect the victim’s mental health and well-being?
- Does the harasser hold a managerial or supervisory role in the organization?
What Should I Do if I Am Subjected to a Hostile Work Environment?
If you were sexually harassed at your place of employment, contact a sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel can advise you on which steps you might consider taking, from going through your company’s internal complaint process, to filing a FDEH claim, to pursuing legal action. Having detailed information can also form an important element in a FDEH claim and lawsuit. An experienced attorney can help you make sure to keep detailed records of any interaction with your harasser.
Asking a harasser to stop his or her behavior and filing a complaint of any sort can put victims of sexual harassment at risk of retaliation. Retaliation is illegal, but it can happen. If your employer retaliates against you for reporting sexual harassment, a lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment can help you seek justice.