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Verbal sexual harassment should not be tolerated

Recent stories of sexual harassment in Hollywood and the news business continue to shine a light on harassment problems women experience in the workplace. Federal law makes it clear that no employer should sexually harass or bully an employee. Many forms of sexual harassment are verbal in nature and although a California employee may not suffer physical harm, the emotional damage from verbal harassment can be very real.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, verbal sexual harassment can consist of a number of unwelcome and unwarranted advances by an employer, a supervising employee, or anyone in the workplace. An offender might ask an employee for a sexual favor or to engage in any kind of sexual activity. The employee may also cap the request with a threat of retaliation if the employee does not consent. Also, not all instances of harassment require a direct demand for sexual favors. The offender may instead make general remarks of a sexual nature that make the employee feel uncomfortable or intimidated.

The EEOC points out other examples of offensive verbal harassment. Some offenders may mock or ridicule an employee. Others might engage in insults or name calling. Sometimes, however, an offender may not directly harass a worker, but will instead make offensive comments that are broad sweeping about a particular sex or group of people. For example, a harasser may disparage women as a whole within easy earshot of female employees. In other instances, harassment may involve a person presenting an offensive image of a sexual nature to colleagues in the workplace.  

Any of these behaviors can create a hostile workplace environment. Anyone subject to verbal sexual harassment or harassment accompanied by offensive imagery can experience difficulties conducting assigned duties in the workplace and find working at their job miserable and even terrifying. Any sexual harassment, if it does not stop, should be reported to superiors. If they do not make a good faith effort to deal with the issue, the law provides for remedies, including fines and penalties.

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