California's Fair Employment and Housing Act defines harassment because of sex as including sexual harassment, gender harassment, and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
The Fair Employment and Housing Commission regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. The following is a partial list of violations:
Unwanted sexual advances
Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances
Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of suggestive objects or pictures, cartoon or posters
Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, and jokes
Verbal sexual advances or propositions
Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual's body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations
Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements
A program to eliminate sexual harassment from the workplace is not only required by law, but it is the most practical way to avoid or limit damages if harassment should occur despite preventative efforts.
An employer should take immediate and appropriate action when he/she knows or should have known that sexual harassment has occurred. An employer must take effective action to stop any further harassment and to minimize any effects of the harassment. To those ends, the employer's policy should include provisions to:
Fully inform complainant of his/her rights
Fully and effectively investigate. The investigation must be immediate, thorough, objective and complete. Anyone with information on the matter should be interviewed. A determination must be made and the results communicated to the complainant, to the alleged harasser, and, as appropriate, to all others directly concerned.
If harassment is proven, there must be prompt and effective remedial action. First, appropriate action must be taken against the harasser and communicated to the complainant. Second, steps must be taken to prevent further harassment. Third, appropriate action must be taken to remedy the complainant's loss, if any.
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