The word harassment is particularly interesting, and I found that generally it means ‘feelings of intense annoyance caused by being tormented'. So with this definition in mind I reexamined the working or stated definition of sexual harassment: "Sexual Harassment is unwanted and unwelcome advances of a sexual nature.  It could be a touch, written note, joke, picture, etc.  It can be intentional or unintentional.”  Furthermore there are two stated types of sexual harassment according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Employment Opportunity (ODMEEO). 

“The first type is Quid Pro Quo.  This means that a person in a position of power over another offers to trade a tangible employment action or benefit (such as promotion) for a sexual favor.  Only someone who has the power to control the victim’s job destiny can commit this type of sexual harassment.  The second type is hostile work environment.  In this instance, the environment is created by obvious sexually oriented activity by employees and supervisors.  Sexual harassment is rarely found as the result of a single incident or event.  The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man.  The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.”  Furthermore, “ The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.”  The law is far reaching and written to dissuade such conduct in the workplace. 

Christopher W. Olmsted has written a very interesting article on Sexual Harassment in the workplace.  It is entitled “California Appellate Court Follows Cal Supreme Court, rejecting Sexual Harassment Case.”  The article states the following:  ”Not all sexual conduct in the workplace is 'Sexual harassment'.  It is a question of degree.  An employer who sexually harasses an employee can be laible for damages under both federal law (title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII ) and California law (the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) when the sexually harassing conduct is so “pervasive or severe” that it alters the conditions of employment.  What kind of conduct is sufficiently “severe?” What makes conduct “pervasive” enough to qualify as sexual harassment?  In a case titled Haberman v. Cenage, Inc., A California Appellate Court recenty answered these questions, and in doing so applied the rules in the 2009 California Supreme Court titled Hughes v. Pair.”

“In Hughes v. Pair, the Caliofrnia Supreme Court stated: "In construing California’s FEHA, …the hostile work environment form of sexual harassment is actionable only when the harassing behavior is pervasive or severe… To prevail on a hostile work environment claim under California’s FEHA, an employee must show that the harassing conduct was severe enough or sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create a work environment that qualifies as hostile or abusive to employees because of their sex.  There is no recovery for harassment that is occasional, isolated, sporadic, or trivial.”  “In the Hughes case, the Supreme Court examined some rather obnoxious sexual comments made by the defendant of a couple days, but found that the comments were neither severe or pervasive.”

In the light of the above information it is highly important that employers keep management personnel current with changes in sexual harassment matters.  The language of “severe” and “pervasive” make meticulous documenting of sexual harassment complaints by employees highly important.  If your company is in need of high quality sexual harassment training contact MVP Seminars for topic specific information.