What Is Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?
What is sexual harassment?
According to the DFEH (Department of Fair Employment & Housing), sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual advances, visual, verbal or physical conduct/contact of sexual nature. The definition of sexual harassment encompasses many forms of offensive behavior, including gender-based harassment directed towards persons of the same sex.
The DFEH is the agency responsible for protecting California employees and job seekers from employment discrimination.
According to the DFEH, sexual harassment includes but isn’t limited to the list of behaviors below:
Sexual harassment examples
i. Verbal conduct, such as using/making derogatory comments, slurs, epithets, and jokes. Verbal abuses of sexual nature, graphic verbal comments about a person’s body, and sexually degrading words also amount to verbal sexual harassment.
ii. Visual conduct such as making sexual gestures, leering, and display of sexually suggestive pictures, objects, cartoons, or posters.
iii. Physical conduct/contact, such as assault, touching or blocking movements.
iv. Awarding employment benefits based on sexual favors.
v. Threatening retaliatory action after getting a negative response to sexual advances.
EEOC definition of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment meaning may differ from one agency to another. According to the EEOC, sexual harassment included unwelcome sexual advances/requests for sexual favors and any other physical or verbal harassment of sexual nature. If you (an employee or job applicant) are harassed because of your sex, such actions qualify as sexual harassment.
Harassment doesn’t have to be sexual. It also includes offensive remarks about an employee’s or applicant’s sex. For instance, it’s unlawful to make offensive comments about men or women in general. The perpetrator and victim can be of either gender. The harasser and victim could also be of the same sex.
EEOC sexual harassment acknowledges the illegality of offhand comments, simple teasing, and isolated incidents that aren’t very serious. However, frequent and severe instances of sexual harassment that create offensive or hostile working environments that lead to firing, demotion, among other adverse employment decisions, are strictly prohibited.
According to the EEOC, harassers can be anyone from a victim’s boss, co-worker, a supervisor in another department, as well as someone who isn’t an employer or employee i.e., customer or client.
Sexual Harassment Law
Title VII sexual harassment
Sexual harassment violates the Civil Rights Act (Title VII). The law applies to state governments, local governments, and federal government, among other employers who employ at least 15 employees. The law affects labor organizations and employment agencies.
According to Title VII, requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and other physical or verbal conduct that is sexual in nature amounts to sexual harassment. This is particularly true if the conduct implicitly or explicitly affects a person’s employment, interferes with their work performance, or creates a hostile, intimidating, and offensive working environment.
As per the EEOC’s definition, the perpetrators and victims of sexual harassment can be male, female, or the same sex. Sexual harassment also encompasses indirect victims, including those indirectly affected by sexual conduct. What’s more, the perpetrator can be a non-employee, and the harassment doesn’t need to cause any economic injury to be considered sexual harassment as per Title VII. The perpetrator’s conduct also needs to be unwelcome.
FEHA (Fair Employment & Housing Act)
The FEHA is the state law in California that prohibits workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. To be deemed illegal, sexual harassment must be so pervasive or severe that it affects how an employee works. Jokes or slurs, which are sexual in nature, may be rude and unfair. However, they don’t qualify as harassment if they are “one-off”.
Types of sexual harassment
In California, sexual harassment falls into two main categories, namely:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment
- Hostile environment sexual harassment
Both types require sexual conduct to be unwelcome. If the sexual conduct is welcome, it doesn’t qualify as sexual harassment. It is usually difficult to prove if an employee welcomed or rejected the sexual advances they were subjected to. Such instances are solely reliant on intent as opposed to outward actions.
For example, if an employee accepts to go on a date with a co-worker (a boss) marking the onset of a sexual relationship. That employee will have a hard time proving sexual harassment if the relationship ends, and the boss continues to make sexual advances.
1. Quid pro quo sexual harassment
Quid pro quo harassment is sexual harassment where supervisors demand sexual favors in exchange for workplace benefits.
The benefits can take several forms ranging from a promotion or raise to extra working hours, favorable working schedules, assignments to work of choice, hiring, and protection from disciplinary action like firing.
To prove quid pro quo sexual harassment cases, a worker must show:
- They worked under a harasser, provided services to the harasser or applied for work with the harasser
- The harasser or their agents made unwelcome sexual advances or other sexual conduct
- Their working environment was made hostile by insinuations, words or sexual requests
- They were harmed by the sexual harassment incident
- A harasser’s action were a significant factor in causing harm
In sexual harassment, quid pro quo can either be implied or explicit. However, there must be a repercussion/s for refusing to be sexually harassed. A supervisor who threatens action against an employee who rejects their sexual advances must follow through on such threats. If they don’t, such instances don’t qualify as harassment. However, it can be considered as creating a hostile work environment.
Workers claiming sexual harassment also need to establish causal connection i.e., connect the refusal to comply with sexual advances and the repercussions faced thereafter.
2. “Hostile environment” sexual harassment
A hostile working environment occurs if an employee or job applicant is subjected to frequent touching, advances, and comments that are sexual in nature. This includes sexual jokes, displaying offensive material, impeding one’s movement, and constantly asking for dates. Isolated occurrences don’t qualify as sexual harassment that creates a hostile working environment. The incident must be unwanted, continuous, and pervasive.
Sexual harassment statistics
The EEOC records sexual harassment charges that are filed with the commission alongside those filed with local & state fair employment practices agencies in the US. According to the latest EEOC data, most filings are done by women. However, the number of men filing sexual harassment-related charges has been rising. For instance, in 1997, only 11.6% of all charge filings were filed by men. The % has been increasing. In 2011, 16.3% of charges were filed by men signifying an increasing trend expected to continue.
However, the number of resolutions has been declining from 17,333 in 1997 to 12,571 in 2011. Majority of charges are dismissed because of administrative reasons such as failure to find charging party, failed responses to EEOC communication, or closure because of related litigation, among other reasons. The EEOC also dismisses many charges for failing to find evidence that sexual harassment occurred. These two reasons account for over 70% of dismissed charges historically.
The importance of getting legal advice or representation from a sex discrimination attorney can’t be overlooked. A seasoned sexual harassment lawyer can help you collect evidence that is admissible in court. They can also help you meet all technical requirements that cause administrative closures.
Sexual harassment training California
As per the Department of Fair Employment & Housing, California employers are required to offer sexual harassment prevention training in workplaces in classroom settings or via live webinar or interactive e-learning. Training done via e-learning must offer instructions on how employees are supposed to contact the trainer if they have any questions. Responses should be within 2 business days.
The training must:
- Define sexual harassment as per Title VII and FEHA.
- Define the conduct that qualifies as sexual harassment
- Define statutes as well as case law preventing and prohibiting sexual harassment
- State remedies available for sexual harassment victims
- State strategies for preventing sexual harassment
- Define the supervisor’s responsibilities in reporting sexual harassment
- Give practical examples of sexual harassment
- Discuss confidentiality related issues when reporting sexual harassment
- State the resources available to sexual harassment victims such as who they should report the sexual harassment to
- State how employers are supposed to deal with sexual harassment behavior in the workplace
- Give guidelines on what a victim should do when harassed by a supervisor
- Define the elements of effective anti-harassment policies and how such policies should be used
- Define abusive conduct as per Government Code 12950.1 (g)(2)
- Define harassment in regards to gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation while including practical examples
- Include questions assessing learning and skill-building to measure understanding and application.
Which employees should be trained about sexual harassment?
California employers with 5 or more employees must offer sexual harassment prevention training. The training is extended to all supervisors and nonsupervisory employees. Supervisors are employees with the power to hire, fire, transfer, assign, reward, or discipline other employees.
Who should conduct sexual harassment prevention training?
There are 3 types of trainers qualified to offer sexual harassment training in California. They include attorneys, human resource professionals, and education institution instructors who meet certain requirements.
1. Attorneys: Attorneys (from any state) who have been bar members for 2 or more years and have practiced (employment law under FEHA or Title VII) can qualify as trainers.
2. Human resource professionals: HR professionals, as well as sexual harassment prevention consultants, can also act as trainers if they have 2 or more years of experience designing/conducting discrimination, sexual harassment prevention, or retaliation training. HR professionals and consultants can also qualify if they have 2 or more years of experience investigating sexual harassment cases, responding to sexual harassment among other discrimination complaints, or advising employers/employees on discrimination, sexual harassment prevention, and retaliation related issues.
3. Instructors: College, university, or law school instructors who have post-graduate qualifications or California teaching qualifications and 20 hours or more of employment law instruction on Title VII or FEHA can act as training.
Important: The DFEH, as well as other state agencies, don’t issue certificates or licenses validating an individual’s qualification to act as a sexual harassment prevention trainer. Qualified trainers must meet the above guidelines.
What to do if sexually harassed: How to deal with sexual harassment
If you experience sexual harassment at work, you are assured of getting support in California if you come forward. Here’s what you should do:
1. Read the sexual harassment policy
If you are working for a company with a sexual harassment policy, you should read it and decide what action to take as per the policy. In most cases, you will be required to write an official complaint. You should do so in writing and keep such records, including records of all incident details like the time, date, harasser, and witnesses (if any).
2. Inform your employer
You should inform your employer as per the guidelines in the harassment policy if the policy exists. In most cases, failing to report a sexual harassment occurrence will hinder an applicant’s or employee’s ability to seek remedies against an employer. However, co-workers and supervisors are personally liable for individual acts of sexual harassment.
3. File a complaint
In some cases, sexual harassment can be addressed satisfactorily by an employer. In such instances, there is no need for escalating such as case. On the contrary, employees and applicants are free to file a complaint with appropriate federal and state agencies.
a. Filing with the DFEH
The DFEH is responsible for protecting California employees and job applicants from employment discrimination of any kind. Any violations, including sexual harassment, can be reported to the DFEH. The agency can pursue damages on behalf of employees. Filing a complaint is easy. The DFEH allows complaints via email, over the phone, or online.
b. File with the EEOC
The EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC offers detailed information on filing discrimination charges on its website.
Important: If you file a complaint with the EEOC or DFEH, such complaints are cross-filed with other agencies. As a result, you don’t need to submit more than one complaint. Submitted complaints are evaluated then accepted for investigation or rejected because of administrative reasons. If your case is accepted, the other party (harasser) must respond, after which the EEOC or DFEH will review their response. If unsatisfactory and a violation/s have occurred, the case will proceed to mediation, or a lawsuit will be filed. The EEOC looks at circumstances like the nature of sexual advances as well as how the incident occurred before giving a determination.
4. Call law enforcement
If you are a victim in a threatening situation at work i.e., forced contact or face assault or death threats because of rejecting advances, call 911 immediately. Such incidences are criminal and should be reported to the police immediately. You should also visit a healthcare provider to get a medical exam done and appropriate care. You’ll also need legal advice on how to proceed.
5. Call a sexual harassment lawyer
Victims of sexual harassment in workplaces are usually vulnerable. There are obvious repercussions of reporting a boss who harasses you and then threatens to fire you if you report. If you are in such a situation, you should call a seasoned sexual harassment lawyer in California. Sexual harassment cases have become very prevalent, yet they are usually complicated by dire consequences. If you don’t know how to proceed, get legal advice immediately. A seasoned lawyer will recommend the best cause of action for you.
Sexual harassment statute of limitations
Sexual harassment lawsuits must be filed as per the statute of limitations. Since such claims happen in workplaces, a victim must file an administrative filing. The filing has to be directed to the EEOC or DFEH. EEOC filing must be done within 180 days (from the most recent harassment incident). An extension can be granted (up to 300 days) under special circumstances.
DFEH filing should be done within a year. The time counts from the most recent harassment incident. Victims can get a 90-day extension to file if a victim learns of the sexual harassment after a year.
The DFEH or EEOC can conduct their own investigation or give the victim the right to sue. After receiving a right-to-sue letter, you have a year to file a lawsuit.
What damages can a sexual harassment victim get from a lawsuit?
If you are wondering why you should sue your supervisor, employer, co-worker, or any other perpetrator of sexual harassment in your workplace, you stand to get: front pay, back pay as well as, compensation for mental anguish, and reputation damage. You can also get attorney fees, expert witness fees, and court fees refunded. However, the court will be at discretion to grand such refunds.
Important: If you lose a sexual harassment case, you could be asked to pay damages to your employer. Although recent legislation amendments restrict employers from recovering such damages, courts can still require employees to pay for frivolous claims.
The importance of hiring a sexual harassment attorney before suing an employer can’t, therefore, be overemphasized. You can save effort, money and time by seeking legal advice beforehand to make sure you have a valid claim with a high chance of success.
Sexual harassment in the workplace: Who are the perpetrators of sexual harassment at work?
Anyone who is a victim of sexual harassment at work can file a sexual harassment claim. This includes, but isn’t limited to, employees, volunteers, job applicants, and contractual staff.
Sexual harassment in workplaces can originate from many persons. Common perpetrators of sexual harassment in workplaces include, but aren’t limited to: bosses or supervisors, co-workers, company owners, customers, clients, independent contractors, supervisors, and vendors.
The perpetrator can make a significant difference in a lawsuit. For instance, it is easier for companies to be held liable for harassment by a supervisor than a non-employee.
1. Sexual harassment by bosses
Bosses or supervisors have the same employer as the employee or victim of harassment. However, a boss tends to have more powers than the victim they harass. Most quid pro quo cases involve bosses or supervisors who abuse their power to pressure an employee into offering sexual favors. Bosses can also create hostile working environments.
If a supervisor is a perpetrator, an employer becomes liable for damages awarded in a suit. This applies to cases where an employer isn’t deficient or negligent in any way. For instance, if your boss aggressively and continuously flirts with you at work, your company can be liable for the harassment as per California labor code 12940.
2. Sexual harassment by co-workers
A co-worker is a fellow employee working for the same company as that of a victim of sexual harassment. However, co-workers may not have power over other co-workers, as is the case with supervisors.
As a result, co-workers are rarely liable to quid pro quo harassment. However, they usually create hostile working environments. Employers become liable for harassment orchestrated by co-workers if there is an aspect of negligent on the employer’s part i.e., if:
- They should have known or knew about the harassment
- If they failed to take corrective action/measures as per labor code 12940 (J).
If an employer isn’t found negligent, they can’t be held liable. However, the victim can pursue a perpetrator.
Example of sexual harassment case involving from a co-worker
If your co-worker relentlessly flirts with you at work despite making it clear that their behavior is unwelcome, your company can be held liable if you can show they didn’t take the necessary action after you reported the issue. If you can’t prove inaction on your company’s part, you can pursue the perpetrator (your co-worker) through a lawsuit.
3. Sexual harassment by third parties
As mentioned above, you could also be sexually harassed by contractors, vendors, customers, among other third parties who aren’t employed by your company. Other workers who interact with your company’s employees, such as a deliveryman, also qualify as third parties. Employers can be held responsible for harassment by third parties. However, the victim must show that:
- The employer should have known or knew of the incident
- The employer failed to take corrective action immediately after being notified of the incident.
Employers who get information about sexual harassment by a third party should take corrective actions like:
- Ending business relationships with the third party
- Removing an abusive third party such as a customer from the premises
- Moving the victim to another location where they don’t have to be in contact with the harasser
- Reassigning the victim to projects that don’t include any interactions with a past harasser
In sexual harassment cases involving third parties, an employer’s control or power over an issue matters a lot. If it was easy for an employer to deal with a case, but they didn’t for whatever reason/s, they are highly likely to be liable. If a victim can’t hold an employer liable, they can sue the third party.
Example of sexual harassment cases involving third parties
If a customer constantly flirts with you and makes unwelcome sexual advances when they come by your workplace, your employer should do something about it when you report. If they don’t, you can hold them liable for sexual harassment.
A third party can commit other forms of harassment. The FEHA amendments as per (senate bill 1300), extended harassment in 2018 to include third party actions that aren’t sexual in nature. The amendment prohibits all kinds of harassment in workplaces by non-employees.
How to prevent sexual harassment
Some steps can be taken to reduce sexual harassment risks in workplaces. The most notable include:
- Having a distinct sexual harassment policy
- Train employees
- Monitor the workplace
- Handle every complaint seriously
What should employers do to prevent sexual harassment?
1. Establish a distinct sexual harassment policy
Employers who are keen on reducing sexual harassment incidences should have an employee handbook with a clear sexual harassment policy that:
- Defines sexual harassment
- States clearly that the company doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment
- States clearly the disciplinary actions that wrongdoers will face
- Gives clear procedures for reporting and handling sexual harassment complaints
- States the company’s dedication to investigating each and every complaint received
- States the company’s intolerance towards retaliation against individuals who report sexual harassment
2. Train employees
Employers should train employees regularly on everything pertaining to sexual harassment from the definition to the rights or victims and procedures for launching complaints. Supervisors and managers should also undergo training regularly on handling complaints.
In California, employers with a workforce of 50 or more should train supervisors for two hours every two years
3. Monitor the workplace
Employers also need to monitor the workplace constantly. Any signs of sexual harassment such as offensive notes, posters, notes, or feedback, should be treated seriously. Employers should also engage managers, supervisors, and employees to know what is happening. Lines of communication should also be kept open at all times.
4. Handle every complaint seriously
Employers should investigate every complaint conclusively and take the appropriate action. Swift and effective complaint processes can reduce instances of sexual harassment at work. Also, taking serious action against perpetrators will discourage repeat incidences.
Sexual harassment in schools
Matters concerning sexual harassment in schools in California are covered in law (SB-169 Education). The legislature has offered provisions allowing all students to be free from discrimination in educational environments. Regulation on sexual harassment in school covers sexual violence, which hinders students from learning in an environment free from discrimination. Sexual harassment in schools is a type of sex discrimination outlawed by Title IX (Education Amendments of 1972) as well as implementing Federal regulations.
Title IX complaint
Sexual harassment and assault are illegal in schools that get federal funding. You can report a school-related sexual harassment or assault incident (Title IX complaint) to your school requesting immediate action if you are harassed or assaulted. You can also launch a complaint if the harassment/assault denies you equal access to school resources or if it hinders your ability to move freely in school.
A Title IX complaint is handled at the school level. However, a victim has the right to file a criminal complaint alongside a Title IX complaint requesting investigative authorities to handle the claim. Title IX complaints are student misconduct complaints that are completed internally even if there is a separate ongoing police investigation.
Schools are required to make available/share policies on sexual assault and sexual harassment with all students, teachers, and other members of staff. The policies can be shared in the student’s handbook, school board policies, or HR manual.
Schools are also required to provide students with all the information they need to report sexual harassment and assault. Students should know the grievance procedure, including what happens after reporting, investigation procedures, and interim measures the school can take to keep victims save during an ongoing investigation.
Schools should also respond to sexual assault and harassment complaints quickly and appropriately. Reports should be investigated with a few days unless the school is on a holiday break. In such an instance, investigations should commence immediately when school resumes. If investigations reveal that harassment or assault occurred, immediate action must be taken to stop the assault/harassment as well as prevent it from reoccurring again.
What happens when schools break the law?
Ignoring sexual harassment or assault claims is unlawful. Other unlawful actions include, but aren’t limited to, delaying investigations, dismissing victims, forcing victims to drop complaints, and lashing at victims for reporting. In case of such occurrences, a victim can take legal action against their school.
Schools are supposed to address the resulting effects of sexual harassment/assault complaints by offering counseling, academic support, among other forms of support to help victims cope with assault/harassment. This applies even in cases where the assault or harassment can’t be proven.
What happens if a perpetrator or third parties retaliate?
Students shouldn’t be punished or intimidated for reporting sexual assault/harassment or speaking against such instances when they happen to them or other students. Retaliation in a school setting can take many forms.
For instance, a school can try limiting a student (the victim of assault or harassment) to certain areas via mutual no-contact orders that tell victims to leave an area if they see a harasser. Such orders are considered retaliatory because they limit a victim instead of a harasser.
You (the victim) shouldn’t be asked to move dorms, switch classes, avoid certain areas at certain times because you have reported sexual assault or harassment. If an investigator or school official makes you feel guilty, ashamed, or as if you participated in instigating the assault or harassment, such instances can qualify as retaliation.
If you are threatened, forced to drop a complaint, or promised something if you choose to drop a complaint, such actions are unlawful. If you are a member of staff and you are demoted, fired, given fewer working hours/benefits, reassigned to a different undesirable position, location, or shift because you have reported sexual harassment/assault, such actions are retaliatory. You have grounds for taking legal action against retaliatory actions (discrimination) in the workplace.
Sexual harassment FAQS
i. What should employees do to prevent sexual harassment?
If you feel you have been sexually harassed, you should tell the harasser to stop. Inaction can increase the chances of sexual harassment by mistaking unwanted advances as welcome. If the instances of sexual harassment continue, you should use the mechanism offered by your employer, such as the anti-harassment policy or employee handbook, if any. Don’t be afraid to report sexual harassment even if the perpetrator is your boss or supervisor. If in-house mechanisms aren’t working, you can report sexual harassment to DFEH or EEOC.
ii. How does sexual harassment at work create a hostile environment?
Unwelcome advances, conduct, or comments create a hostile working environment if they are pervasive i.e., the conduct is more than occasional, sporadic, isolated, or trivial. The severity of conduct also matters. If harassment is pervasive or severe enough to change the working environment negatively, then it can be considered hostile.
The court looks at the evidence tabled to decide whether or not the sexual harassment created a hostile working environment. Indirect evidence can be admissible in court. For instance, sexual remarks by a co-worker can be an indication of a toxic working environment as per labor code 12923.
It’s generally up to a jury to assess whether sexual harassment is pervasive or severe enough. According to labor code 12923 (e), summary judgments are rare. As mentioned above, harassment doesn’t have to be sexual. It can be based on age, religion, race, nationality, or disability.
In the case of quid pro quo harassment, a supervisor demanding sexual favors for favorable treatment can make a working environment hostile. If those getting promotions and raises shouldn’t get them on normal circumstances, female employees who don’t give in to sexual advances can claim to be working in a hostile environment.
iii. Is sexual harassment a crime?
Yes, sexual harassment is illegal/a crime if it becomes sexual assault. Although sexual harassment in workplaces violates Title VII, and it qualifies as a form of discrimination, it isn’t a crime unless it becomes sexual assault – an act where a person touches another sexually without consent. Sexual assault also involves coercing or forcing sexual contact against a person’s will. Although sexual harassment isn’t considered a crime before it turns into sexual assault, you can sue your harasser. However, states like California prohibit all kinds of harassment.
iv. Is sexual harassment a felony?
Sexual assault is a felony. If the harassment hasn’t become assault, then it isn’t considered a felony.
v. Can you go to jail for sexually harassing someone?
Common penalties for sexual harassment include but aren’t limited to transfers, demotions, warnings or reprimand, suspension or termination, salary reduction, monitoring and training, or counseling. If the harassment graduates to assault, perpetrators can go to jail. Furthermore, sexual harassment is rarely a jailable offense if it is the perpetrator’s first offense.
vi. Am I being sexually harassed at work? What are the warning signs of sexual harassment at work?
If a co-worker, supervisor, or third party (such as a customer or deliveryman) is being “touchy” or stands too close to you, you could be a victim of sexual harassment at work. If you get unwelcome pornographic material shared with you, inappropriate comments made about your clothing/body, or attempts made to include you in sexually charged conversations; you may also be a victim of sexual harassment. The same applies to other unwelcome instances, such as frequent aggressive requests to go out for dates. You should identify these red flags immediately and take the appropriate action.
vii. Is it sexual harassment if it is between members of the same gender/sex?
Yes. You can be sexually harassed by a person of the same sex as per labor code 12940 (J). California’s sexual harassment regulation is very responsive to today’s gender and sexual identities in workplaces.
Sexual harassment cases
There are many sexual harassment cases that have taken place in California and the US at large. The most notable ones include:
- Harvey Weinstein v. accusers
- JC Mounduix v. house guests
- Uber v. Susan Fowler
- Uber v. Latina engineers
a. Harvey Weinstein v. accusers
Hollywood has been home to some of the most famous sexual harassment cases in America dubbed “MeToo anti-harassment movement”. In 2017, a story detailing years of sexual harassment against American film producer Harvey Weinstein was published by the New York Times. Among the women claiming harassment initially were Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. Weinstein was being accused of subjecting his victims to unwelcome sexual advances in return for favors.
Shortly after the story was published, Weinstein issued an apology acknowledging wrongdoing but disputed he sexually harassed Weinstein Company employees and job applicants for over three decades as the story alleged. This sparked new revelations from actresses like Romola Garai, who went on record saying she felt violated by Weinstein when he welcomed her to audition in his hotel room while wearing a bathrobe. 13 other women resurfaced with fresh allegations, including accusations of rape.
One woman, Lucia Stoller accused Weinstein of forcing himself on her sexually. Another woman accused Weinstein of forcing her to engage in a sexual act while casting in 2004. Mira Sorvino, who has featured in several Weinstein films, went on record, claiming Weinstein sexually harassed her (pressured her into a relationship). A-list actors like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have also gone on record, claiming they were also harassed by Weinstein earlier on in their careers.
The revelations sparked public outcry from Hollywood celebrities and other public figures, including Barack Obama. The revelations also led to multiple investigations and lawsuits from over 80 accusers. Weinstein’s wife also announced she was leaving her husband in 2017.
In 2019, Weinstein, alongside former Weinstein Company board members, reached a deal with the women accusing him of sexual misconduct. According to the settlement reached in May 2019, Weinstein agreed to resolve lawsuits and compensate victims in a tentative deal valued $44 million.
The Weinstein case is arguably the most famous Hollywood sexual harassment case to date given Weinstein could still face life imprisonment. His current settlement addresses sexual harassment allegations only. The disgraced film producer has been accused of sexual assault by two women. If convicted, he could spend life in prison.
b. JC Mounduix v. house guests
JC big brother sexual harassment is another classic case of Hollywood sexual harassment on set. In September 2018, fans of the hit live reality TV show Big Brother 20 called for the removal of a contestant, JC Mounduix, for engaging in repeated sexual harassment.
JC had ignored a houseguest’s request (Tyler Crispen) to sleep alone. Although the two had shared a bed in the past, JC ignored Tyler Crispen’s request and was seen in live feeds initiating sexual contact (kissing and caressing Tyler’s arm) despite her request for JC to stop. The incident sparked outrage from viewers who called for CBS to remove JC from the show. This wasn’t JC’s first incident.
JC was also involved in another incident where he opened a bathroom door while another contestant (Haleigh Broucher) was using the facility, forcing her to ask for help from the production team. The incident caused the live feed to be temporarily disabled. JC was also confronted by house guests about his inappropriate action. The event resulted in a viewer outcry forcing produces Rich Meehan and Allison Grodner to issue a statement on why JC was still in the show.
Since June 2018, JC was part of many Big Brother scandals, most of which are known to Big Brother fans who follow the show’s live feeds as most scandals were edited out of broadcast episodes. In July, JC was spotted in live feeds making unwanted sexual advances on Kaycee Clark, which were rejected. JC then tried placing an ice cream scooper under a contestant’s blanket (Kaitlyn Herman).
JC has also been seen interrupting a massage session by cupping a contestant’s (Tyler) genitals. JC’s action forced a response from CBS explaining that houseguests who exhibited controversial behavior had received a warning.
The JC v. house guests is a perfect example of sexual harassment while on the set of a live reality TV show. Although an incident qualifies as sexual harassment when there is unwelcome action, the JC big brother case is believed to be sexual harassment and assault. This is despite the contestants’ detail claim that the incidents were nonthreatening.
A reality TV set is a typical workplace for reality TV actors making the set subject to the same sexual harassment laws applicable to other workplaces.
c. Uber v. Susan Fowler
Uber has been subject to many sexual harassment cases. One notable Uber sexual harassment case in 2017 forced the company to fire over 20 employees after concluding investigations on workplace culture and sexual harassment claims. The terminations were reported in several news outlets globally, including the New York Times. Although the identities of the employees who were fired were concealed officially, reports indicated senior executives were part of the employees who were terminated.
The termination followed an investigation done by law firm, Perkins Coie after sexual harassment allegations were made by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler. Her account on sexual harassment cases at Uber was published by the guardian. Fowler worked for Uber between November 2015 and December 2016. In her account, she claimed that her manager made unwelcome sexual advances when she joined Uber.
Fowler also detailed an absurd case of workplace discrimination where women were left out when the company was offering gifts to its employees. In the detailed account, Fowler claimed Uber gave leather jackets to its male employees only because the organization didn’t have enough women to justify an order. This was after all employees were promised jackets.
When Fowler complained, the six women involved were told to find jackets in the same price range as the men’s jackets, if they wanted to be gifted. Uber’s CEO at the time, Travis Kalanick described Fowler’s account to be contrary to what Uber stood for. Shortly after the claims, Uber set up an anonymous hotline that staff would use to report discrimination, sexual harassment, unprofessional behavior, and bullying in the workplace.
Perkins Coie investigated 215 claims made via the hotline, most of which originated from Uber employees in San Francisco. While acting on Perkins Coie recommendations, Uber fired over 20 employees.
d. Uber v. Latina engineers
In 2018, Uber agreed to settle several sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims for $1.9 million. The settlement saw Uber agree to pay 56 former and current workers approximately $34,000 each for being subjected to sexual harassment. The settlement came with $11,000 per employee in a class action suit involving 485 victims of discrimination.
The payouts were part of Uber’s total $10 million settlement agreed in March 2018. The US-based lawsuit initiated by two Uber Latina engineers alleged that Uber paid them less than their Asian, white, and male colleagues. The pair also claimed they were harassed and forced to work in a hostile environment because of their ethnicity and gender.