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Are offensive sexual comments sexual harassment?

No one wants to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the work place, and you dread the day you have to face the possibility of a coworker sexually harassing you. However, if you are involved in an untenable situation at work, you may already be dealing with sexual harassment in the form of verbal abuse or verbal assault. Under California law, does a harasser have to actually physically touch you for it to count as sexual harassment in the workplace?

According to California's Office of Civil Rights, verbal harassment counts as sexual harassment. Any number of verbal comments can fall under a sexual harassment claim, including derogatory remarks, verbal abuse, verbal propositions, inappropriate jokes, slurs related to your sexuality or gender, remarks on your appearance or anything about you that could be construed in a sexual context. For instance, were someone to remark that they have a preference for someone of your ethnicity, the harassment could be considered both racial and sexual.

Verbal sexual harassment does not only have to take the form of spoken words. It can also take place in written form, such as in emails or letters. This can include things such as inappropriate material forwarded via office email, or sexually suggestive notes from a coworker. It is the responsibility of your employer to make a reasonable and accountable effort to prevent and eliminate any such behavior in the workplace.

Please use the information in this article for reference and education purposes only; it should not be considered legal advice or recommendation.

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