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Sexual Harassment by Innuendo
California law, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), prohibits sexual harassment. California Government Code § 12940(j)(1). Sexual harassment by innuendo is one of the forms in which sexual harassment can occur. Sexual innuendo occurs when the language is indirect or subtle, but rather suggests or insinuates sexual derogatory content. In other words, persistent language along the lines of “I really like how those pants fit your body” or “why don’t all women look like you” might constitute sexual harassment, especially if accompanied by a leering stare or a whistle or catcalls, lewd noises, chuckles, or laughter. Sexual innuendo is frequently disguised as jokes. These types of comments, which could be construed as harmless but can feel really sexual and insulting to the targeted person, can certainly make an employee feel uncomfortable and/or threatened.
Example: In Sanderson v. Wyoming Highway Patrol (2020) 976 F.3d 1164, the plaintiff worked for the Wyoming Highway Patrol. She earned numerous positive performance reviews, including a nomination for Trooper of the Year, and a Colonel’s Commendation Award. Nonetheless, she faced obstacles as a woman in law enforcement. She was rumored to be sexually promiscuous, and was called the “division bicycle,” which implied that she had sex with many of her colleagues. Later she was promoted to a division tasked with protecting the governor and state legislature. When Sanderson joined the division, some of her coworkers stated that the division “as a whole does not accept females.” A rumor spread that she had obtained the promotion after having an affair with someone in a leadership position, perpetuating an abhorrent but deeply rooted perception that women use sex to achieve success. Demonstrating sexual harassment by innuendo, a supervisor reprimanded her for being too “familiar” with the deputy chief of staff. In another expression of sexual harassment by innuendo, when Sanderson answered a radio call while in the restroom, she was told not to answer the radio when she was “douching.” The plaintiff later filed a lawsuit. The United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, reversed the district court’s ruling that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment on her hostile work environment claim, as the judges did “not view Sanderson's cited acts of harassment as isolated or fleeting.”
An example: A male supervisor keeps asking a female employee to go out with him. The female employee tries to ignore him and makes excuses so that maybe he gets the point that she is not interested. The male supervisor begins to make comments to her on a daily basis. He usually gets to work before her and when she walks in he always mentions something about how she looks. Several times he has said to her “I really like how those pants make your legs look” and “I really like how that dress shows your figure”. Other times, he has made comments that hint towards the size of her body parts. If you are experiencing or have experienced a similar situation, contact our office.
Another example: A male manager begins to ask a female employee about her private life. At first, he just asks her questions about what kinds of things she likes to do on the weekends and whether she has a boyfriend. However, he then begins to ask private questions about her sex life and also makes comments about his own sex life to her. He even asks her about different sexual positions that she likes or has tried. If you are experiencing or have experienced a similar situation, contact our office.
Another example: A doctor has a small office. The doctor has been having some issues with his wife and begins to talk to his secretary about it. At first, she felt that he only needed someone to talk to, so she was fine with it. However, the secretary begins to feel very uncomfortable as the conversations become more personal. The doctor would say to her things like: “my wife is not as nice as you are,” “she does not even touch me anymore,” and “I wish someone else would be attracted to me.” If you are experiencing or have experienced a similar situation, contact our office.Contact Us
If you have experienced sexual harassment at your workplace, contact the sexual harassment lawyers at Kokozian Law Firm, APC.