Sexual Harassment by Persistent Leering or Staring

A hostile work environment may occur by persistent leering or staring even if no physical touching occurs. California law prohibits sexual harassment by persistent leering or staring. Cal. Gov. C. §12940(j)(1). In Billings v. Town of Grafton, the court upheld a hostile work environment claim in which a supervisor was regularly staring at a secretary’s breasts, for much of two and a half years that they worked together, despite her frequent complaints to the employer. Billings v. Town of Grafton (1st Cir. 2008) 515 F3d 39, 50.

In determining whether the harassing conduct is severe or pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment, courts look at the following factors:

  • the nature of the unwelcome sexual acts or works (for example: generally physical touching is more offensive than unwelcome verbal abuse)

  • the frequency of the offensive encounters,

  • the total number of days over which all of the offensive conduct occurs,

  • and the context in which the sexually harassing conduct occurred.

An example: A female employee notices that her supervisor looks her up and down when they see each other. Also, when there is a meeting or when he comes into her office he constantly tries to look down her blouse. His eyes seem to always be focused on her private areas. The employee complains to the owner of the company, but the supervisor’s conduct does not change. The female employee feels extremely uncomfortable every time that her supervisor is around as a result of this conduct. If you are experiencing or have experienced a similar situation, contact our office.

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