Sexual Harassment Does Not Require Sexual Desire

22 Aug Sexual Harassment Does Not Require Sexual Desire

Sexual harassment in the workplace often involves sexual desire on the part of the harasser. But an amendment to California law prohibiting sexual harassment makes clear that sexual harassment need not be motivated by sexual desire to be unlawful. Senate Bill 292 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on August 12, 2013 and amended California Government Code, Section 12940 to provide that: “Sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.”

This is an important development in the protection of employees. The amendment was a response to the decision in Kelley v. The Conco Companies (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 191. In that case, a male employee was “subjected to a barrage of sexually demeaning comments and gestures by his male supervisor, and later to similar comments by male co-workers.” The nature of the sexually demeaning comments and gestures is too graphic to describe in the blog post, but rest assured they would be considered severe and outrageous by any reasonable person. Indeed, the Court itself found that the sexually demeaning comments and gestures were “crude, offensive and demeaning.” Notwithstanding this finding, because there was no evidence that the sexually demeaning comments and gestures were motivated by sexual desire, the sexual harassment claim failed.

Fortunately, Senate Bill 292 effectively overturned the ruling in Kelley v. The Conco Companies. This was and should have been a no-brainer. Sexual harassment, whether motivated by sexual desire or not, is still offensive and unfairly affects the subject of the sexual harassment. Just because there may not have been sexual desire does not mean that the work environment is not hostile. Employees already have many challenges that they face at the workplace. A hostile work environment or sexual harassment should not be one of those challenges.

If you feel that you are being sexually harassed at work, or are experiencing a hostile work environment, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free initial consultation