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By: Murphy & Murphy Law Offices

Supervisor Engaging in Inappropriate Conduct

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What Can You Do if Your Supervisor is Engaging in Inappropriate Conduct?

Maneuvering through workplace dynamics with employees of different personalities can be challenging enough under ordinary circumstances. But if your supervisor behaves inappropriately towards you, it can make your work life even more difficult. Frequently this unwelcome conduct is of a sexual nature, and the supervisor may blatantly threaten your job or imply that your continued employment is dependent upon you accepting the behavior or agreeing to their advances. Supervisors may also attempt to coerce employees into consenting to their propositions by offering them a promotion, better pay, or other job-related benefits.

These actions are a gross abuse of power by a supervisor, which can leave an employee feeling mentally distressed and fearing for the financial stability of themselves or their family. If you find yourself in this situation, you have legal rights. A sexual harassment attorney can explain your options and the steps you can take to address the issue.

What Actions May Be Considered Inappropriate Conduct?

What constitutes inappropriate conduct under the law is, unfortunately, fairly vague. However, it is generally agreed that for an action to rise to the level of sexual harassment, it must be a display of romantic or sexual interest that is unwanted, uncomfortable, unreciprocated, or offensive. The harassment may be a physical action, occur through electronic means, or even involve comments about the victim to other employees. It can happen at work or during off-hours. For example, a supervisor may use their access to your personal information to call or text you repeatedly, show up at your home, or send you unwelcome gifts. Isolated incidents are usually not considered sexual harassment unless they are severe, such as groping or other forms of assault. Typically there has to be a pattern of repeated behavior that has continued despite the victim asking the harasser to quit.

What Steps Can You Take to Address the Situation?

Although it may be challenging to discuss, the first thing you should do is inform your supervisor that their behavior is making you uncomfortable, and you want it to stop. Even if you laughed off the incidents at the time because you were shocked or uncertain of what to do, you need to make it clear that the behavior was unacceptable. This is best accomplished in a format where receipt of the message can be documented, such as an email or text message.

If the inappropriate conduct continues, you face retaliation, or you find yourself in a hostile workplace situation, you should follow the steps outlined in your company’s employee handbook to report the issue. Document proof of the behavior to support your claims. If the person harassing you is the person you would make your report to, attempt to take your claim further up the chain of command. If you cannot get a satisfactory resolution to your complaint, contact an experienced California sexual harassment lawyer to discuss your claim and determine your avenues for legal recourse.

What if You Fear Losing Your Job if You Report the Behavior?

Despite the possible risks to your employment, reporting your supervisor’s inappropriate conduct is critical to having a valid harassment claim. If the employer can assert that they did not know about the behavior, they will likely not be held liable by a court for not intervening. However, if you can prove that the company was made aware of the harassment and failed to act or retaliated against you for your complaint, you likely have a strong case and could recover damages for your losses, including lost wages. Enlisting the services of an experienced California attorney can help you protect your rights as a worker. Call our law office at (805)330-3393 for a free consultation where an attorney can evaluate the unique details of your case and provide you with knowledgeable legal advice.