Sexual Harassment in Accounting

Entering the accounting industry takes years of hard work, school and training. As a professional accountant or financial planner, you may have assumed you would do nothing more than your job – keeping track of financial records, preparing statements and conducting audits. No one in accounting, or any other industry for that matter, anticipates dealing with sexual harassment or discrimination at work. Unfortunately, accounting is not exempt from sexual harassment and discrimination. If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment in accounting, contact an attorney to discuss your rights.

Sexual Harassment in the Accounting Profession

In accounting, a worker could be the target of sexual harassment from a client, coworker, supervisor, manager or employer. The most common sexual harassment scenario in the finance industry is someone in a position of power, such as a CEO, using this position to take advantage of lower-ranking staff members. However, sexual harassment can occur between any two people in the workplace. In addition, sexual harassment in accounting does not have to take the form of a male harasser against a female victim. Again, while this is the most common pairing, both men and women in accounting can face harassment and discrimination.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in California?

Someone can commit sexual harassment in California by engaging in any sexual behaviors that are unwelcome or nonconsensual against someone else in the workplace. Any inappropriate conduct, comment, action or language in the workplace that is unwelcome and sexual in nature can constitute sexual harassment. This can include unwanted touching of any kind, hugging or kissing, sexual looks or gestures, jokes about sex, discrimination against someone based on sex, messaging or emailing sexually explicit content, and many other examples of sexual harassment at work in accounting.

Types of Sexual Harassment

It is important to learn the types of sexual harassment so that you can understand whether someone is committing this crime against you in the accounting industry. Under California and federal anti-harassment laws, sexual harassment can refer to any sex-based harassment. Sexual harassment is a facet of sex discrimination. You may have grounds for a sexual harassment claim in accounting if you faced unwanted and unsolicited sexual advances from someone at work. The action cannot be an activity you engaged in willingly to qualify as sexual harassment. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing sexual harassment at work as an accountant or someone else in the finance industry, ask yourself if what you are dealing with matches the definition of quid pro quo or a hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo is a common type of sexual harassment in accounting. It refers to “this for that” sexual harassment, in which the harasser is offering something in exchange for the completion of a sexual request. Quid pro quo sexual harassment in accounting can look like a boss, manager or someone else offering a lower-ranking employee benefits in return for sexual favors. It does not matter what the request is or whether you accept or deny the offer. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is against the law in California in accounting and every other industry.

Hostile Work Environment

The line between inappropriate conduct and unlawful sexual harassment is if it created a hostile work environment for anyone in the accounting workplace. According to federal law, something will only meet the definition of sexual harassment if it is severe or consistent enough to create a hostile work environment. In other words, someone in the accounting industry must feel as though they cannot work due to fear, threats, intimidation or a workplace that is so unwelcoming as to make it difficult to work. If a type of conduct only occurred once, it is most likely not sexual harassment unless the action was severe. In general, the harassment must be so persistent as to create a hostile workspace.

Accountant Sexual Harassment Retaliation

Although it is normal to worry about retaliation for reporting sexual harassment in accounting, know that state law protects you from retaliation as it does from harassment and discrimination. Retaliation refers to a boss or employer punishing an employee for coming forward with a sexual harassment claim. If you faced adverse employment actions after reporting sexual harassment at work in California, such as a demotion or job termination, speak to a sexual harassment lawyer in California about a possible retaliation lawsuit.

Preventing Sexual Harassment in Accounting

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, every employer in the state must have protocols and systems in place for preventing sexual harassment. Employers must properly train new employees and keep information posted publicly throughout the office about how to prevent and report sexual harassment. The finance industry is no exception. Preventing sexual harassment in accounting takes a proactive approach by employers and higher-ups within the company. If you do not think your employer is abiding by the requirements of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, you can file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

What to Do if You Become a Victim of Accountant Sexual Harassment

If you have experienced any type of sexual harassment or discrimination as an accountant in California, speak up within your workplace right away. Go to the Human Resources Department to submit a formal complaint. Then, file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for further investigation. Reporting sexual harassment right away increases your chances of receiving restitution for the crime. It can also save others in your department from similar experiences.

Compensation for Accountant Sexual Harassment Victims

If you are someone who has dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace in accounting, you may be eligible for financial compensation. The California civil justice system allows you to seek compensation from your employer for sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. To receive compensation, you must demonstrate that the sexual advances were unwelcome. You must also show that the harassment resulted in damages for which you are seeking compensation. The recovery available in a California sexual harassment claim can include lost wages, emotional distress, loss of work, medical costs, therapy costs and other damages.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Pursuing a sexual harassment claim in California can be difficult alone. Insurance companies take lawyers more seriously than unrepresented plaintiffs. Taking a stand against your employer in the accounting industry may take assistance from an attorney. If you wish to learn more about sexual harassment in accounting or your specific case, contact Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for a free consultation. We can determine what type of award is possible for your claim, if any.