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What Is Inappropriate Touching at Work?

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms – all of which are against the law and can be significantly disruptive to a victim’s career.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms – all of which are against the law and can be significantly disruptive to a victim’s career. Inappropriate touching is a broad phrase that can refer to many actions and behaviors. It is a common form of workplace harassment in California. If you have experienced inappropriate touching at work, it is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible for legal assistance. You may be eligible to file a lawsuit.

Examples of Inappropriate Touching

Any contact that takes place between you and someone else at your occupation – a coworker, manager, boss, supervisor, customer or another party – should always be strictly professional or consensual. It should never make you feel uncomfortable, threatened, intimidated, taken advantage of or assaulted. It should also not result in any type of harm, such as bruising from violence. Any type of touching that is unwanted, violent or makes you feel uncomfortable constitutes inappropriate touching. Examples include:

  • Handholding
  • Putting a hand on your thigh 
  • Giving massages
  • Stroking your face
  • Touching of private parts
  • Groping
  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Invading your personal space
  • Physically assaulting you
  • Any type of unwanted sexual contact

In the workplace, the best practice is to avoid touching coworkers altogether. Others at your work should keep their hands to themselves and remain professional. Almost any type of touching can be deemed inappropriate if it makes the person being touched feel uncomfortable, unsafe or the target of sexual harassment. The touching does not have to be sexual in nature to be inappropriate. The incident also does not have to take place in the office to qualify as workplace sexual harassment. Inappropriate touching at a work function outside of the office, such as at a business trip or staff party, can also qualify.

What to Do About Inappropriate Touching at Work in California

If you are a victim of inappropriate touching at your place of work in California, take immediate steps to remedy the issue. You have legal rights and options that you should protect. If you can, take the following steps:

  1. Talk to the person. If you feel safe doing so, talk to the person who touched you inappropriately. Explain that the touching makes you uncomfortable and that you wish him or her to cease. Sometimes, a perpetrator does not realize how his or her actions are being perceived.
  2. Document your experience. If a conversation is not enough to solve the problem, start documenting everything. Write down a detailed account of every incident of unwanted touching, including who touched you and whether there were any witnesses.
  3. Report the behavior to your supervisor or the Human Resources Department. Go to a higher-up in your company to file an official complaint about the inappropriate touching. The company should take action to protect you, remedy the issue and penalize the offender. If not, file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  4. Contact an attorney. Federal law states that an act must be persistent or severe enough to create a hostile work environment to qualify as sexual harassment. This means that while one isolated incident, such as a coworker brushing up against you, might not qualify, consistent inappropriate touching or a severe example could give you the right to file a sexual harassment claim.
  5. File a lawsuit. If you have grounds to file a sexual harassment or discrimination claim for inappropriate touching at work, an attorney can help you with the legal process. Your lawyer can thoroughly investigate your situation, collect evidence, speak to eyewitnesses and file claims paperwork on your behalf. An attorney can also answer your questions and explain your legal rights along the way for greater peace of mind.

If you are a victim of inappropriate touching at work in Los Angeles, contact the California sexual harassment lawyers at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi today. We offer free initial consultations to potential clients.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.