Sexual Harassment in Construction

If you are a construction worker or building contractor, you may face sexual harassment or discrimination at work. Working with individual homeowners and small business owners can result in unwelcome and dangerous sexual harassment scenarios. You could be victimized by your employer, a construction site manager, a coworker, a contractor or a vendor. This is a complicated area of sexual harassment law that can be difficult to navigate on your own. You may need assistance from a sexual harassment lawyer in California.

The Dark Reality of Sexual Harassment in Construction 

Construction is an enormous industry in the United States, valued at around $1.36 trillion in 2020. Southern California alone is home to hundreds of thousands of construction workers. Construction workers and contractors are in high demand in California, both in big city commercial construction and rural and suburban areas. Contractors may work on their own or they may be part of a larger construction company. If you work in construction in any capacity, you could be at risk of on-the-job sexual harassment.

The definition of sexual harassment is unwanted or inappropriate sexual advances or behaviors toward a victim, often in the workplace. Sexual harassment can involve physical or nonphysical acts, including verbal abuse or sexual touching. You could suffer sexual harassment as a contractor or construction worker from your coworkers or clients. Working in someone’s home alone or unsupervised, for example, could put you at risk of sexual harassment or assault from the homeowner. As part of a larger company, you could experience sexual harassment from clients or your coworkers – especially if your employer does nothing to prevent a workplace culture of harassment and discrimination.

Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Statistically, female employees in construction are more at risk of sexual harassment, assault, abuse and rape than their male counterparts. Female construction workers make up the minority in this sector, far outnumbered by male coworkers. Female employees may be viewed as more vulnerable by male coworkers and managers. However, male contractors can also suffer sexual harassment and assault at work. These crimes can come from managers and supervisors as well as lower-stationed workers and civilians or clients.

There are two categories of sexual harassment in construction: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo means, “this for that,” or making sexual requests in exchange for favors or promises. A construction site manager might ask a contractor out to dinner, for instance, with the promise of promoting her if she accepts. Quid pro quo can make a victim feel trapped into accepting an offer for fear of losing his or her job or facing other forms of retaliation.

A hostile work environment means a workplace where sexually offensive acts and behaviors are so common or severe that a reasonable person would find the atmosphere abusive and unproductive. If you feel that a construction job is impossible to complete because of a workplace culture or environment that is hostile, intimidating, threatening, abusive or dangerous, you are a victim of sexual harassment – even if you are not the person being targeted. Anyone who has to work in a hostile work environment can file a sexual harassment claim in California.

Common Examples of Sexual Harassment in Construction

Sexual harassment in the construction industry can take many forms. It can affect anyone, but harassers are statistically more likely to target women, people of color, indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Sexual harassment can include a man harassing a woman, a woman harassing a man, a man harassing a fellow man or any other combination. Some examples of sexual harassment in construction are:

  • An executive at a construction company hits on an assistant and asks her out on a date. When she declines, she’s demoted to a lower position.
  • Construction workers who are implicitly expected to put up with an older boss who is known for making inappropriate sexual advances, flirtations and remarks.
  • During a home renovation project, the homeowner continually makes inappropriate sexual jokes or teases one of the construction workers, making him uncomfortable.
  • Multiple construction workers gang up to bully one of their coworkers, such as by sending him sexually explicit images or using offensive language.
  • A vendor for construction materials has offered a contractor a price discount in exchange for a date or sexual favors.

In some cases, sexual harassment in construction can be followed or accompanied by sexual assault, abuse or rape. An employer, coworker or client could engage in unwanted sexual touching, groping, kissing, hugging or intercourse with a victim. Sex crimes such as rape can occur during a construction job or other activities related to work, such as meetings or work trips.

What to Do if You’re Being Sexual Harassed at Your Construction Job

If you’re suffering any form of sexual harassment, discrimination or assault at your construction job in California, take prompt action to protect yourself and report to the harasser. Sexual harassment is not a joke or something that you have to put up with. State and federal laws exist to protect you from being sexually harassed. Take the following steps to properly respond to sexual harassment in construction:

  1. Talk to the perpetrator. It is possible that the person harassing you is unaware of the effects that their jokes or behaviors are having. Telling the individual that they have to stop may be enough to resolve the problem.
  2. Document everything. Do your best to record incidents of sexual harassment. Write down a detailed description of events and who was involved. If you report the harassment, write down who you spoke to and how they handled your complaint.
  3. Report it to your employer. Report the sexual harassment to your employer or construction site manager. The construction company should have protocols in place for promptly dealing with these complaints and punishing perpetrators.
  4. Make a formal complaint. Whether you are employed or self-employed, you can file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or California Department of Fair Employment & Housing. These agencies can investigate your workplace sexual harassment claim and take remedial action.

Contact an attorney if you are dealing with sexual harassment at your job in construction or as a building contractor. A California sexual harassment attorney can give you advice about what to do next and how to protect your rights. An attorney can go up against a harasser and/or construction company in pursuit of justice and financial compensation on your behalf.