Although it unfortunately does happen, few managers themselves would engage in behavior that would be considered sexual harassment.
Likewise, other supervisory personnel may be too scared, or too clever, to outright punish an employee for not consenting to sexual acts.
California businesses of all kinds can still run into serious legal trouble, however, if they do not take steps to be sure thatlower level supervisors, employees and even contractors and customers cross the line into inappropriate behavior.
The reason is that employers can be liable, at least under federal law, for allowing a hostile work environment at the workplace. A hostile work environment is any set of workplace actions or words that would lead a reasonable to feel intimidated or abused.
Comprehensive sexual harassment policies protect employers from liability
Employers are not expected to stop every single incident of sexual harassment.
However, in order to avoid liability, they will need to show that they had a process in place under which an employee can complain about sexual harassment and have that complaint addressed.
On a related point, the employer will also need to have a strict policy against sexual harassment and enforce it consistently. This is because an employer has an obligation under federal law to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.
It is also worth pointing out that California has its own laws prohibiting sexual harassment. Employers need to be aware of these laws since they frequently go above and beyond federal standards.
An employer can go a long way in protecting itself and its employees by having a comprehensive sexual harassment policy and by following it without exception. An employer may want to have legal assistance when taking these steps.