When Does Workplace Bullying Become Harassment?

Bullying in the workplace can rapidly create a toxic environment–or it may be part of an overall toxic environment to begin with. Unfortunately, an average 19% of adults have personally experienced bullying in the workplace, and another 19% have noticed bullying happening to someone else. Worse, sometimes bullying crosses the line into harassment, causing even more serious concerns–not to mention potential legal repercussions.

Has bullying crossed over into harassment in your workplace? 

Bullying Vs. Harassment: Isolated Incidents vs. Ongoing Problems

If you hear a racial slur or experience perceived gender inequality once, it is likely just bullying–frequently from an office bully who does not get his way. On the other hand, if you notice ongoing examples of the same behavior, it could constitute workplace harassment. Report any concerning behaviors to your HR department or contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your next steps. 

Common Harassment Behaviors

An estimated 54% of women have reported workplace harassment. Minorities may also experience high degrees of harassment, especially in a workplace made up of a high quantity of another race. Workplace bullying may cross into harassment when any of these behaviors are evident. 

An individual frequently uses racial or gender-based slurs. 

Sometimes, people may use slurs due to a lack of knowledge. They may simply fail to note the word as offensive the first time it is used. After frequent repetition and reprimands, however, it becomes obvious that the individual is deliberately harassing specific people within the workplace. This behavior can constitute harassment even if the individual uses the common, “I was just kidding!” or, “I didn’t mean anything by it!” 

You feel physically intimidated by a bully.

Men, in particular, often use their greater physical size and strength to try to bring someone else in line with their wishes. You may notice someone deliberately looming over you or using aggressive behaviors that put you on your guard or suggest that if you do not comply with the individual’s demands, you will have to enter a physical altercation. 

An individual regularly posts or shares offensive pictures or content. 

Some content simply does not belong in the workplace–including any content that belittles someone or makes them feel uncomfortable. If you have a coworker who shares these materials on a regular basis, especially one in a position of authority, that coworker has already crossed the line into harassment. This includes content set as a backdrop on company machines, shared in company chats, or sent through emails or private messages. 

An individual engages in mockery or ridiculing behavior, especially toward a specific individual.

Some bullies deliberately engage in mockery or ridicule others because they want to create a response. They may generalize those behaviors toward anyone, target specific groups of people, or even target specific individuals. If you feel uncomfortable due to repeated jabs or comments, you may already have suffered workplace bullying. 

The behavior interferes with your ability to complete your job duties.

It’s not uncommon, in a toxic work environment, for employees to disengage. They may stop putting forth as much effort at work or struggle to keep up with their usual job responsibilities. It may become increasingly difficult for anyone in the workplace, especially targets of bullying or harassment, to get things done. Bullying and harassment can also specifically interfere with many job tasks, especially if the bully tries to force you to take on additional work. 

What Should You Do If You Face Harassment at Work?

Many people have no idea what to do when they face harassment at work. Should you report it? If the bully or harasser is in a position of power, you may fear that you will lose your job. Should you ask the bully to stop? What if it makes the behavior worse, instead? No one should have to live with bullying or harassment in the workplace. To help keep your work environment safer, follow these steps. 

1. Ask the individual to stop.

Do not engage in confrontation. Do, however, let the bully know that the behavior you have observed is unacceptable. Sometimes, people simply need to be educated about the power of their words and behaviors. Other times, simply showing that you do not intend to take that treatment silently can improve many of those behaviors. 

2. Report the behavior to HR.

Depending on the behavior, you may want to report to your Human Resources department as soon as you observe it. For example, if you notice someone using racial or gendered slurs, you may want to report the behavior sooner rather than later. Sometimes, especially if you feel that addressing the bully directly may put you in danger, you may want to report the behavior to HR anonymously and let them deal with it. 

3. Document everything.

Any time you witness or experience harassment, document it extensively. The more evidence you have, the harder it can prove to turn that behavior around on you. You may want to note dates, times, specific language used, or any behaviors that made you feel uncomfortable. Take screenshots of harassing messages. If you have recordings of taunts or other harassing behaviors, including video recordings of physical intimidation, save them to use as evidence later. You may want to make copies of any particularly important information and store it off-site or with your lawyer. 

4. Contact an attorney.

If you experience ongoing harassment at work, you may have legal rights regarding compensation and employment. Your employer also cannot terminate you for calling out harassment, even if you call out your boss or management team. Contact an attorney to learn more about your legal rights and how you should respond following serious harassment in the workplace.

Bullying in the workplace can rapidly create a toxic environment–or it may be part of an overall toxic environment to begin with. Unfortunately, an average 19% of adults have personally experienced bullying in the workplace, and another 19% have noticed bullying happening to someone else. Worse, sometimes bullying crosses the line into harassment, causing even more serious concerns–not to mention potential legal repercussions.

Has bullying crossed over into harassment in your workplace? 

Bullying Vs. Harassment: Isolated Incidents vs. Ongoing Problems

If you hear a racial slur or experience perceived gender inequality once, it is likely just bullying–frequently from an office bully who does not get his way. On the other hand, if you notice ongoing examples of the same behavior, it could constitute workplace harassment. Report any concerning behaviors to your HR department or contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your next steps. 

Common Harassment Behaviors

An estimated 54% of women have reported workplace harassment. Minorities may also experience high degrees of harassment, especially in a workplace made up of a high quantity of another race. Workplace bullying may cross into harassment when any of these behaviors are evident. 

An individual frequently uses racial or gender-based slurs. 

Sometimes, people may use slurs due to a lack of knowledge. They may simply fail to note the word as offensive the first time it is used. After frequent repetition and reprimands, however, it becomes obvious that the individual is deliberately harassing specific people within the workplace. This behavior can constitute harassment even if the individual uses the common, “I was just kidding!” or, “I didn’t mean anything by it!” 

You feel physically intimidated by a bully.

Men, in particular, often use their greater physical size and strength to try to bring someone else in line with their wishes. You may notice someone deliberately looming over you or using aggressive behaviors that put you on your guard or suggest that if you do not comply with the individual’s demands, you will have to enter a physical altercation. 

An individual regularly posts or shares offensive pictures or content. 

Some content simply does not belong in the workplace–including any content that belittles someone or makes them feel uncomfortable. If you have a coworker who shares these materials on a regular basis, especially one in a position of authority, that coworker has already crossed the line into harassment. This includes content set as a backdrop on company machines, shared in company chats, or sent through emails or private messages. 

An individual engages in mockery or ridiculing behavior, especially toward a specific individual.

Some bullies deliberately engage in mockery or ridicule others because they want to create a response. They may generalize those behaviors toward anyone, target specific groups of people, or even target specific individuals. If you feel uncomfortable due to repeated jabs or comments, you may already have suffered workplace bullying. 

The behavior interferes with your ability to complete your job duties.

It’s not uncommon, in a toxic work environment, for employees to disengage. They may stop putting forth as much effort at work or struggle to keep up with their usual job responsibilities. It may become increasingly difficult for anyone in the workplace, especially targets of bullying or harassment, to get things done. Bullying and harassment can also specifically interfere with many job tasks, especially if the bully tries to force you to take on additional work. 

What Should You Do If You Face Harassment at Work?

Many people have no idea what to do when they face harassment at work. Should you report it? If the bully or harasser is in a position of power, you may fear that you will lose your job. Should you ask the bully to stop? What if it makes the behavior worse, instead? No one should have to live with bullying or harassment in the workplace. To help keep your work environment safer, follow these steps. 

1. Ask the individual to stop.

Do not engage in confrontation. Do, however, let the bully know that the behavior you have observed is unacceptable. Sometimes, people simply need to be educated about the power of their words and behaviors. Other times, simply showing that you do not intend to take that treatment silently can improve many of those behaviors. 

2. Report the behavior to HR.

Depending on the behavior, you may want to report to your Human Resources department as soon as you observe it. For example, if you notice someone using racial or gendered slurs, you may want to report the behavior sooner rather than later. Sometimes, especially if you feel that addressing the bully directly may put you in danger, you may want to report the behavior to HR anonymously and let them deal with it. 

3. Document everything.

Any time you witness or experience harassment, document it extensively. The more evidence you have, the harder it can prove to turn that behavior around on you. You may want to note dates, times, specific language used, or any behaviors that made you feel uncomfortable. Take screenshots of harassing messages. If you have recordings of taunts or other harassing behaviors, including video recordings of physical intimidation, save them to use as evidence later. You may want to make copies of any particularly important information and store it off-site or with your lawyer. 

4. Contact an attorney.

If you experience ongoing harassment at work, you may have legal rights regarding compensation and employment. Your employer also cannot terminate you for calling out harassment, even if you call out your boss or management team. Contact an attorney to learn more about your legal rights and how you should respond following serious harassment in the workplace.

One bully or ongoing harassment from a single person can quickly turn even the best work environment upside down. As an employee, you do not have to tolerate that behavior. Contact Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation to learn more about your legal rights following workplace harassment. 

The Top Circumstances That Cause a Toxic Work Environment

In a toxic work environment, employees often struggle with productivity and motivation. Worse, a toxic work environment can cause a host of physical and emotional health problems, many of which can have substantial impact on your life outside of work. An average 1 in 5 Americans have left a job within the past five years due to a toxic workplace environment. Around 26% of American workers note that they dread going in to work every day.

Are you dealing with a toxic work environment, often as a result of poor management choices and an overall poor culture in your workplace? Take a look at these top 5 circumstances that can create a drain on your work and personal life. 

1. Harassment and Discrimination

Any time your office environment marginalizes or targets minorities, from people of a specific gender to those of a specific race or religion, it can cause tension to ride high. Between 25% and 85% of American women have faced sexual harassment in the workplace, depending on the description of harassment. Women may be blocked for promotions, ignored for certain jobs or tasks, or have to deal with casual sexual harassment from their colleagues.

Minorities, especially people of color, also continue to face discrimination in many workplaces. Minorities may have a harder time securing a job at all in certain industries, or they may have a harder time getting promoted. They may also face direct harassment from racist team members. 

Not only do harassment and discrimination cause problems for the targeted group, they can increase tension in other groups, as well. Savvy managers show zero tolerance for those behaviors to help maintain a better overall working environment. 

2. Office Drama

Drama in the workplace can have a substantial impact. A single toxic employee, including one prone to gossip or causing problems, can cause decreases in productivity across the office environment. Half of employees decrease work effort or spend less time at work due to toxic hiring decisions. Others may take their frustrations out on customers, or simply lose track of time at work while worrying about the behavior of a toxic employee.

Office drama can stem from in-office romances, disputes between employees, or management team members who seem to have something against other members of the team. Ongoing office drama can lead to an overall unproductive office–not to mention one where employees simply do not feel safe. 

3. Lack of Communication in the Office

In a solid office environment, employees know who they need to go to with problems–and they trust that problems will be taken care of quickly. Communication needs to go both ways in the office. Not only do managers need to communicate with employees to keep them informed of what is going on in the workplace, including policy changes and potential challenges, employees need to be able to communicate with their management team. They should not fear that they will be punished for a lack of understanding, but rather that they will receive support from their management team to fix any problems they may face. 

Poor communication can quickly create toxicity in the workplace. Employees may talk to one another, rather than talking to and trusting their managers. This talking can quickly move to grumbling, complaining, or workplace drama, which may, in turn, increase the toxicity level in the office. 

4. Lack of HR Support

A company’s HR department can go a long way toward creating the support that employees need in order to succeed. HR is a critical investment for most employers. HR should take care of employee training, including providing employees with both the resources they need to excel at their chosen professions and the resources they need to help avoid a toxic work environment. 

An effective HR team will also address any toxic situations as quickly and effectively as possible. Sometimes, HR may ignore problems until they become much more serious, causing resentment to grow and employees to struggle in their work environments. If those situations are allowed to continue, it can prove much more difficult to reverse the damage. On the other hand, if HR steps in early and proactively addresses any potential challenges, it can often create a safer, more secure working environment for everyone involved. 

5. High Employee Turnover

High employee turnover is one quick sign of a toxic work environment, since a toxic environment can cause employees to quickly leave in an effort to escape their current situations. Equally, however, high levels of employee turnover can lead to a toxic work environment, especially if the management team has unrealistic expectations of the remaining employees. 

When employees leave, the management team must quickly find new hires to take their place. This leads to several key problems. First, in the meantime, the remaining team members must take on that additional workload. This may mean increased hours or more tasks to take care of during the work day. At its worst, this can increase the risk of employee burnout. 

In order to alleviate that strain, many managers will try to rush the hiring process. Unfortunately, this raises the risk of hiring toxic team members. In some cases, employers may hire team members who simply do not have the skills necessary to complete a particular job. 

Finally, new team members may require substantial training before they can meet the standards expected by the employer. In the meantime, the remaining employees may need to pick up the slack and take care of any tasks that the new hires cannot do, further increasing the strain on existing employees. It can also take time for employees to truly mesh with one another in a new environment, which can further increase workplace stress. 

Minor periods of workplace difficulty can increase employee stress substantially. Working in a toxic environment, on the other hand, can cause immense challenges for employees, including steadily decreasing mental and physical health. If you have encountered problems stemming from a toxic work environment, contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.

What is LGBTQ Discrimination in the Workplace?

Roughly one in five LGBTQ individuals in the U.S. reports having been discriminated against for their sexuality or gender identity when applying for a job, and nearly the same amount report being passed over for a promotion due to their sexuality or gender identity or have received unequal pay as a result. Nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ individuals participating in a study noted that they were less likely to be afforded job opportunities where they live due to their LGBTQ status.

LGBTQ discrimination is a serious problem. It is also illegal, thanks to state and federal laws that prohibit employers from using an individual’s sexual preference or gender identity as a reason to fire, demote, or avoid hiring a qualified applicant. Read on for more information about these laws and how they impact you.

A History of Discrimination

There are approximately 8.1 million LGBTQ workers over the age of 16 in the U.S. Around half of those workers still live in states where there are currently no statutory protections against workplace discrimination involving sexual preference or gender identity. 

In spite of a Constitution that asserts equal rights and services for all U.S. citizens, those of the LGBTQ community are no strangers to discrimination, even from U.S. presidents. For example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order in 1953 that prevented “sexual perversion” in federal workplaces and was used by the military to prevent LGBTQ individuals from serving in the military for the next 40 years.

With the advent of President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 1993, federal employers were prevented from asking the sexual preference of an employee. However, the policy still required the LGBTQ employee to keep his or her gender preference or sexual identity a secret. This policy remained in place until 2010, when it was officially repealed and LGBTQ individuals were permitted to be open about their sexuality while serving.

Federal and State Protections for the LGBTQ Community

For the estimated 1.94 million LGBTQ workers in California, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act along with Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act make it illegal in this state for an employer to fire, demote, fail to hire or promote, harass or otherwise discriminate against you in the workplace due to your sexual preference, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Some of the protections you are afforded because these laws are in place include:

  • The protection against harassment by your employer or coworkers that is based on your sexual preference, gender identity, or gender expression. This includes protecting you against a work environment that is hostile, offensive, or intimidating to the point that it interferes with your ability to work.
  • The right to identify and express your gender at work as you wish. California’s law requires your employer to respect your right to express your gender and/or gender identity as you choose, including using your requested pronouns and name, regardless of whether you have legally changed your name or pronouns. 
  • You are granted the right to come out at work, if you choose. You are also granted the right to transition at work, and your employer — once made aware by you of this transition — is prohibited from mistreating you because of that transition.
  • You have the right to use the restroom at work that corresponds with your gender identity and your employer is not allowed to dictate the restroom that you use. If the restrooms in your workplace are single stall, they must be designated as “unisex” or gender neutral.
  • Your employer cannot ask about your sexual preference or gender identity during an employment interview and, if health insurance is provided through your employment, you cannot be prevented from seeking or obtaining gender-affirming care.

There are a number of other provisions included in these laws, such as the prohibition of employers from preventing a LGBTQ employee from seeking health insurance coverage for his or her same-sex spouse or domestic partner, and preventing employers from retaliating against an employee for filing a complaint about mistreatment in the workplace.

In California, if you file a complaint against an employer for LGBTQ discrimination with the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing within three years of when the alleged discrimination took place and it is discovered you were, in fact, discriminated against, you can be entitled to lost earnings, both past and future; reinstatement at your job; promotion; payment of out-of-pocket expenses; policy changes; training; reasonable accommodations; compensation for emotional distress that was suffered as a result of the discrimination; punitive damages; and the fees associated with hiring an attorney to represent your case. Those who wish to file their own employment discrimination lawsuit rather than using the Department of Fair Employment and Housing investigations process are able to obtain a right-to-sue notice from the department in order to engage in that legal process.

Exceptions to the Law

There are very few exceptions to the state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual preference in the workplace. Those exceptions include:

  • Certain employees of religious institutions such as churches or mosques.
  • Employees of very small businesses. The state protections against discrimination apply only to employers with five or more employees and federal protections are applicable to employees of businesses who have at least 15 employees.

Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation Can Help

Suffering discrimination in the workplace due to your gender identity, gender expression, or sexual preference is a frightening and frustrating experience. Let our experienced employment attorneys help you to understand the process of holding discriminatory employers accountable while retaining your right to equality in employment and the wages and benefits that you worked hard to earn. We will explore the option of a DFEH investigation as well as an independent lawsuit against your employer to determine the process that is right for you. Contact us online for more information or by calling 916-446-2000.

The Top 10 Reasons People Get Fired

With some notable exceptions, California is an at-will employment state. What this means is that your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason. Obviously, there are some very common reasons for termination of employment, including the top ten reasons listed below.

1. Poor Work Performance

Poor work performance is the most commonly cited reason for an employee’s termination, and is a catch-all term that refers to a number of issues, including failure to do the job properly or adequately even after undergoing the standard training period for new employees, failing to meet quotas, requiring constant supervision, or requiring that the work be redone.

2. Misconduct

Certain types of misconduct not only will result in being fired from your job, but can also put you at risk of facing legal consequences, as well. Behaviors that qualify as employee misconduct include physical or sexual harassment of co-workers or customers, bullying, fraud, and neglect. More than 20 percent of employees know or have worked with someone who has been fired for wasting time or disrupting other employees at the office.

3. Chronic Lateness/ Absence

If you are regularly half an hour late for work or you take a lot of time off, it places a burden on your employer and co-workers, as they are tasked with picking up the slack caused by your absence in order to prevent a loss of productivity. Around 22 percent of U.S. employers have fired an employee for providing a fake excuse when calling in sick, and 41 percent have fired an employee for showing up late.

4. Company Policy Violations

Companies do not simply create policies for their own benefit. Many times, the company’s policies are required through governmental and industry regulations and violations of those policies will leave your employer with little choice but to take verbal or written disciplinary action or to terminate your employment. Other company policies, such as the dress code, the company’s view on romantic relationships between co-workers, and the company’s view on social media use are important guidelines for you to read carefully upon accepting the job to ensure that you are able to uphold those policies.

5. Drug or Alcohol Use at Work

In spite of the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in California, the drug still remains illegal at the federal level and many employers participate in the Federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which provides a number of benefits for the employer and results in mandated drug testing when an employee is hired, randomly throughout employment, and if the employee suffers an on-the-job injury. Approximately 70 percent of the 14.8 million individuals who abuse drugs are employed. The use of drugs and alcohol during work results in lost productivity, an increased risk of injury, and will generally cost you your job.

6. Personal Use of Company Property

 Usually, a company will allow an employee a single or limited use of a copier in order to copy a personal document. However, frequent personal use of copiers, office supplies, printers, and laptops for your personal use — or, worse, your “side gig” — will likely be viewed as theft and can result in the loss of your employment.

7. Theft or Property Damage

Taking anything — even pens or paper — from your company for personal use is not only a fire-able offense, but it can also result in legal troubles for you, as well. Additionally, as an employee, you are expected to treat company property with care. Being careless with your work laptop, the copy machine, and other equipment can also jeopardize your employment.

8. Falsifying Company Records

Providing false information on company records not only places your employment at risk, but could also create risk for the entire company, particularly if the records are financial in nature or pertain to industry regulations. Worse, falsifying information can — in some industries and depending on the nature of the document — place your coworkers and customers at risk of financial loss, injury, or even death.

9. Inappropriate Use of Social Media

Social media has been both extraordinarily beneficial in the workplace for its ability to connect people with the products and services they need, as well as extraordinarily harmful in terms of the legal risk that inappropriate social media use on-the-job can result in as well as the loss of productivity created by employees who are spending time scrolling when they should be working. Around one-third of U.S. employers have disciplined an employee for violating the company’s social media policy, and 17 percent have fired an employee for something they posted on social media.

10. Insubordination

While most employers look for employees who are able to think for themselves and offer ideas or insights as to how to improve the workplace, there tends to be a firm line drawn when it comes to insubordinate actions, such as repeatedly or disrespectfully arguing with the manager or other co-workers, outright refusing to obey orders from a manager, or otherwise exhibiting behaviors that obstruct the normal flow of business. There is a notable exception to insubordination, and that is when an employee refuses an order from a manager that would result in a violation of the law or of public policy. Generally, in these circumstances, federal whistleblower laws protect the employee from termination.

Were You Wrongfully Terminated?

As stated, there are exclusions from the at-will employment rule in California.  Some of those exclusions include:

  • Termination of an employee who is under written or employed contract and has met the provisions of that contract.
  • Employees who belong to a union and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that lays out the standard of termination.
  • Employees whose employers have said or done things that overcome the presumption of at will, such as a progressive discipline policy.

If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated or you have been falsely accused of any of the behaviors listed above, our experienced employment attorney can explain your legal options. Contact Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation, online or by calling 916-446-2000 to discuss your case.

Preserving Your Rights: Filing a Timely Sexual Harassment Claim

While we might like to believe that sexual harassment doesn’t occur very often, that is unfortunately not true. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives approximately 7,000 claims of sexual harassment each year — and this number only represents workplace harassment that is reported. Sexual harassment is not reported far too often — and even when it is reported, sometimes the victim can’t recover because they have waited to long to bring the claim.

Read on to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and important considerations for bringing a timely claim to ensure you don’t lose the opportunity hold the perpetrator accountable.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Broadly defined, sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior that is:

  • Made a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Used as a basis for employment decisions affecting an individual; or
  • Unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment

While there is no exhaustive list of behaviors that constitute sexual harassment, examples include:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault;
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors;
  • Unwanted deliberate leaning over, cornering, touching, or pinching;
  • Unwanted sexual gestures or looks;
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions;
  • Pressure for dates;
  • Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks; and
  • Spreading rumors or telling lies about an individual’s sex life

Sexual harassment reports in California are higher than the national average, by 5% for women and 10% for men. More than 86% of women and 53% of men in California reported experience some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Verbal sexual harassment is most common, followed by physically aggressive forms of sexual harassment and cyber sexual harassment. Marginalized populations including foreign-born men, lesbian and bisexual women, and gay and bisexual men all report increased rates of harassment or assault.

How Long Do I Have to Report Sexual Harassment?

Every state places a limit on the amount of time a victim has to file a claim for sexual harassment, called the statute of limitations. In 2020, California tripled the amount of time an employee has to file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) after an alleged violation. Previously, an individual only had one year from the date of the incident to report a violation. The law now allows employees three years to file a claim after the incident occurred.

The extension of the statute of limitations is intended to address the unique concerns associated with sexual harassment, including victim’s need for significant time to come to terms with the incident and to feel comfortable coming forward. Sexual harassment victims often also face serious concerns of retaliation.

Even though the statute of limitations has been extended, it is important to file a claim as soon as the victim is able. The more time that passes, the more likely evidence will be lost or witnesses memories will become hazy. An experienced attorney will work with you to prepare your claim and ease the stress associated with the process. Additionally, if you were the victim of sexual harassment in 2019, it is important to bring your claim as soon as possible.

How Do I Initiate a Claim?

Once you have confirmed that the statute of limitations has not passed, you will need to file a sexual harassment claim. If you have experienced sexual harassment, take the following steps:

  • Be familiar with your employer’s sexual harassment policy;
  • Document evidence of the harassment, including witnesses, after it occurs, including putting all complaints in writing;
  • Notify your employer about the harassment in whatever manner advised in the sexual harassment policy, or, if no policy exists, to a human resource or other responsible employee; and
  • File a complaint with either the DFEH or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — a lawyer can help you determine which agency should receive your claim;

After a complaint is filed with DFEH, the department will evaluate the facts and decide whether the complaint warrants further investigation. Once accepted, the DFEH will investigate the facts and legal issues and determine whether to pursue a complaint on your behalf.

You also have the option to file your own lawsuit for employment discrimination instead of using the DFEH investigation process. You will need to complete a Right to Sue notice. It is important to work with an experienced lawyer if you choose to pursue action against outside the DFEH investigation process.

Preventing Workplace Harassment

Employers should take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, including having a clear sexual harassment policy. The policy should include a clear and safe reporting path for employees who have suffered sexual harassment, including appropriate assurances that the employee will not suffer retaliation.

California requires every employer of more than five employees to provide one hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention to non-supervisory employees and two hours of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to supervisors and managers once every two years. The training must include practical examples of harassment in a variety of categories including gender identify, gender expression, and sexual orientation. This training requirement is the minimum standard required of employers. If employers identify a need for additional training, they should take steps to provide the necessary training.

In addition to trainings and policies, employers must take active steps to discourage inappropriate jokes or other actions that create an environment that accepts or encourages sexual harassment.

Contact a Lawyer Immediately

One of the most important steps you can take after becoming the victim of sexual harassment is to contact an experienced attorney. At Perkins Asbill, our lawyers believe that every case matters and treat their responsibilities as more than a job. We are focused on protecting the rights of employees from all backgrounds and industries and believe that every employee deserves competent representation to enforce his or her rights.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in California, contact Perkins Asbill today at 916-446-2000 or through our website to schedule a consultation.

Understand Reasonable Accommodation and Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Federal law provides few protections for workers. However, a candidate cannot be excluded from consideration for a job nor can an employee be discriminated against in their job for religious reasons. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects you as a job application or a current employee to be free of religious discrimination during the hiring process or during your employment. 

Not only does this law promise you that you will not be discriminated against for your religion, it also provides for reasonable accommodation that your employer must take. Because of this, religious discrimination and reasonable accommodation claims often go hand in hand. If you think you may have been discriminated against because of your religion, you need to speak with an experienced Sacramento employment law attorney today who can help you right this wrong.

Religious Discrimination

Unfortunately for many people, religious discrimination in the workplace happens often and goes unreported. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) manages religious discrimination complaints. The EEOC fields over 3000 complaints each year. 

Religious discrimination can take many forms. The most common examples include:

  • Refusing to hire an applicant because of their religion
  • Terminating an employee because of their religion
  • Paying an employee less because of their religion
  • Refusing to promote an employee because of their religion

Religious discrimination may come to light at any point during the hiring process or during your employment with a company. If you have been denied employment or a promotion because of your religion, you may have a claim against the company for religious discrimination. To find out for sure, you need to speak with a skilled employment lawyer in Sacramento today who can help you understand and protect your rights.

Reasonable Accommodation

Religious discrimination is pretty clear cut. Reasonable accommodation, however, is less transparent. Based on an employee’s legitimate religious beliefs, an employer must make reasonable accommodation to protect your right to practice your religion. Many religions require certain practices, dress, or grooming.

Employers often violate employee’s rights and fail to make reasonable accommodation by:

  • Requiring employees to work on religious holidays
  • Not allowing prayer breaks
  • Banning certain head wear
  • Prohibiting facial hair or hairstyles
  • Not allowing schedule changes or time off for religious holidays

When a business fails to take certain steps to reasonably accommodate employees with religious beliefs, the business may violate Title VII. This could give rise to your religious beliefs being discriminated against, leaving you feeling harassed and embarrassed by your employer. 

You do not have to stand for this. You have a protected right to practice your religion and your employer must make reasonable accommodation for you to do so. When they do not, you need to partner with a trusted employment lawyer who can help you right this wrong.

Cause of Action

When you have suffered religious discrimination in the workplace, you may file a discrimination claim against the company. To be successful in your cause of action, you must show:

  • You have a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement
  • You have told your employer about your belief
  • You suffered adverse employment action as a result

Part of your cause of action must show that the employer did not provide reasonable accommodation. This is where things can get murky. When you alert your employer to your religious belief and how it conflicts with a job requirement, you may also suggest how your employer can accommodate you. 

Your employer does not have to provide you with the exact accommodation you have requested. But the accommodation they offer must be reasonable and not provide undue hardship to the employer. 

Not every employer is covered under Title VII. Employers with more than 15 employees, including private companies, are subject to Title VII. If your employer has fewer than 15 employees, you may still have a valid claim if you can show your employer was acting with a parent company or subsidiary that would have put them over the minimum employee requirement. The best way to know for sure is to speak with a knowledgeable employment lawyer as soon as you have suffered religious discrimination in the workplace.

Possible Remedies

With many legal claims, the remedies are clear. In a car accident, you want to have your medical bills covered. But religious discrimination claims may create some confusion. 

Your employment lawyer may attempt to remedy your situation by asking for:

  • Getting your job back, if you lost it
  • Compelling the company to hire you or promote you
  • Back pay
  • Retroactive benefits
  • Monetary damages for your suffering and embarrassment 

As with all legal claims, your case is unique and your remedies will be unique. Working with your employment lawyer, you can determine what you want out of your cause of action against the company who discriminated against you. It’s important to remember that you do not have to go through this alone.

Religious Discrimination Lawyers Fight for You

The lawyer you choose can make a difference in the outcome of your religious discrimination claim. You need a lawyer who has proven experience fighting for religious discrimination victims like you. Companies too frequently get away with this type of behavior. We can help you hold your employer liable for your suffering.

A company can ask you about the sincerity of your religious beliefs when you ask for reasonable accommodation. These questions may seem intrusive but your employer has a right to determine your sincerity. Asking other questions or getting too personal may cross the line. If you have been denied a promotion, terminated, or turned down for employment because of your religious beliefs, you may be entitled to legal remedies through a discrimination claim against the company. 

If you think you may have been discriminated against by your employer, speak with an experienced employment law attorney in Sacramento today. Contact us online or at 916-446-2000. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you resolve your workplace discrimination matter. 

What You Need to Know about Sexual Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

No employee should have to deal with workplace sexual discrimination. In truth, every worker has a right to a safe working environment, free of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims. Unfortunately, sexual discrimination is a difficult topic that causes many employee victims not to want to come forward in fear of what can happen to them. Instead, they decide to stay silent and endure the overwhelming stress, anxiety, and worry on their own.

However, we are here to tell you that you do not have to go through this traumatizing ordeal by yourself. As an employee, you have both state and federal rights, and in this blog post, we will discuss these rights. Specifically, going over the different types of sexual discrimination and retaliation claims you need to know about, the sexual discrimination remedies you can pursue, and how an experienced employment law attorney can help you go after the justice you deserve. 

What is Sexual Discrimination

Sexual discrimination involves treating another person, whether an employee or an applicant, unfavorably because of their sex. According to Title VII, discrimination against a person because of their gender identity, including their transgender status or sexual orientation, is against the law. 

This law also forbids sexual discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, such as hiring, firing, job assignments, pay, promotions, training, layoffs, fringe benefits, or any other conditions of the employment. 

What Are Retaliation Claims

Retaliation claims occur when an employer treats current employees, former employees, applicants, or individuals closely associated with these people less favorably for:

  • Participating in a discrimination lawsuit
  • Participating in a discrimination investigation
  • Reporting discrimination
  • Opposing discrimination

As an employer, it is illegal to fire an employee because they filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC even if the EEOC finds that the discrimination charge does not have any merit. 

Common Types of Sexual Discriminations at Work

There are numerous forms of sexual discrimination that can occur in the workplace. However, some of the more common types include:

  • Quid Pro Quo: This Latin term translated means “something for something,” or more specifically, an advantage granted in return for something else. When this term is applied to sexual discrimination, it means that an employer conditions terms of employment based on an employee’s willingness to perform sexual favors. These terms of employment can include increased pay, benefits, position, title, or other advancement opportunities. However, before the employee can receive these benefits, they need to agree to submit to unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Same Sex Discriminations: Many people typically think that sexual discrimination involves women employees launching allegations against male managers. However, this is not always the case. In fact, any employee can experience sexual discrimination, regardless of sex, and this discrimination can even happen between individuals of the same sex. Additionally, it is not only managers or supervisors that can sexually discriminate against others. These sexual discrimination claims can be brought up against co-workers or even the company’s clients. 
  • Hostile Work Environment: Generally, hostile work environments are a form of discriminatory harassment. This discrimination can be based on sex, protected characteristics, race, or retaliation for protected activities. When the courts look into whether a work environment is hostile, they will examine the specific circumstances of the case. Meaning they will look into whether the sexual advances on an employee were unwelcome and severe. They will also assess whether the work environment includes unpleasant chatter and teasing, or did individuals make it difficult for the employee to carry out their job.
  • Sexual Orientation Discrimination: This type of discrimination involves an employer discriminating an individual based on their sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. 
  • Gender-Based Discrimination: Gender discrimination is the unequal treatment of an individual or group based on their gender. This discrimination often involves an individual treating an employee differently or less favorably because of their gender or sex or affiliation with a group associated with a particular gender.

Sexual Discrimination Remedies

When an employee has experienced sexual discrimination, they deserve to seek remedies for the harm they endured. Typically, this relief can come in the form of:

  • Back pay
  • Front Pay
  • Reinstatement
  • Compelled Hiring
  • Compelled Promotion
  • Attorney Fees
  • Compensatory Damages
  • Punitive Damages in some cases

When you work with a skilled employment law attorney, these lawyers can go over these different remedies with you, help you understand which ones you may pursue, and prepare the best case to fight for these remedies.

Which Employees Are Protected From Sexual Discrimination

According to the EEOC, current employees, former employees, and applicants are all protected from employment discrimination based on color, religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity, disability, national origin, age, and genetic information. These employees, former employees, and applicants are also protected from retaliation or punishment for filing a complaint of discrimination against their employer, opposing discrimination, or participating in a discrimination lawsuit or investigation. 

How Can an Employment Law Attorney Help You With Your Sexual Discrimination Claim?

Many sexual discrimination victims fail to realize that if they face any discrimination or harassment at work, they need to take specific steps to protect their rights. Often these victims make the mistake of first talking to a coworker, their boss, or even the HR department before looking into what actions they need to take, which can end up hindering their claim. That is why discussing your case with an experienced employment law lawyer first can be a significant asset in your case.

These attorneys can not only go over your case in detail and answer any questions you may have. But they can also walk you through the EEOC charge filing process. Helping you prepare the necessary documents and ensuring they are filed accurately and on time. That is why do not wait any longer. If you have endured sexual discrimination at your workplace, contact a skilled employment law attorney today or call our office at 916-446-2000. Let us help you navigate these complex legal proceedings and fight for the remedies you deserve. 

How Will Posting on Social Media Affect Your Employment Law Claim?

Today, everyone uses social media- from employer to employee. In many instances, businesses, professional offices, retail stores, and even restaurants use social media to promote their services and products. Yet, whether it is in a professional or personal setting, many individuals do not even think twice before posting anything on social media platforms. However, this lack of understanding can end up hurting them professionally. 

Generally, during the workday, employers have the right to monitor their employees’ use of the internet (including checking emails and visiting social networking sites) on computers owned by the employer. However, federal laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against a current or prospective employee based on information on the employee’s social media site relating to their color, race, national origin, age, gender, immigration or citizenship status, and disability. Yet, even with these regulations, what you post on social media can still affect your job and your employment law claim. 

Social Media and Social Networking- What Does it Consist of?

Generally, social media is any form of electronic communication through which users create communities online in order to share ideas, messages, information, and other content. These social media sites include social blogs, wikis, microblogging (Twitter), internet forums, and social networks (Facebook and Instagram). On the other hand, social networking is using these social media sites to communicate with other individuals. 

The Employee’s Rights

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council’s position, the use of personal information from social media accounts to discriminate against an employee is illegal. In fact, employers may be liable for creating a hostile work environment if they allow other employees to post negative information or negative comments about another employee or if they learn about the negative social media posts and do not take any steps to have it removed. 

However, not every social media post is protected, and an employee needs to consider the below factors to see if their post can affect their employment:

  • Social Media Posts During Working Hours: Typically, an employer has a stronger claim to review social media posts while the employee is supposed to be “on the clock” and working for the employer.
  • Social Media Posts Relating to Workplace Conditions: Workers usually have a right to speak honestly about their workplace issues, such as harassment by coworkers or their employers, unsafe conditions, pay disparity, and supporting the right of other workers. 
  • Social Media Posts and Employment Termination: If you are fired because of a social media post, it is crucial to speak with an experienced employment lawyer who can decipher if you were truly fired for your post. Or was the firing hiding an illegal reason for letting you go? 
  • Social Media Posts and the Employee Conduct Handbook: You also need to review your employee conduct handbook. Many times it will indicate what a company’s policy is regarding social media posts.

It is also essential to understand the differences between a private company employer versus a public entity. Generally, you do not have First Amendment rights in the workplace. Only government employees have a right to free speech protections, and even those are very limited. In comparison, as a private employee, you may be fired for your speech. No matter if it is in the workplace or outside of it. 

The Employer’s Rights

If an employee files a legal claim against their employer for creating a hostile workplace, sexual harassment, discrimination, or the assertion of any of their employee rights. The legal team for the employer is allowed to review all the social media accounts of the employee. As a result, an employee’s posts can be used to question their credibility. 

  • What Can The Employer Monitor? An employer can monitor an employee’s internet usage, software downloads, anything displayed on their computer screen, files stored on their computer, how long their computer has been idle, and any outgoing emails or those sent within the office. A simple rule to follow is that if the employee can do it on their work computer or a device provided for their work, they should expect their employer to monitor it. 
  • Can Social Media Posts Affect Your Job? An employer can fire you for having social media posts that they feel are inappropriate. This means that even if you do not have access to these sites while working or did not post anything during working hours, your employer can still fire you. Especially if they feel that any of your content is offensive to them, their potential clients, or reflects poorly on the company. 

What it boils down to is the more offensive your social media posts are, the higher the chance that your employer will have a right to take some disciplinary action against you for them. 

What You Need to Do If An Employment Law Claim Has Been Filed

Remember, your social media will be reviewed if a lawsuit against your employer has been filed. Consequently, you need to be on high-alert of your social media usage, including your specific posts, emails, pictures, tweets, and videos. These social media postings can be used against you. As a result, make sure you exercise caution by taking the following measures: 

  • Do not accept any friend requests from anyone you do not know.
  • Make sure to limit your privacy settings.
  • Make sure to limit your electronic communications to people that you know and can verify who they are. 
  • Let your attorney know of any information or posts on your social media accounts that can hurt you. However, before you delete anything, make sure you check with your attorney. Many times the court may impose restrictions once a case is filed. 

If you are an employee who is facing disciplinary action or was fired due to your social media posts, you need legal help that you can trust. At the law offices of Perkins Asbill, we can figure out if your employee rights were violated and help you take action if they were. Do not wait any longer. Contact us today or call our office at 916-446-2000. 

Should I Hire a Lawyer Before Filing an Employment Claim if I Suspect Policy/Law Violations?

You noticed that policies or laws were violated in your workplace. Perhaps you faced retaliation after reporting serious violations, or maybe you faced harassment at work. Now, you need to file an employment claim.

Do you need a lawyer?

You may choose to work with an attorney for a variety of reasons as you move toward an employment claim. For example, you might need an attorney if:

  • You faced harassment at work that HR did not address, especially if that harassment led to retaliation when reported
  • You faced discrimination for any reason in the workplace
  • You faced retaliation for reporting violations
  • Your employer threatens to sue you for any reason
  • Your employer has asked you to sign complex or confusing paperwork, including a noncompete contract, that you do not fully understand
  • Your employer denies your rights, including your right to overtime, your status as a full-time employee, or your Family Medical Leave Act rights

When Do You Need an Employment Attorney?

Any time you plan to file an employment claim and feel that policies or laws have been violated, consider the benefits of working with an experienced employment attorney. Working with an employment attorney can provide much better odds of success in your claim. An employment attorney can:

Help You Understand Your Rights

Many people suffer in a hostile working environment for years, believing they do not have the right to a claim. For example, your employer may insist that you have “salaried” classification, which means you may not receive compensation for overtime, and force you to work an excessive number of hours each week without adequate compensation. Your employer may also change your status to “contractor,” rather than full-time employee, or hold you as a part-time employee, which means you do not receive certain benefits from the company, rather than classifying you as the full-time employee your hours suggest you are. All of these actions may lead to significantly less compensation than you really deserve for your contributions to your business, especially over the course of months or years. 

Worse, you may find yourself dealing with discrimination: lower wages than your coworkers just because of your gender, getting passed over for promotion because of your race or religion, or even having ideal projects handed to others in your organization because of a disability, in spite of the fact that you do excellent work in spite of it. Other employees may even face direct harassment. 

An employment lawyer can help you understand your rights, including your right to compensation following harassment or discrimination. 

Give You Instruction Concerning Documentation

Document, document, document: it’s one of the most critical rules of dealing with any type of employment claim. If you face any type of discrimination in the workplace, deal with harassment, or must handle a rights violation of any kind, make sure that you document it. An attorney will walk you through the type of information you will need to provide as part of your claim, including:

  • Documentation concerning hours worked
  • Any communication you have had with HR over the issue
  • Specific communications that may prove the actions you took or the demands made by an employer
  • Any written evidence of discrimination

An employment lawyer can also help instruct you on how to document verbal harassment or demands, which can prove more difficult to compile after the fact. 

Help Collect Evidence

Sometimes, you may not realize that you need to collect evidence of discrimination or harassment until well after it begins. In its early stages, for example, you may not realize that a manager or boss has actively discriminated against you. Over time, you may simply watch ideal projects pass you by, or see a coworker receive accolades, promotions, and raises you do not. 

An attorney can help you collect evidence regarding those indiscretions, even if they occurred in the past. An experienced attorney can also give you a better idea of what to look for going forward so that you can more accurately document any events that occur in the workplace, from discrimination to illegal actions. An attorney can also help showcase evidence of, for example, retaliation due to whistleblowing, which your employer may take steps to hide. Your employer might, for example, fire you for a minor indiscretion after you reported the employer to a professional board for failure to take adequate safety precautions. 

Represent You

What you say to your employer, or former employer, matters when dealing with an employment claim. Just as you plan to collect documentation that will show that your employer acted illegally, your employer may try to take as many steps as possible to collect evidence against you: evidence that you did not actually work the hours you claimed, or that you did not perform your work tasks as well as other employees, for example, which would explain why you got passed over for promotion. The representative you speak with may try to trip you up or convince you to say things that do not match up with actual events. The representative may also try to convince you to accept a lower settlement than you really deserve for the financial or physical losses you faced, or may try to convince you to write off any missing funds. 

An attorney, on the other hand, can take over those discussions for you, ensuring that you do not mistakenly say something that could hurt your claim and increasing the odds that your employer will take you seriously. An attorney can also take over with negotiations or communications without emotional investment, which can increase the odds of a successful resolution. Your attorney will pass on any necessary information to you. 

Do you need an experienced employment attorney to aid you as you file an employment claim? Any time you feel that your employer violated policies or laws in dealing with you or others around you, you should hire an attorney before moving forward. Contact Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation today at 916-446-2000 to learn more about your legal rights before filing an employment claim.