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California Employment Law Blog

Sexual harassment at work demands immediate attention

Being sexually harassed at work can make you not even want to return to your job. This is a difficult position to be in, because you know that you need to go to work to earn an income. Without an income, you can't support yourself.

We understand that the impacts of sexual harassment can go far beyond the workplace seeming hostile. We are here to help you determine what options you have for handling these situations. The top priority is making sure that you don't have to deal with the sexual harassment in the future.

Sexual harassment in the military mustn't continue

Nobody should ever have to deal with sexual harassment while they are at work. It doesn't matter what job they do, the workplace should be free of this atrocious behavior. This is true even in traditionally male-dominated professions. Unfortunately, some high profile individuals don't realize that they are encouraging sexual harassment.

It has recently come to light that White House's deputy chief of staff for communication's wife believes that women who join the military should expect to be sexually harassed. While this is an older comment, the fact that it is now making headlines shows just how far women still have to go in their fight for hostile-free workplaces.

Family leave matters must be handled properly

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is meant to protect workers who need to take time off for their own medical issues or for specific family matters. One of these is that a person who has an immediate family member who has a serious illness can take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks to assist the person. While there are some requirements for notice to the employer, this isn't always possible.

One recent story that went viral showed the importance of these protections. A woman texted her boss to let her know that she wouldn't be in for her shift because her son was on life support. The manager replied that she either had to show up or be fired. The exchange went on and eventually the woman shared screenshots of the texts on social media. In the end, the manager was terminated.

Find out if the pay you are receiving meets legal standards

As an employee, you expect to get paid what you were told you were going to receive when you were hired or had a performance evaluation that resulted in a pay change. This is important because most employees count on their paycheck to pay for vital bills like shelter, utilities and food. Most of the time, there isn't any issue; however, employers aren't always upfront about pay. This can cause some issues with the employees.

When you are thinking about pay, you should make sure that you are making at least minimum wage. While there are some exceptions to the rule, you should typically be making at least the federal minimum wage or state minimum wage, whichever is higher at the time. If you aren't making at least that amount, there might be an issue that you need to address. One job that often has an exception is a server who receives tips.

You deserve to work in an environment free from discrimination

Whether you apply for a job or already have one, your employer must provide you with an application process and work environment free from discrimination. Here in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act enforces those protections.

FEHA applies to employment agencies, private and public employers with more than five employees, and labor organizations. If you suspect your employer, or a prospective employer, of discrimination, you may benefit from understanding your rights and legal options.

Retaliatory termination is never an acceptable action at work

While California is an at will employment state, there are specific limitations in place for what employers are allowed to do when it comes to terminating an employee. For example, they aren't allowed to fire an employee as a retaliatory measure. There are some specific points that employees should remember about retaliatory dismissal.

First, the dismissal can't be because of lax performance at work. You have to keep up the same work ethic and meet the same standards after you file complaints about sexual harassment or any other unethical behavior. There aren't any protections from termination based on substandard work, even if the termination comes after you file a complaint about something.

Sexual harassment awareness is heightened due to #MeToo movement

The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior into the limelight. Even though some people might be watching what is going on and thinking that the only place this happens is in Hollywood or with wealthy people, this isn't the case. There is a chance that sexual harassment will occur in any setting. We don't think that any person should have to work in a place where he or she is being sexually harassed.

We know that you never went to work with the intent of being sexually harassed. When you do go through this at work, you might be in disbelief at first. There is a chance that the harassment starts with just some seemingly innocent mistakes, but then it might progress to even more serious and frequent events.

Know what constitutes sexual harassment

No employee should have to deal with sexual harassment of any sort. What many people don't realize is that not all sexual harassment involves actually touching. In fact, there might not be any physical contact present at all.

In all situations of sexual harassment, the key point is that the gestures aren't welcomed. This means that you can't ask a co-worker for a kiss and then scream sexual harassment when you get that kiss. It usually helps if you make a clear statement that lets everyone know that the behavior isn't acceptable. Simply telling the person to quit might be sufficient.

Can I contest non-compete clauses in a severance package?

If your employer terminates you, you may receive a severance package as a part of the process. On the one hand, this is better than the alternative, which is no severance package at all. Depending on the nature of your employment, you may or may not have the right to receive a severance package. On the other hand, you should never accept your severance package at face value without carefully scrutinizing it. This is particularly true when it comes to non-compete clauses, which may seriously affect the type of employment you can obtain subsequent to your termination.

In most cases, the non-compete clause included in your severance agreement merely restates the terms of non-competition that you agreed to as a part of joining the employer in the first place. It is wise to check the terms of your severance against the terms of your employment contract to determine if there exist any inconsistencies you can use to negotiate better terms.

Know your rights for mandated leave laws

In a recent blog post, we discussed some of the ways that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies in specific circumstances. All employees should make sure that they understand how this law might impact their right to leave when they are impacted by a medical crisis or a family situation that falls under the umbrella of the act.

Some employers might not know exactly how these laws apply to their employees. This can make it difficult for the employees to get the leave they need. They might find that they need to take action to get that leave.

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