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.

Common Types of Harassment in the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

Harassment at a place of work is nothing to joke about. As an employee, you have a right to work at a site that is free from insults, intimidation, and bullying. And yet, even though there are established laws that protect you against these harassment tactics, this sometimes-illegal behavior still occurs. What makes this situation even worse is that there are so many different types of workplace harassment that even the most diligent of supervisors can miss the signs. However, as an employee experiencing this type of harassment, you should not just have to deal with it.

To help you better understand if you are getting harassed at work, we have prepared the following blog post, which will explain the most common types of harassment found in the workplace, and what you can do about it.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment refers to the physical or verbal conduct that shows hostility towards another individual based on their race, gender, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, or other protected personal characteristics. Such workplace harassment is considered illegal under both state and federal law.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment involves harassment due to your skin color, ancestry, citizenship status, or race. This harassment can include racist jokes, insults, slurs, racial disgust, and even degrading comments.

Gender Harassment

Gender harassment results from discrimination against another individual because of their gender. This harassment often involves stereotypes indicating how a man or a woman should act.

Religious Harassment

Religious harassment is more focused on an individual’s religious beliefs. However, it can sometimes overlap with harassment based on race. Religious harassment can involve comments or jokes about religious traditions, holidays, clothing, and customs. Or it can be in the form of pressure to convert an individual into a different religion.

Age Harassment

Age harassment often includes any teasing, unfair criticism, insults, or being left out of activities because of an individual’s age. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers 40 years or older.

Disability Harassment

It is illegal to discriminate against another employee because of their real or perceived disability, their relationship to a disabled person, or their use of disability services. This type of harassment is often experienced through patronizing behavior, crude jokes, or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations.

Personal Harassment

Personal harassment is a type of harassment that is not based on one of the protected classes. But rather, it is the most basic form of bullying that is not illegal. Often this behavior creates an offensive or intimidating work environment for the victim, that includes

  • Crude Jokes
  • Offensive Comments
  • Personal Humiliation Tactics
  • Critical Remarks
  • Intimidation Tactics
  • Excluding Behaviors

Physical Harassment

Physical harassment, often referred to as workplace violence, is harassment that involves physical threats or attacks. In some instances, it can even be regarded as an assault. Physical harassment needs to be taken very seriously in the workplace and explained clearly to make the actions more defined.

Some examples of physical harassment include the following:

  • Threats of direct harm or an intent to inflict this harm
  • Physical Attacks that include shoving, kicking, or hitting
  • Threatening Behavior (such as shaking your fist angrily)
  • Destructive Behavior that is meant to intimidate another employee

Depending on the industry (health care, social services, law enforcement, education), the employees may be at a higher risk of workplace violence.

Power Harassment

When there is a power disparity between the harassed and the harasser, it is often referred to as power harassment. The harasser who has a higher status in the workplace hierarchy bullies someone in a lower rank, making excessive demands of them, intruding into their personal life, providing verbal intimidation, demeaning comments, or physical threats.

Psychological Harassment

Psychological harassment often involves specific actions that hurt an employee’s mental wellbeing. Victims of this harassment feel belittled or put down on a professional and personal level, and this harassment can quickly escalate into impacting their health, social life, and work product.

Psychological harassment can include actions such as:

  • Isolating the victim
  • Ignoring the victim
  • Trivializing the victim and their ideas or thoughts
  • Spreading rumors about the victim
  • Challenging anything the victim says

Online Harassment

Technology has significantly improved our working environment. However, as more employers embrace technology’s power, online harassment or cyberbullying is continuously on the rise. This type of harassment often includes:

  • Spreading gossip or lies about the victim through social media channels
  • Sharing humiliating information about the victim by mass chat or mass email
  • Sending harassing text messages or other instant messages to the victim

Retaliation Harassment

Retaliation harassment is a form of harassment used in retaliation against another employee for participating in a lawfully protected activity. For example, if employee A files a complaint against employee B, and employee B finds out, and they start harassing employee A as revenge for filing the claim- this type of harassment is called retaliation harassment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is sexual in nature and includes unwanted sexual conduct, behavior, or advances. Not only is this type of harassment always on the news, but what makes it so prevalent is that it can happen on any worksite, affect both men and women, and impacts the victim’s life immediately. Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Sharing sexual photographs
  • Making sexual comments or jokes or posing sexual questions
  • Posting Sexual Posters
  • Inappropriate sexual touching or gestures
  • Sexually invading another employee’s space.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment also translated to “this for that” is a form of exchange-based sexual harassment. It is often experienced when a supervisor or manager conditions work benefits in exchange for some sexual favor. It can also occur if the harasser turns to blackmail to coerce another employee into a sexual act. This type of harassment can be either explicit or implicit, meaning the harasser can outright ask for the sexual exchange or hint at it.

Third Parties Harassment

Third-party harassment is a type of harassment in the workplace instigated by a third-party or someone outside the organization, such as a customer, supplier, or vendor. The victims of this type of harassment are often low-status workers or low-power jobs (such as a sales associate or cashier). And even though this type of harassment does not fit the typical workplace harassment narrative, it still is the employer’s responsibility to stop this behavior.

Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is often the result of personality conflicts that have escalated into something serious. Even though this harassment is not illegal, a verbal harasser usually involves a consistently unpleasant individual who is constantly throwing insults, swearing, yelling, or making public and private threats. These insults can be particularly damaging since they often go unnoticed by supervisors. It is also important to remember that if this harassment is based on a protected class, it is illegal.

How Can an Experienced Employment Lawyer Help?

If you are getting harassed at work, and you have taken the necessary actions to get this behavior to stop. Yet, your employer has not appropriately responded. You need to contact an experienced employment lawyer today. The legal team at Perkins Asbill is ready to provide you with the legal representation that you need and the help that you deserve. Do not wait any longer; call our office at 916-446-2000.

What Steps Do You Need to Take if You Work in a Hostile Work Environment?

Having a bad day at work is one thing. Getting harassed daily by a co-worker or your boss is a whole separate matter. If you feel like you are working in a hostile environment, you have a right for these actions to stop, and if they do not, you deserve to go after the people that are causing you to this extreme fear, anxiety, and stress at your workplace.

In this blog post, we will detail what exactly is a hostile work environment, what steps you need to take if you are working in such a situation, and how an employment lawyer can help you.

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

hostile work environment is legally defined as offensive or unwelcome behavior that causes one or more workers to feel scared, intimidated, or uncomfortable in their place of employment. Simply put, a hostile work environment is the sum of all communications, behaviors, and actions done by an individual at work (boss, client, colleague, vendor) that alters the expectations, terms, or conditions of a workplace that a worker feels comfortable with.

What is NOT a hostile work environment:

  • A worksite that is unpleasant
  • A bad boss
  • Obnoxious co-workers
  • Lack of benefits or perks
  • Feeling undervalued or underpaid

Therefore, to truly have your work environment meet the level of illegal hostility, it needs to go beyond the causal lousy joke.

Legal Requirements for a Hostile Environment

Dealing with a hostile environment can be a complicated process, as most of these cases are extremely fact-specific and quite subjective. Additionally, it is hard to say precisely when a working environment becomes illegal, as most often, nobody in the workplace will admit to their wrongdoing. Therefore, to determine if your workplace is hostile, the court needs to consider all aspects of the harassment, including the severity of the behavior and frequency.

So how does someone succeed in a hostile work environment case? By establishing the following factors:

  • Discriminatory in Nature: The workplace’s actions must result in discrimination against a protected classification, such as age, disability, race, or religion.
  • Pervasive: The workplace communications or behavior must be pervasive, or lasting over time, and not just limited to some remark or statement that an employee found unacceptable. An action becomes pervasive if it continues over some time, is all around the employee, and is not investigated adequately by the employer to make the problem stop.
  • Severe: The workplace actions or behavior must be severe, such that they disrupt the employee’s ability to work or their work product. In addition, the severity can occur if it interferes with a worker’s career progress; for example, they fail to receive a promotion because of the hostile environment.
  • Unwelcome: The inappropriate actions, harassment, communication, or behavior must be unwelcome. Generally, to show that it is unwanted, there is some evidence that an employee asked the hostile worker to stop their behavior, but it continued to persist.

The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

If you are still hesitant about whether you are working in a hostile environment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the actions, communications, or behavior unwelcome?
  • Are the actions, interactions, or behavior happening over a period of time, repeatedly?
  • Could you view the incident as hostile, both subjectively and objectively?
  • Are the actions, communications, or behavior discriminatory towards a protected class?

If you answer yes to these questions, you need to speak with an experienced employment attorney who can protect you against these illegal actions by your employer.

What Evidence Do You Need to Show Hostility?

Once people figure out they are working in a hostile environment, the next question they often ask is now what? In response, we have prepared the below necessary steps that you need to take to document this hostility.

Company’s Internal Complaint System

If you think you are working in a hostile environment before you do anything, make sure you create an internal official complaint. Yes, many people often worry about telling their HR about their issues in fear of getting in trouble. However, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against any employee who complains about harassment or discrimination, even if the claim holds no validity.

Obtain Evidence

Obtaining evidence that shows the organization or management was aware of the hostility, or that they should have been made aware is crucial for your claim. Start by documenting times, dates, places, and discussions at which you reported this harassment to the appropriate people. Even if it is an informal meeting with a supervisor, documenting these discussions can help show that the hostility was pervasive and that employer did nothing about it.

Witnesses

Having witnesses support your case can make your claim stronger. Therefore, if there are people who saw the harassment take place, make sure to get their name, contact information, and write down exactly what they saw. If the witness is willing to do so, have them provide you with a written statement or an email detailing the incident.

Document Everything

Just as witness statements are critical, physical proof of your harassment can also be vital in proving your claim. Make sure to save all communications (notes, letters, emails, and voicemails) that detail the hostility and how often it occurred.

Keep Proof of Negative Impact

A great way to document how a hostile working environment affected your work performance is saving all your performance reviews from your employer and keeping all your medical records. These records can show that you not only sought medical help around the time you claimed you were being harassed at work, but it can also provide you with a timeline that can strengthen your overall case.

Contact an Experienced Employment Lawyer

If you are experiencing a hostile work environment, you need to contact a knowledgeable and skilled employment lawyer today. With everything you are going through, you do not need to add more to your plate by trying to figure out which laws apply to your situation. Instead, these lawyers can take care of all of this legal work for you while fighting for the justice you deserve.

If you would like to discuss your employment issue or find out more about our business and employment law services, give us a call at 916-446-2000 today. We look forward to providing you the legal representation that you need.

 

 

WHAT DAMAGES MAY YOU SEEK IN RESPONSE TO HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE?

Many people take pride in the fact that California is one of the most diverse states in the union. You would think that fact would preclude harassment and hate violence in the workplace, but sadly, many workers in the state continue to experience it.

In order to combat these deplorable actions, the state passed the Ralph Civil Rights Actto protect people from threats or acts of violence. Anyone considered the member of a class protected under the act may file a complaint seeking damages for the harm suffered at the hands of an abuser in the workplace.

You may be entitled to damages

If it turns out that you became the victim of workplace violence based on your race, gender, age or any other class protected under the act, you may qualify for compensation for the harm caused to you. If your claim successfully proves your allegations, you may receive the following damages, which you may request in your complaint:

  • Actual damages that include financial losses such as money paid out for medical care, property repair or lost wages. You may also be eligible to receive compensation for the emotional distress and suffering that often accompanies such harassment and violence.
  • The court may issue a restraining order to keep your attacker or attackers away from you. That individual or those individuals may go to jail or pay fines for violating such an order.
  • A court may order your abuser or abusers to pay you a civil penalty of $25,000 depending on the circumstances.
  • A court may award you punitive damages, which the law intends to punish your attacker or attackers for violating the law.
  • A court may also order the guilty party or parties to pay your attorney’s fees accrued in connection with the lawsuit.

Hate violence and harassment include a variety of actions or behaviors that could also constitute criminal acts. California law does not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals based on certain criteria such as those mentioned above. If the actions warrant it, your abuser or abusers may face criminal charges as well, which the state will prosecute.

You may feel frightened or anxious about coming forward, but the law works to protect you. If your employer failed to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, then you have every right to go outside the company for help. You can protect yourself and your rights. Help is available if you aren’t sure what those rights are and want to know what legal options you may have.

5 FAQS ON WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN CALIFORNIA

As a woman working in the tech industry or a related industry in California, you may feel you need all the help you can get to deal with sexual harassment at work.

It is therefore good to know that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently issued a 9-page guidebook for employers to help them comply with applicable laws against sexual harassment. Such guidance is sorely needed, as women repeatedly face pervasive harassment and hostile corporate cultures in industries such as tech, manufacturing and engineering.

In this post, we will consider some common questions about bringing a claim in California for sexual harassment at work.

How is “sexual harassment’ defined?

In addition to the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, California law defines sexual harassment as encompassing many types of offensive or unwanted behavior. It isn’t only obvious things such as leering, making dirty jokes, or unwelcome physical touching. Other behaviors are prohibited as well, including asking for sexual favors in exchange for job benefits and retaliation (or threatened retaliation) for turning down sexual advances.

Are there current lawsuits that exemplify the problem of sexual harassment by California employers?

Absolutely. In one case filed earlier this year, a female engineer for Tesla brought suitagainst the company alleging “pervasive harassment” of men by women on the factory floor. The alleged harassment included whistling and catcalls, as well as inappropriate language.

The engineer’s lawsuit also alleged she experienced discriminatory pay and promotion practices. She also contended that Tesla retaliated against her after she raised whistleblowing concerns about a manufacturing defect.

What training do employers have to provide against sexual harassment?

If an employer has at least 50 workers (employees or independent contractors), all supervisory personnel must get prevention training. The training must be at least two hours, once every two years, and occur within six months of someone becoming a supervisor.

The curriculum for the training must cover not only legal definitions, but practical examples of conduct to be avoided and what should be done if harassment does occur.

Is it possible for employer harassment to occur on social media sites?

As we noted in a post in June, there is a case in the courts now on this issue. The case involves the managing director of a bank who allegedly used LinkedIn to harass a young woman.

How are employers supposed to investigate allegations of sexual harassment?

The guide issued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing includes guidelines on having a prompt, impartial investigation by someone with proper qualifications.

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN THE CALIFORNIA WORKPLACE

 

A California worker has the right to a workplace that is free from harassment, discrimination and any type of mistreatment related to his or her religion. Despite the laws shielding individuals from unfair treatment, religious discrimination is still a very real, very serious problem.

If you experienced any type of discrimination in the workplace, you may feel intimidated or overwhelmed by your current situation. Many workers do not report these instances because they may fear further mistreatment or retaliation. If you are unsure if what you experienced is actual discrimination or if you want to take legal action against your employer, you do not have to walk through this complicated process alone.

How can you know if you experienced religious discrimination?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits the discrimination of any individual on the basis of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or other factors. It can be difficult to determine if you experienced discrimination, especially in a world where many employers are politically correct and more perceptive than ever.

You may have valid grounds for a legal claim if you experienced any of the following in the workplace, either from an employer or from a co-worker:

  • Inappropriate questions about religious wear
  • Negative generalizations about your religious practices
  • Hostile comments or threats
  • Exclusion from group projects or meetings
  • Passed over for deserved promotions
  • Inappropriate jokes or remarks
  • Unfair pay or failed payment of earned wages

With the help of an attorney, you may be able to bring unfair practices to light, as well as hold the employer accountable for inappropriate actions or for allowing a hostile or discriminatory work environment. The best way for you to gain a complete understanding of your rights and options is to seek help as soon as you believe that religious discrimination occurred.

Fighting back against unfair treatment

California victims of any type of employment discrimination may be eligible for certain types of financial and legal remedies. These include:

  • Back pay
  • Reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney fees
  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Policy changes

Whether you want compensation, vindication or the assurance that what you experienced will never happen to another person, you can accomplish your legal goals and obtain the remedies needed to move forward. You have the right to pursue a prosperous career and work in a physically and emotionally safe environment, regardless of your religious practices.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT, LEGALLY?

Some places are just not great places to work. You may have an incompetent boss, a rude supervisor or a clique of coworkers that makes life unpleasant for anyone not in the club. But is any of that enough to make a hostile work environment, legally speaking?

No. Having to work with incompetent, rude, domineering or even outright unpleasant people isn’t something that matters, legally. So what does?

In order to have a legally hostile work environment, your harasser has to make it virtually impossible for you to do your job through a pattern of severe and pervasive conduct. For example, you could be given unreasonably short deadlines that your boss knows you can’t meet, subjected to daily “jokes” about your gender to the point that you feel demeaned and harassed or find that important documents start going missing from your desk and work gets deleted off your computer if you leave it unattended, forcing you to redo everything.

You also have to be targeted in a discriminatory fashion due to something that puts you in a protected class either through federal or state law. For example, in California, the discrimination could be based on your race, religion or gender, but it could also be based on your gender identity, a medical condition or information about your genetics.

It’s also discrimination if the hostility started or increased in retaliation after you make a complaint to your management or human resources department about someone’s inappropriate remarks or behavior. For example, if you complained to human resources that one of your coworkers was telling lewd jokes and the coworker and his or her friends retaliate against you afterwards by shutting you out of important work meetings and “forgetting” to tell you about changed deadlines or other crucial updates, that’s illegal and creates a hostile work environment.

The first step toward resolving any hostile work environment situation is to let someone in authority know about the situation and ask for it to stop. If your complaints are ignored or the situation worsens, it may be time to talk to an attorney instead.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, “Hostile Work Environment,” accessed Feb. 20, 201

CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL: FORCED OUT BY A HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

All it takes is the realization that a company is going to put its reputation ahead of the wellbeing of its employees to make a sexually abusive supervisor figure out that he or she can get away with just about anything.

That can end up creating a toxic work environment so hostile that some employees feel like they have no choice but to resign or retire. Even though the employee is the one to take the action to terminate his or her employment, the law recognizes this as a “constructive dismissal,” where the employer essentially forced the employee into action. A constructive dismissal is simply another form of wrongful termination.

Under California law, constructive dismissal cases must meet two conditions:

—The work environment was so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to resign.

—The employer had actual knowledge of the problems that pushed the employee into resigning or intended to force the resignation all along.

For example, a recent lawsuit filed against Goodwill Industries and an affiliate alleges that three disabled female employees, hired through the affiliate’s work program, were all subjected to sexual harassment by a single supervisor from 2009 to 2012. The women in the lawsuit state that they repeatedly complained to upper management about their supervisor but nobody took action to stop him.

Goodwill’s reputation is built, in part, on the fact that it supports the disabled community in general. While it’s only speculation, perhaps that led to the decision to simply move the supervisor around, rather than draw attention to his activities.

The other two plaintiffs in the lawsuit are former Goodwill supervisors. Both participated in the harassment investigation conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and both were subjected to immediate retaliation.

One of the supervisors was suddenly reprimanded and then transferred to the less-than-desirable night shift. She eventually felt the environment was so abusive that she had to quit. The other supervisor was suddenly reprimanded for not carrying out duties that weren’t even in his job description! He ultimately felt forced to retire.

Both of these former supervisors seem to have a strong case for constructive dismissal lawsuits, given that the negative consequences they faced began immediately after they participated in the EEOC investigation.

If you believe you were forced into quitting or retiring because of a hostile work environment, consider contacting an attorney for advice.

Source: FindLaw, “Constructive Dismissal and Wrongful Termination,” accessed Jan. 22, 2017

NURSES OFTEN EXPERIENCE SEXUAL HARASSMENT FROM THEIR PATIENTS

Most people who enter the field of nursing are compassionate individuals who want to help people—so that may make it exceptionally difficult for them to deal with sexual harassment from their own patients.

When a patient subjects a nurse to sexual harassment, it creates what is known as a hostile work environment. It can come about through a variety of subtle and overt methods:

—Leering at the nurse or trying to get a look down a female nurse’s shirt while she’s changing a bandage, inserting a needle or otherwise caring for the patient

—Touching the nurse in a way that’s sexually suggestive, such as grabbing the breasts of a female nurse or pinching the rear of a male nurse

—Making lewd comments or suggestions, especially if the nurse is about to help the patient bathe or dress

—Outright propositioning the nurse for sexual favors or going so far as to hit the “call” button while masturbating so that the nurse comes in while the patient is in the middle of the act

Researchers say that patient-to-nurse sexual harassment is common and may stem from cultural stereotypes like the “naughty nurse,” which encourage people to see nurses in general as sexually available or objects of sexual gratification. Nurses who have to deal with constant sexual harassment in the workplace often underreport incidents—but even if they do, hospital management doesn’t always act in a supportive way.

Nurses who feel threatened sexually by a patient need to take specific steps to protect themselves. They should directly address the behavior, with another nurse as a witness, and make it clear to the patient that they need to maintain a professional relationship. They should also ask another nurse or assistant to be present during all interactions with their harasser. All incidents should be reported to management as soon as possible.

Management, for their turn, needs to be responsive to the concerns of nurses and step in to protect them from further harassment. They can reassign a difficult patient to another nurse and institute mandated policies that require supervisors to give assistance to nurses who report abusive patients. Failing to act is allowing sexual abuse to happen.

If you’re a nurse who has experienced a hostile working environment due to patient abuses and you’ve found management less-than-receptive (or have even been told to simply tough it out), consider contacting an attorney for assistance.

Source: FindLaw, “Sexual Harassment at Work,” accessed Dec. 20, 2016

WHAT IS AN EMPLOYER’S DUTY WHEN WORKPLACE HARASSMENT IS REPORTED?

Every day, in companies all across the country — including many in California — there are employees subjected to hostile work environments. Workplace harassment is real, and even though all of it may not rise to an illegal legal, it does not mean it is something for employers to ignore. Do you feel you were subject to harassment in the workplace? Do you feel your employer did nothing to stop it? You may have legal recourse.

What is workplace harassment?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is defined as any unwanted conduct. This does not include petty annoyances or isolated incidents — unless the isolated incident was quite severe. To be considered workplace harassment, the offensive behavior becomes a regular part of one’s work experience and the victim must feel that his or

her work environment has become hostile, abusive or intimidating.

What types of conduct may be considered offensive?

Harassment really knows no bounds. Offensive conduct comes in many forms, including:

  • Offensive jokes
  • Racial slurs
  • Physical assaults
  • Intimidation
  • Interfering with work performance
  • Sharing of offensive materials
  • Insults

Examples of workplace harassment

  • Verbal harassment: A male employee frequently makes sexual remarks to a female employee. Despite her asking him to stop, it continues almost daily.
  • Physical harassment: An employee is frequently touched by a co-worker in a way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.
  • Supervisor harassment: A manager or supervisor abuses his or her authority by threatening or intimidating staff through emails, conversations and by physical actions, including touching, hitting, groping, etc.

What is an employer’s responsibility when they receive a report of harassment?

Workplace harassment is never okay. Unfortunately, there are employers who do not take reports of harassment seriously. In fact, many employers fail to do anything about the reported behaviors. This is unacceptable. Employers are to provide a safe environment for all employees by taking action immediately upon receiving reports of harassment.

If you have reported issues of harassment to your employer, yet continue to be in a hostile work environment due to a lack of attention to the problem, you may be entitled to file legal claims against your employer in a California civil court in an effort to seek compensation for resulting damages sustained. If you are unsure whether you have a strong harassment case, an experienced attorney can review the facts of your situation and assist you in filing legal claims, if appropriate.