YOU CAN PURSUE CLAIMS REGARDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION

Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal. That, however, doesn’t stop some employers from making the workplace difficult for people who do file reports about sexual harassment. As we discussed last week, you can’t let a fear of retaliation stop you from filing complaints about sexual harassment.

We know that dealing with sexual harassment at work isn’t pleasant. We also understand that trying to put a stop to that harassment can often lead to new problems. Your employer might take illegal actions just because you don’t want to be harassed.

We want to make it clear — you don’t have to deal with sexual harassment or retaliation at work. Neither of those is allowed by law. If you have had to deal with sexual harassment or retaliation because you filed a complaint about sexual harassment, we can help you explore your options to seek compensation from your employer.

In order to pursue a retaliation claim, you need to have evidence that shows the adverse actions your employer took are a direct result of the complaint you made. We can look over your case and help you determine if you have the evidence necessary to pursue that claim. We can also help you to gather evidence if necessary.

Being a victim of sexual harassment is an emotionally draining experience. If your employer retaliates against you, the situation might also be financially draining. We can help you to take action to hold the employer accountable for the sexual harassment and retaliation so that you can focus on dealing with healing after the incidents.

RETALIATION CLAIMS REQUIRE SERIOUS AND PROMPT ACTION

Some employees who are victims of sexual harassment don’t say anything about the harassment because they are concerned about retaliation. It is important for all employees to know that retaliation based on filing complaints of sexual harassment isn’t something that is allowed.

When you file a complaint about sexual harassment and your employer takes adverse, or retaliatory, action after that, you can take action about the retaliation. You will have to show that your employer knew that you filed the sexual harassment complaint. You will also have to show that the retaliation wasn’t because of actions you did, besides the sexual harassment complaint.

There is a chance that an employer will try to say that the adverse action wasn’t based on your sexual harassment complaint. In that case, it is vital that you understand how to answer to those allegations. You might find that this is difficult, so working with someone familiar with retaliation claims is vital.

Proving retaliation claims can often lead to various remedies. You might be eligible for reinstatement, hiring, promotions, back pay, front pay, punitive damages and other actions. In some cases, you might also be able to get court costs, attorney fees and fees for expert witnesses paid.

There are strict time limits in California for filing complaints of this manner. If your claim is based on a federal law, you have 300 days from the date of the incident. If your claim is based on state law, you have one year to file a claim. Make sure that keep these time limits in mind as you decide how to handle your retaliation claims.

Source: Workplace Fairness, “Retaliation for a Discrimination Claim,” Paul H. Tobias and Susan Sauter, accessed June 11, 2015

THE WAY YOU COMPLAIN CAN CHANGE YOUR RETALIATION PROTECTIONS

Whistleblower laws were designed to protect employees when they feel the need to report wrongdoing in the workplace. They could be reporting fraud, a breach of safety regulations or reporting on employment issues like sexual harassment or discrimination. In any case, they need to be free to take appropriate action without fear of losing their jobs, which is why these laws were passed in California.

Did you know, though, that the way that you complain sometimes determines whether or not you are protected from a boss’s retaliation? It’s very important to follow the letter of the law so that you don’t accidentally invalidate those protections and end up getting demoted or fired.

For instance, some regulations say that you must go to a superior and turn in a written account of your complaint. Others say to ignore your supervisor and instead report directly to a government agency. Still others say that just objecting to what is happening and refusing to participate on your own is enough.

As a rule of thumb, you typically want to write down all of your complaints. For example, you may find out that you just need to talk to your boss in person, without a formal written complaint. Still, it does not hurt to make multiple copies of a written complaint and then take them along when you file the verbal complaint. This hard copy ensures that your side of the story is well represented, meaning it’s harder for a boss to claim anything else happened.

You shouldn’t have to worry about retaliation when you do the right thing, and it’s wise to know exactly how to do this, from a legal perspective, to protect yourself and your career.

Source: AOL, “4 Times When You Should Complain About Your Boss,” Donna Ballman, accessed May. 22, 2015

HOW THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR OFFERS PROTECTION FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS

The Department of Labor supports whistleblowers and offers specific protections for them in many industries. The main act that provides this protection is the Occupational Safety and Health Act, but there are also specific provisions for certain industries, such as the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) or the International Safe Container Act (ISCA).

Through these acts, the government has established that whistleblowers who report on unsafe workplaces, sexual harassment and other such issues cannot be discriminated against in the workplace simply for making these reports. They cannot be fired from their positions on those grounds. They must be treated fairly.

Above all else, this goes for employees who step forward and start proceedings against a company. However, the same protections are also in place for those who may be asked to testify at the proceedings, even if they did not initiate them in the first place. If they participate in any way to assist, the workers maintain their right to protection. Furthermore, they cannot be fired or discriminated against simply for voicing a complaint when a violation is noted.

One of the biggest reasons why people do not report on illegal activities within the workplace is simply because they are afraid that they will be treated unfairly or that they will lose their jobs. In order to make sure that employees are safe and that they are allowed to be proactive in maintaining that safety, OSHA ensures that this cannot legally take place.

If you’ve reported on sexual harassment or anything else and you feel that your rights have been violated with a retaliation from your employer, be sure that you know what legal steps to take.

Source: Department of Labor, “Other Workplace Standards: Whistleblower and Retaliation Protections,” accessed April. 02, 2015

RETALIATION AFTER FILING A COMPLAINT ABOUT HARASSMENT ISN’T LEGAL

We have often discussed how employees should never have to deal with sexual harassment. All forms of sexual harassment at work are illegal. Despite that fact, some employees still deal with the harassment just because they don’t feel comfortable reporting it. Some employees think they will be retaliated against for making complaints about harassment. What those employees might not realize is that there are protections for whistleblowers on both the federal and state levels of the law.

We don’t want you to have to deal with harassment, and we don’t want you to worry about retaliation. If you need to file a complaint about sexual harassment or if you have been retaliated against because you filed a complaint, let us help you. We can work with you to find out what happened and to help you learn your options for proceeding.

No matter what form of sexual harassment you were subjected to and no matter what manner of retaliation you were a victim of, we can help you. If you were treated unfairly after filing a complaint, you might have a claim regarding retaliation. If you were demoted, fired, given unfavorable assignments or had a cut in pay after filing a complaint for sexual harassment, we can look into your case.

All adverse treatment after you make a complaint about sexual harassment should be scrutinized. While you aren’t covered for actions resulting in legitimate disciplinary actions, you are protected for adverse reactions that are done simply as a way to punish you because you filed a complaint. Let us help you determine if you have a case and how to proceed if you do have a valid claim under California law.

DOES RETALIATION HAVE TO BE DONE ON PURPOSE?

We have discussed retaliation and how it affects employees in the United States. Those posts might have some of our California readers with some questions about retaliation. In a nutshell, retaliation means trying to get back at a worker for making a complaint about something, such as sexual harassment.

Does an action have to be done on purpose to qualify as retaliation?

Action taken a person who has filed a complaint doesn’t have to be taken with the purpose of retaliating against that person in order to be classified as retaliation. If an action is construed as retaliation, it might qualify as retaliation. An example would be moving a worker to another shift to get the worker away from the person who allegedly harassed the worker. The move had good intentions, but might still be considered retaliation.

Can employees who complain be disciplined?

Employers are allowed to discipline employees who file complaints if they are disciplining the employee for a valid reason. That means that an employer can’t discipline the employee because of filing the complaint. However, if the employee misses a shift, for example, the employer can discipline the employee.

Can employees be disciplined for filing false complaints?

Just because a complaint wasn’t truthful doesn’t mean the employer should retaliate against the employee. The truth of the complaint isn’t a factor when it comes to retaliation. That doesn’t give employees the right to lie to an employer, but it does protect employees who file a claim they feel is justified but is later determined not to be justified.

Those who feel they have been retaliated against at work after filing a complaint should learn about their options for dealing with the retaliation. Employers shouldn’t be allowed to get away with retaliation under any circumstances.

Source: FindLaw, “Workplace Retaliation” Jan. 07, 2015

RETALIATORY ACTIONS AREN’T EVER ACCEPTABLE; KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

Many of our readers have often read stories about employees who were retaliated against after making complaints about sexual harassment. Those many posts might have some of our California readers wondering what constitutes retaliation. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are several actions by an employer that constitute retaliation.

It is important to note that retaliation might be the result of several actions, including making complaints about sexual harassment. It can be because of a complaint about discrimination, opposing discriminatory actions or taking part in a proceeding regarding discrimination. It doesn’t matter what the discrimination is based on. It can be discrimination because of gender, color, race, age, national origin or disability.

Firing, demoting, harassing, coercing, intimidating, threatening, harassing or taking adverse actions against a person who files a complaint or participates in those complaint proceedings is against the law. That means that employers can’t deny the person a promotion, terminate his or her employment or try to get back at him or her using a variety of other methods.

People who think they are being retaliated against should understand that adverse actions backed up by things like a poor work performance history or similar factors wouldn’t necessarily be considered retaliation. With that in mind, it is important for employees to continue to do a good job at work even if they feel like they are the target of adverse actions.

When you start to think about it, determining what is retaliation might take some research and some scrutinizing. Working with someone familiar with retaliation claims might make the process a little easier.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Facts About Retaliation” Dec. 29, 2014

CALIFORNIA BASKETBALL COACH CLAIMS RETALIATION AFTER RETIRING

A former San Diego State University women’s basketball coach is seeking compensation from the school after allegedly being fired for demanding fair treatment. The woman claims that the retaliation occurred because she was demanding equal treatment for women’s sports programs at the school. The former coach, who boasts more wins than any other women’s basketball coach in the school’s history, was also embroiled in a scandal after allegedly striking one of her assistant coaches. She was told that she had to retire, resign or be fired after allegedly striking the subordinate.

The woman has filed a lawsuit against the school, arguing that a breach of contract occurred when she was fired for complaining about the status of women’s sports at the school. She said she regularly complained about the major differences between financial and infrastructure support for women’s and men’s basketball program. The men’s program ostensibly received better housing, staffing, equipment and facilities than those provided for the women. The coach said she spent a significant amount of her own money to pay for staff and team needs.

The woman said she was facing increased pressure to leave her job after she allegedly struck the assistant coach during a game in 2013. She first struck the man’s clipboard, and video shows that she appears to hit his shoulder later in the game. She said she did not intentionally strike anyone, and she was forced to retire in order to save her pension.

Now, the woman said she not only lost money because she was forced out of her job, but her professional reputation has also been so damaged that she is virtually unemployable. Victims who have been unfairly targeted because they speak out about inequality should not have to worry about retaliatory actions from their employers. A California employment attorney may be able to assist victims who have been subject to unfair retaliation for reporting misconduct.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, “Ex-Basketball Coach Beth Burns Files Wrongful Termination Lawsuit” R. Stickney, Feb. 19, 2014

RETALIATION ISN’T ALWAYS CLEAR CUT IN CALIFORNIA

Going to work is something that you should do without the fear of being harassed by coworkers or supervisors in any manner; however, for some employees, that isn’t how things go. Sadly, some supervisors and coworkers might opt to harass you because of a variety of reasons. That harassment, however, isn’t legal. You do have the right in California to take action against employers who take action against you because of reporting harassment.

Some employers choose to retaliate against employees who report harassment in the workplace. In some cases, the retaliation might be for other reasons, such as reporting illegal or unethical activities in the workplace. When that type of retaliation occurs, you might end up losing your job, being demoted or given a pay cut. None of those actions are legal when they are done in a retaliatory manner.

Proving cases of retaliation can be difficult since California is an at-will employment state. In some cases, employers don’t have to give employees a reason for terminating the employee. That doesn’t mean, however, that cases of retaliation should be left unchecked.

Any worker who has been subjected to retaliatory behavior from an employer has the right to seek compensation for that retaliation. Knowing how to interpret the law and having a fresh pair of eyes look at your case might help you to decide how to proceed with your complaints of retaliation. From there, you can determine if you need to file a lawsuit and how to move forward with that lawsuit if that is how you choose to handle the situation.

Source: Perkins Asbill Attorneys at Law, “When is being fired wrongful termination?” Aug. 28, 2014

OFFICERS ALLEGE RETALIATORY ACTIONS AFTER INMATE ALTERCATION

Two California corrections officers accused of perpetrating an inmate assault have been relieved of their duties by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office. The two men, ages 28 and 30, lost their jobs after allegedly abusing an inmate who was facing allegations of rape and murder. Although law enforcement officials have supported the firings, family members of the officers say that the pair was fired after filing a complaint about unsafe conditions.

So far, both of the men have pleaded not guilty to charges of assault by a public officer in connection with the altercation. They could spend as long as three years in custody if convicted. Their next upcoming court date is scheduled for mid-May.

The two officers are accused of using excessive force when the alleged victim began to resist during a transfer from his holding cell. One of the men was able to wrestle that victim to the ground, though he quickly called for backup because he was struggling. The other defendant is accused of arriving on that scene and delivering three aggressive knee strikes to the victim’s legs. The incident was caught on camera, and it lasted for approximately 15 seconds.

Witnesses to the incident said that the officers used appropriate force when subduing the victim. A sheriff’s investigation, however, found that the pair used excessive force. That assertion came even after two California Highway Patrol officers who were witnesses to the incident have allegedly testified in court that they didn’t believe the corrections officer had done anything wrong. However, the victim complained of pain in his upper body several days after the incident. He transported to the hospital, but it’s not known if the victim was alleging that his pain or injuries were related to the incident with the corrections officers.

Even government employers have been known to retaliate against workers who are involved in filing a complaint about workplace safety or other concerns. California attorneys know that these employees have rights that should be protected in court and in the workplace. People should not lose their jobs if they follow workplace policy; these two men argue that their actions were correct, and they are supported by several other sources. An employment attorney may be able to help such victims learn more about their legal options after retaliatory actions such as a pay cut or wrongful termination.

Source: Santa Barbara Independent, “Sheriff Fires Jail Guards Accused of Assaulting Inmate” Tyler Haden, Apr. 10, 2014