DISNEY EMPLOYEE: I WAS FIRED FOR REPORTING HARASSMENT

A 41-year-old former Walt Disney archivist is suing the company in California court for allegedly retaliating after he reported sexual harassment. The man claims that Disney has effectively ousted him from many professional opportunities because they have publicly defamed his character. While Disney claims that the suit is without merit, the man has filed claims for more than $75,000 in lost wages and benefits.

Court documents show that the man’s troubles started in 2011 at the D23 fan expo in Anaheim, where the company showcases archived items from previous productions. A male employee reported that he had been sexually harassed by a female Disney worker. She had allegedly asked the man to stay in her hotel room during the convention.

In the following months, the man had numerous conversations with human resources about the harassment incident. The same employee brought another complaint shortly after the first was filed, and the archivist attempted to resolve the matter without further incident. In September 2011, the man was abruptly fired because of the sexual harassment complaints. Human resources alleged that the man did not properly fill out several reporting documents, and he was also accused of lying during interviews about the harassment.

It appears that the confusion was related to a previous relationship between the male employee that brought forward the complaint and the woman. Administrators claimed that the archivist lied about the couple’s previous relationship to protect them, while he said he was unaware that the pair had been romantically linked.

The man argues that his professional reputation has been destroyed because of Disney’s actions. The company refused to provide positive references for the man, instead encouraging former coworkers to disassociate from him entirely. He was also placed on Disney’s “no re-hire” list, according to courtroom complaints.

Ultimately, the archivist contends that he was dismissed because of a procedural error, not because of his job performance. He was retaliated against because he tried to follow company policy and federal law by reporting the harassment. If you have been the target of retaliation, you could also seek reinstatement or compensation for time away from work and additional inconvenience.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Former Disney archivist alleges retaliation in firing,” Dawn C. Chmielewski, Feb. 27, 2013

SOCIAL MEDIA CAUSES HR HEADACHES

Like it or not, modern social networking technology is invading today’s workplace. As a result, human resources professionals are finding themselves with their fingers in the proverbial dams associated with the burgeoning options for perpetuating problems such as sexual harassment. Now, workers can create a hostile work environment that exists entirely in the virtual realm, thanks to the increasingly sophisticated and mobile nature of technological devices and platforms.

In this new working world, uncertainty is back, according to human resources experts.

Although this may seem like bad news, many professionals say that fundamental human behavior has not changed significantly with the upcoming technological advancement. In other words, it might be more difficult to track harassment and other problems, but the nature of the communication is ultimately the same through the ages.

Many employers seem to believe that mobile computing is here to stay and so are its associated issues. About three-fourths of employers permit own-device usage at work, while 81 percent of workers use at least one device as part of their everyday duties. The vast majority of businesses currently use social networking to promote their products and services, according to recently released research.

Employers should be concerned about major issues associated with the increase in mobile technology usage. First, an added potential for harassment exists among employees who are using Facebook and other social networking sites away from the job. Those could lead to increased litigation, especially if the company does not have a well-defined reporting procedure. First-hand monitoring has become significantly more difficult, so employers must rely on better reporting processes to catch the beginning stages of harassment before it blossoms into a more significant problem.

Employers cannot rely on their ability to restrict their workers’ media usage, as demonstrated by recent case law established in several privacy cases. Rather, by encouraging workers to report problems early, modern firms can prevent the development of a negative workplace culture.

Source: Human Resources Executive, “Social media and the law,” Tom Starner, Oct. 16, 2012

WOMAN FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST CALIFORNIA TRUCKING COMPANY

A woman who had been a dispatcher at a freight company has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer. In her lawsuit, the woman alleges that she was encouraged to flirt with customers, send suggestive electronic messages and perform other undignified acts to build business contacts. She had previously been employed by California Refrigerated Express, Inc., according to the complaint.

In addition, the woman alleges that her supervisors retaliated against her when she refused to participate in such activities, giving big business accounts to other women. Those women were reportedly encouraged to have ‘sexual activities’ with customers in order to maintain business relationships for the company. It is not clear whether other female employees have filed similar suits, but they may be forthcoming as more information is revealed.

Although the firm soundly rejects the woman’s claim, the former employee is seeking financial compensation for unfair business practices and a hostile work environment. The woman also alleges that labor code was violated when she was fired for refusing to engage in sexual conduct with customers.

The woman is seeking nearly $70,000 in unpaid overtime, contending that she was required to be on-call during the weekend hours. The woman contends that she was not paid for that time, even though she had set it aside to serve the company’s interests.

Additionally, legal documents indicate that the operator of the business has had her carrier license revoked involuntarily on numerous occasions. It is not clear exactly why those punishments were levied.

Source: Land Line, “Lawsuit alleges company president encouraged flirting, sex with customers,” Clarissa Kell-Holland, Aug. 22, 2012

EX-WARRIORS EMPLOYEE SUES TEAM, PLAYER FOR HARASSMENT

The former director of community relations for the Golden State Warriors is suing one of the team’s players for alleged harassment. She has also named two co-executive chairmen, a general manager, and a human resources director in the lawsuit, saying the team did not protect her against harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. Other charges were listed as well.

The woman says the player harassed her by texting her inappropriate messages, including a photograph of his genitals. The filing says he used a secret cellphone that belonged to the team’s equipment manager to send messages. The harassment allegedly started last year and lasted for several months.

When the woman told the team that a reporter had contacted her about the player, she was fired nine days later on Aug. 5, according to the lawsuit. During the month of December, the player allegedly complained about the woman’s work performance, leading a warning. Fearing retaliation, the woman felt she needed to “humor” the player. According to the lawsuit, the team has condoned and covered up other sexual harassment situations, even encouraging them at times.

On top of the player’s actions, the lawsuit details that his wife called the woman and told her she knew about the player’s secret phone. The wife later told team executives she wanted the director fired. During a game in January of this year, the player’s wife allegedly pushed the ex-employee into a wall.

In mid-February, the then-director of community relations was offered what she calls a bribe. She said she was encouraged to resign or take money.

As a result of these actions, the former employee says she suffered a heart-related medical issue in March. More information about the lawsuit, such as what monetary value she is seeking, was not released.

Source: Fox News, “Woman sues Ellis, Warriors for harassment,” Dec. 21, 2011

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE: NOT ONLY WOMEN ARE SUFFERING

California employees may be interested to know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other agencies have reported that the volume of sexual harassment claims filed has declined. Almost 16,000 claims were filed for sexual harassment in the workplace in 1997, whereas less than 12,000 were filed in 2010. That is 26.3 percent less.

Interestingly, while sexual harassment claims have been declining overall, reports indicate that there has been a rise in the incidents of men filing such claims. Claims filed by men in 1997 totaled 11.6 percent of all claims, whereas men accounted for 16.4 percent of all claims in 2010. In a recent Florida case, an assistant chef at a restaurant in Boca Raton filed a sexual harassment claim describing the frequent abuse he was forced to experience from other restaurant employees. The man was told by other staff that he should simply take the abuse on the chin, which he did for a long time in order not to lose his job. This abuse also apparently included physical threats.

Employment law statistics indicate that sexual harassment claims, which include promises in exchange for sexual favors as well as threats and consequences in exchange for sexual favors, are certainly prevalent in the restaurant industry. For example, 26 out of the 75 sexual harassment lawsuits this year filed with the federal government were lodged by food industry employees. One lawyer, from a San Francisco law firm that specializes in representing food service employees in sexual harassment claims, believes this is due to the fact that the restaurant business suffers from a high turnover rate and that it is such a fast-paced work environment that management has a difficult time keeping tabs on the activities of its employees.

California residents suffering from harassment by a supervisor or any kind of sexual harassment in the workplace should know that this kind of behavior from a superior or coworker is completely unacceptable. No employee should ever be forced to endure these kinds of conditions, whether male or female. There are laws that protect employees from untoward sexual advances at the workplace, but it is ultimately up to the people being abused to take action and defend their rights.

Source: The Nation’s Restaurant News, “Looking at sexual harassment in the restaurant industry,” Ron Ruggless, Dec. 5, 2011

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE OFTEN KEPT QUIET

Under California law, anyone that feels they are experiencing harassment in the workplace is entitled to seek compensation and protection in their place of employment. Since the passage of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, this legislation has lead to more people assuming the courage required to speak out against their employer when sexual harassment in the workplace occurs. However, there are fewer complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and that number is steadily dropping.

It appears this may be simply due to the fact that companies have stricter policies in place in terms of keeping it under wraps, by implementing arbitration agreements at the time employees are hired. Due to the increased public awareness of sexual harassment, many companies today are requiring new employees to sign documentation agreeing to arbitration if sexual harassment were to occur. In many cases, this signed documentation is a condition for getting a job. Should harassment occur, arbitration proceedings occur rather than the individual suing the company, and these proceedings are confidential as are any settlements associated with the outcomes.

A California based lawyer whose high profile clients include Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger, says that looking at the number of claims filed with the EEOC today is not an accurate reflection of the true number of cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace. One of her current clients is one of the women that have accused a current Republican candidate of harassment. Another lawyer out of Washington concurs, stating that the kinds of claims are changing as well. Rather than seeing claims regarding quid pro quo sexual harassment, sexual favors in return for a promotion, there are more claims regarding egregious harassment that may include suggestive emails or inappropriate text messages.

2004 California legislation now requires sexual harassment training every two years for companies that have more than 50 employees. Although many employees may not like being forced into arbitration over a sexual harassment claim, the upside is that it will help victims get a faster resolution to their complaint. Even so, many professionals that deal specifically with this issue feel this hush-hush may be supporting a bias that protects the perpetrators. The very likelihood that there will be another victim even following arbitration is entirely possible, as has occurred with the alleged sexual harassment of Republican candidate Cain. Even so, today’s workers do have protection under the law and should never feel their voice must be hushed in these matters.

Source: The SFGate News, “Harassment claims often settled confidentially,” Jeff Green, Nov. 20, 2011

FORMER OFFICER TURNS EMPLOYMENT LAW ON ITS HEAD IN CALIFORNIA

Race discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace abounds throughout California and everyone must be diligent to safeguard their rights. Sexual harassment and racial discrimination can even take the form of a supervisor giving promises in exchange for sexual favors. Or, in some cases, it could be when a supervisor threatens consequences if sexual favors are not provided. In other cases, racial discrimination may present itself as a false accusation of sexual harassment. In fact, harassment and employment law cases can be so complicated that sometimes it’s difficult to determine who is the one being discriminated against.

In one San Leandro case, an African American former police officer who was falsely accused of sexual harassment by fellow white officers decided to fight back. Now, this victim of race discrimination will receive a $314,000 settlement from the city of San Leandro in California. The settlement agreement also acknowledged his eligibility to receive disability benefits.

The false sexual harassment claims stemmed from a 2009 filing by multiple female officers who claimed he directed offensive statements toward them regarding breast implants. According to his attorney the sexual harassment lawsuits were exaggerated and false. Indeed, the claims were eventually settled in 2010, and he was cleared of all charges.

The man was the repeated victim of racist comments from fellow employees during his 12-year career in the police department. In fact, when he received a sergeant-level promotion in 2007, white officers taunted him with statements that he only received the recognition because of his race. The statements were followed by derogatory comments that he was “stupid” and “ghetto.” The man was consistently harassed by officers who vehemently opposed his promotion.

Typically, failure by an employer to take prompt corrective action leaves many victims of workplace harassment feeling like they are unable to do anything about the situation, but this man did not stand still. As a result, his previously ignored complaints have been heard, and he will now receive a sizable settlement while safeguarding his ability to draw from the disability pension that was awarded to him as a result of his physical inability to continue working as a police officer.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of employment law violations, including quid pro quo sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, would gain by consulting with a California attorney experienced in these types of cases. The lawyer can help review the facts and circumstances to assess liability and press claims to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Source: The Inside Bay Area, “San Leandro and ex-officer settle race discrimination lawsuit,” Chris De Benedetti, Nov. 2, 2011

SEXUAL HARASSMENT SUIT FILED AGAINST FITNESS CENTER

Nearly everyone would agree that a workplace should be a comfortable place to work, not an environment ripe with derogatory and discriminating commentary. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace does take place all too frequently, often leading to employees feeling intensely uncomfortable while they are simply trying to perform their job. That may have been the case for one California man, who has filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that he was the victim of sexual harassment.

The suit was recently filed against his employer 24 Hour Fitness USA Inc. In it, the man claims that his female boss made unwanted advances at one of the company’s clubs in Sherman Oaks. He is seeking financial compensation of more than $50,000.

According to the court documents, this past summer his boss sent him suggestive text messages over a period of one month and invited him to accompany her to Las Vegas. When he requested for her to stop, the suit claims that she retaliated. Specifically, she diminished his chances for a promotion by falsely criticizing his job performance. He says he suffered and continues to suffer embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress. The harassment also led to “mental anguish and severe shock to his nervous system”.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious matter as it not only affects the person involved but it also affects the entire workplace as well. Those victimized by harassment should consider meeting with an experienced California attorney. Here, the man is likely benefiting from the advice of an attorney, who is possibly helping him with establishing the proper grounds for the suit. The attorney may also be able to aid in ensuring the improper harassment no longer poses a danger while fighting for an equitable result.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “24 Hour Fitness faces sexual harassment lawsuit,” Oct. 18, 2011

VACAVILLE MAN CHARGES RETALIATION BY FORMER EMPLOYER

When you bring problems that occur in the workplace to your employer’s attention, you expect that your concerns will be heard and acknowledged. Unfortunately, as one man from Vacaville discovered, that is not always the case. Retaliation for voicing workplace issues is a serious problem in California and across the nation.

The Vacaville man is a former employee of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau. He is alleging that he was wrongfully terminated after complaining about inappropriate expenditures made by his boss. The former employee also alleges that he was the target of harassment in the workplace. He is seeking to be compensated for his pain and suffering.

In his complaint, he states that his former boss withdrew $200 by claiming the expense for petty cash and submitted $260 in expenses for Christmas decorations that were never provided. He also alleges that his former boss used cash from the visitor’s bureau to pay a personal electricity bill. Moreover, the complaint states that the former president of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce made a remark that may have made the former employee’s boss suspicious. There are 25 unnamed individuals listed as defendants in the complaint along with the boss of the former employee and the visitor’s bureau.

A similar situation happened two years ago with another former employee of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau. In that case, it seems the former employee also may also have been fired in retaliation for bringing up improper expenditures. However, the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Unfortunately, this kind of case is all too common in California. Worse, retaliation by employers leads to a hostile work environment. These actions can cause other people to fear coming forward with complaints about sexual harassment and other workplace issues. When an employee is wrongfully terminated, he or she deserves full compensation not only for the termination itself, but also for the emotional suffering endured. An experienced attorney in workplace harassment issues may be able to help a victim to collect his or her deserved compensation.

Source: The Reporter, “Former worker suing Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau,” Ryan Chalk, Sept. 14, 2011

HARASSMENT, IGNORED COMPLAINTS LANDS SDPD IN COURT

A female detective who worked at the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) for over 20 years as a ‘sex crimes’ detective has sued her former employer for sexual discrimination, harassment and age discrimination. The California lawsuit names the SDPD and four of the woman’s supervisors and ex-workers. She complains of various forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, including inappropriate actions and comments. The harassment is said to have escalated in 2009.

The woman’s lawsuit alleges a hostile work environment, comments and activities of a sexual nature and a long record of ignored complaints. The plaintiff points to a particular detective as the root of the problem, saying he even made light of female sex crimes victims. He is alleged to have sent lewd e-mails and made sexually disparaging comments, as well as treating male employees better than female workers.

For its part, the City Attorney said nothing more than his office would be preparing a defense and advising the City Council. The counsel for the police chief separately indicated the charges were more than a year old, and as such, any necessary corrective measures would have occurred “long ago.” That, of course, does not answer the complaint currently pending in court.

A victim of sexual discrimination in the workplace, as well as harassment and age discrimination is protected by the laws of the State of California and the laws of the United States. Monetary damages may be awarded, as well as punitive damages for egregious conduct occasioned by a pervasively hostile work environment. The laws are numerous and confusing to many people. A California attorney experienced in handling cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace may provide some support and help hold wrongdoers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Source: NBC San Diego, “Cop Accuses SDPD of Sexual Discrimination,” Lauren Steussy and Paul Krueger, Sept. 13, 2011