JUST SAY NO TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN CALIFORNIA

In our entry last week, we discussed some points about quid pro quo harassment and what all it entails. Our California readers probably know by now that we don’t believe in any type of harassment in the workplace. When it comes to quid pro quo harassment, some victims might be wary of speaking up because they fear the consequences. They might fear that they will be retaliated against. They might fear they will lose their job or have to take a pay cut. In all of those cases, the actions are unacceptable.

The laws in California and the federal law have specific protections in place for people who are victims of sexual harassment. No employer or representative of your employer can retaliate against you simply because you complained about sexual harassment. If they do, you have the right to take action regarding the sexual harassment and the retaliation.

When you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, your first step will likely be filing a complaint with the company. This usually involves going to the human resources representative. This might stop the harassment. If it doesn’t stop the harassment, you can look into your options to move your complaints forward.

We don’t want you to think that you don’t have any options or that you should just quietly deal with the harassment. That isn’t ever the case. Instead, you can stand firm to make the harassment stop. We can help you learn about your options if you need to move the case past just making a complaint with the company.

DON’T DEAL WITH A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT: TAKE ACTION

Sexual harassment in the workplace can make things unbearable. Trying to avoid the harasser and trying to deal with the stress can make work a very stressful place. It is important that no employees think they simply have to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. The federal government and the State of California both have very strict laws pertaining to sexual harassment.

Gone are the days in which male supervisors harassing female subordinates was the only recognized form of sexual harassment. Now, there are more subtle forms of sexual harassment that are recognized. Inappropriate comments, touching and other similar actions can be classified as sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can also be done on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. If there are off-color remarks about those issues, it can be construed as sexual harassment.

No matter what, no one has to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. Some people are worried about retaliation if they report the harassment. Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal. Companies and their employees aren’t allowed to fire you or take disciplinary actions just because you report sexual harassment. Additionally, companies not taking action after the report is made is also illegal.

We can help you assert your rights against sexual harassment. You don’t have to stand by and deal with a hostile workforce or inaction against sexual harassment. Punitive damages and other forms of compensation might be possible. In addition, it might be possible to keep your job and stop the harassment by taking steps to stop the harassment that is causing your workplace to be hostile.

FORMER ZILLOW EMPLOYEE FILES SEXUAL HARASSMENT SUIT

Sexual harassment in companies is often swept under the rug, and even if an employee reports the harassment, appropriate action may not be taken. When employees believe they are the victims of harassment that is creating a hostile work environment, they may have legal recourse against the employer and be able to file a lawsuit. A former employee of the real estate Zillow has done just that.

According to reports, the woman worked for Zillow as a sales associate and has claimed in the suit that the company culture was similar to that of an “adult frat house.” The lawsuit claims that while the woman was working at the California office, women were given sexually indicative nicknames by a male co-worker and that the same coworker sent her sexually explicit messages and a picture of his genitals.

While Zillow fired the male sales manager in question before the lawsuit was filed, the woman claims that the issue of sexual harassment was company wide. She said that other male coworkers made inappropriate comments at company parties and requested topless photos of the woman in exchange for resetting her password.

The woman’s lawsuit also claims that she was fired unfairly for not meeting sales goals because she was not given a chance to explain why she was not performing to standards. The suit also notes that another worker hired around the same time as the woman was not fired even though the worker’s performance was similar.

Comments of a sexual nature have no place in a work environment, and harassment can make it very difficult for employees to do their jobs and perform to company standards. Whether you are currently experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace or have been terminated unfairly because you reported harassment, learning more about your options is the first step.

Source: GeekWire, “Zillow accused of ‘adult frat house’ culture, sales manager fired after sexual harassment investigation” Blair Hanley Frank, Dec. 02, 2014

REPORTING OR SUING FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

For California workers who have had to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, deciding how to proceed with complaints about the harassment can be difficult. Most of our readers know that you have the right to take a stand against sexual harassment. There are two ways that employees can do this: reporting harassment to the company or filing a lawsuit. There are marked differences between these two that are important.

In most cases, reporting the sexual harassment to the company is the first thing you should do. Many companies will immediately investigate the claims and take appropriate action to remedy the situation. There is a chance, however, that the company won’t do anything. That might mean you need to move to the next step — filing a lawsuit.

When the sexual harassment that occurs is at the hand of a supervisor, such as quid pro quo harassment that we discussed last week, filing a report might not do any good. If that is what you are going through, you might have to take legal action to put a stop to the harassment and get the situation resolved.

Taking legal action against an employer isn’t always easy. It is vital that you understand your rights as you go through the process. You also have to make sure that you know your responsibilities. We understand that all of this can be emotionally taxing. We want to help you learn your options and help you as you move through whichever process you opt to go through. You don’t have to accept being sexually harassed at work.

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENTS AREN’T ACCEPTABLE IN CALIFORNIA

Last week, we discussed the recent ruling that found Domino’s Pizza wasn’t liable for the sexual harassment that occurred at a franchised location. As we discussed, the worker was subjected to a hostile work environment at the hands of her manager. This might have some people wondering exactly what they can do if they are being subjected to a hostile work environment.

For people who are the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, making complaints and filing lawsuits are possible. It is vital that those who are experiencing these types of situations learn their rights and responsibilities under California laws to determine if the situation is being handled appropriately.

Sexual harassment claims are very touchy subjects. We understand how difficult it can be to speak about the incidents and how emotional these types of cases are. We have experience that allows us to help you present your complaints in a manner that is acceptable under California laws. While we offer compassion to the victims of sexual harassment, we present a firm stance against the person who was doing the harassing.

Whether you are dealing with a company that is ignoring complaints about sexual harassment or a company that just isn’t doing enough, we can help you to decide how to proceed with your complaints. We can put our experience to work so that you can focus on moving on with your life and building yourself up after the attack.

Sexual harassment shouldn’t be a part of any workplace. No victim of sexual harassment has to sit down and simply deal with the harassment. Instead, they can stand up against the harasser. Please feel free to visit our webpage on sexual harassment to learn more.

CALIFORNIA COURT FINDS DOMINO’S NOT LIABLE FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Employees count on employers to keep the workplace free from harassment of all types. In the case of businesses that are part of a franchise, determining who is at fault when harassment occurs is something that can be complex. In a recent case, the California Supreme Court has drawn a line that let those involved in the case know exactly whom to hold responsible for the sexual harassment that allegedly occurred there.

The case has to do with the manager of a Domino’s Pizza location sexually harassing a young employee. The sexual harassment claims have to do with a location that is a franchised location instead of a store that is controlled by Domino’s Pizza LLC. In response to the allegation, a Domino’s area leader instructed the owner of the location to fire the man who was being accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The state’s high court found that the franchisee was responsible for day-to-day employment issues, such as sexual harassment policies, despite the fact that the area leader told the owner to fire the man. While it did find that the franchisor, Domino’s Pizza, was responsible for branding, pizza making, and other franchisee activities, that responsibility didn’t include ensuring that there is proper supervision of the locations.

While the topic of who is responsible for sexual harassment is one that will almost always prove to be complex, especially in situations like this one, victims of sexual harassment should always remember that they don’t have to deal with the harassment. There are steps that sexual harassment victims can take to help remedy the situation. Knowing these steps can help victims to regain control of their personal space.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, “California Justices Limit Franchiser Liability, Find Domino’s Isn’t Store Worker’s Employer” Chris Opfer, Sep. 02, 2014

NEW BILL ADDRESSES HARASSMENT IN CALIFORNIA’S FARMING INDUSTRY

There have been issues for a time now with sexual harassment in California, specifically in the industry of farming. A new bill has been created to address the problem, and it is close to being signed into law. The bill is known as SB 1087.

The bill would work in conjunction with the Farm Labor Contractor Act, serving as an amendment to that act. Under it, contractors and employees in the farming industry would need to go through special training aimed at preventing sexual harassment.

So far, both the Assembly and the state Senate have shown that they are behind this bill, but it still needs to be signed by the governor if it is to become law. It has been passed along to his desk, though no signature has been given at this time.

If he does sign it, the labor commissioner would get increased powers to act when sexual harassment was reported. This would especially be useful in cases where there were repeated claims of harassment from employees.

The bill came into being in large part because of a report that was carried out looking at harassment of female workers in California’s fields, and the report exposed just how vulnerable these workers could be. The report was a joint effort between three different groups: The Center for Investigative Reporting, Frontline and National Public Radio.

Those who have faced sexual harassment in the workplace while working in California’s farming industry should keep an eye on this bill to see if it is passed into law, as it could provide them with further protections so that their rights are not violated.

Source: New Times, “Bill may require sexual harassment prevention training for farmworkers and contractors” Jono Kinkade, Aug. 20, 2014

WOMEN IN BUILDING TRADES FACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

The role that women play in many industries has shifted massively over the years, giving them more opportunities than ever before. However, recent reports indicate that there are still a number of jobs in which women struggle both to get jobs and to keep them. For instance, the building trades are not nearly as open to women as many other jobs.

For one thing, some women have reported that they were not able to get hired in the first place, all on the grounds of their gender. Some were even told that the reason for their not being hired was that they were not male.

Even those who do manage to get jobs have reported that it is hard for them to keep them and to advance. This is where sexual harassment comes into play, as some women were harassed on the job to the point that they had to leave it behind. This type of harassment made for a hostile work environment that would marginalize women in an industry in which they were already not well represented.

On top of sexual harassment, there have been reports that the training that they needed was not given to them and that they did not get the support from the men that they worked with that they desired. Men would be opposed to helping them or mentoring them as they would with other men.

Any women in California who have been exposed to sexual harassment in the workplace need to know what legal rights they have, especially if the goal of that harassment seems to have been to hold them back or force them out of the industry.

Source: SCV News, “CSUN Prof’s Study Finds Homophobia Hinders Women in Building Trades” Aug. 14, 2014

TYPES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

When you think of sexual harassment in the workplace, your thoughts might automatically go toward someone who is being groped or touched. That, however, is only one form of sexual harassment that is against the law in California. According to the Fair Employment and Housing Act, sexual harassment includes a variety of forms.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is one form of sexual harassment that doesn’t get that much attention. This form of sexual harassment means that a worker is offered extra benefits if they do sexual favors for someone. It can also mean responding in a positive manner to sexual advances that come from someone who has a position of authority over you.

In some cases, people who are in a position of authority over you might threaten to make or make negative reviews or reprisals if you respond negatively to their advances. Again, this is a form of sexual harassment, but it is one that is sometimes ignored or not noticed.

Sexual harassment also has to do with what you aren’t allowed to do at work. If someone impedes your movements or blocks you from going somewhere in a manner that seems sexual, that is sexual harassment. Having to deal with visual gestures, suggestive objects, leering and other visual actions that are of a sexual nature is also sexual harassment. Even lewd jokes, derogatory comments and sexual slurs are forms of sexual harassment.

No matter what form of sexual harassment you are being subjected to, you should file complaints as soon as you begin to get that uncomfortable feeling about the situation. Understanding the laws and guidelines dealing with sexual harassment might help you as you move through the complaint process.

Source: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, “Fair Employment and Housing – Sexual Harassment” Jul. 31, 2014

ARE INTERNS PROTECTED FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE?

Many organizations use interns who are not paid for their time or their services. Often, these organizations are corporations who are allowing interns to work for them as part of their college courses; studies have shown that roughly 50 percent of college graduates have also done internships. On top of that, colleges themselves will often offer internships to their students without pay. For example, this is done at Arizona State University.

One of the potential issues with interns is that they may not have all of the same protections from discrimination, sexual harassment and the like that employees would get. The Civil Rights Act only protects actual employees who are paid, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also only focuses on paid workers.

Some places have noticed this loophole and done what they can to eliminate it with other regulations. For instance, in Washington D.C., Oregon and New York City, interns are now protected when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. In California, the State Assembly passed a similar bill, but it is not yet a law since it has not gone through the Senate. That means that interns in California may not yet have the protections that they need.

It is incredibly important for all college students and anyone else who is thinking about taking an internship to know what rights they have, even if they are not employees. In California, they should keep an eye on this latest bill to see if it passes the Senate, giving them more protection in the state than they would get in most other places.

Source: Truth Dig, “Unpaid Interns Can Collect Back Pay Without Hurting Their Careers” Blair Hickman, Jul. 23, 2014