Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California? Read these Workplace Harassment Tips and call us today.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a client about conduct that was happening at work from a supervisor. The supervisor had made comments about the fact that she looked good in what she was wearing and that his wife wouldn’t look as good as what this client looked like in her outfit. The comments made her feel uncomfortable and were unwanted. This client said that she was just there to work, and that’s all that she ever wanted to do, and that she felt that it was inappropriate. Sometimes, as an attorney, I have to have tough conversations with employees as to whether or not conduct like that is unlawful.
Under California law, much like federal law, the court is going to say that before somebody can bring a lawsuit for a hostile work environment, they have to show that it was severe and/or pervasive. Sometimes courts will say that limited comments don’t rise to the level of severe and pervasive, so sometimes it’s difficult as to whether or not one or two comments is enough to protect an employee. It’s important to note that while you might not meet the definition of a hostile work environment, that if you do complain about that conduct to Human Resources or to another manager. You must also complain to the manager that made the comments themselves, so that you’re protected. While you might not ever meet that definition of a hostile work environment, because the comments were inappropriate and arguably sexual in nature, you should be able to make those complaints without fear of retaliation. If you are retaliated against after complaining about conduct that was sexual in nature, racist in nature, or comments regarding your disability, the employer can’t retaliate against you. If they do, they will be liable for any damage that would cause. A lot of times people call us about just general advice, or they’ll contact a law firm about general advice as to if this is sexual harassment, and, even if not, what’s my next step? How can I get it to stop? I don’t want to have a claim. I just want to work. If you have questions as to whether or not you’ve been subjected to harassment at work, or what the next step should be, or if you’ve already taken the next step. As a result, you’ve been retaliated against, I would encourage you to talk to a law firm.
Hostile Work Environment
I would say that there’s not a day that goes by in which I don’t get contacted by a potential client who is experiencing a hostile work environment and asking whether or not they’ve been subjected to unlawful harassment. In walking through these issues with a potential client, it’s important to note that not all harassment is unlawful. Sometimes, you have supervisors that are hotheads, yell and scream, or say inappropriate comments but not necessarily unlawful comments, but the conduct doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of a hostile work environment. A lot of times we look at whether or not the harassing conduct or the hostile work environment is based off a protected class. Are they targeting you because of your gender? Are they targeting you because they are creating a sexual environment? Are they targeting you because of your race or disability? All of that is unlawful. California law expressly prohibits creating a hostile work environment or a harassing work environment based off a protected conduct. It also includes protecting employees from creating a hostile work environment or harassing conduct because they went to HR to complain about that conduct. That’s when you start to identify as to whether or not the conduct is going to warrant a hostile work environment or a harassment claim. Is the harassment based off of a specific classification? It’s not always easy to identify why the conduct might be unlawful. Sometimes it’s hard to say; while the conduct is inappropriate and is disheartening, and is hostile, and is harassing, it’s not necessarily unlawful. Those are sometimes hard conversations to have with people. It’s also important to understand that it’s not always easy to articulate why it is unlawful. It’s important to find an attorney that can walk you through as to whether or not what you’re being subjected to is unlawful conduct. It’s also important to figure out how to stop it. If you’re a current employee, there’s a lot of times I tell current employees that they need a job more than they need a lawsuit, so let’s take steps to prevent the harassment and to make sure that you continue working for the company because that’s what you want. If you’re a current employee, I encourage you to give us a call so I can walk you through what steps you can do to protect yourself.
When to File a Workplace Harassment Complaint
A question we sometimes get is how bad the harassment needs to be before a lawsuit can be filed. That’s a tough question. It’s a tough question to answer the question of how much is enough. How much harassment are you expected to go through before you can go to court and say enough is enough and that what you were subjected to was unlawful? I think what’s important for you to understand is whether or not you can actually meet the burden of a hostile work environment. Have you been subjected to enough inappropriate comments about your body, or about what sexual positions your supervisor might like, or how many inappropriate text messages or videos your supervisor might have shown you? Whether or not you’ve been subjected to enough for a hostile work environment, you have to understand that you’re protected to complain about one instance of inappropriate conduct. If you’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment, is it necessary the question as to whether or not you should go to Human Resources. If you’ve been subjected to conduct that you believe is inappropriate in the workplace based off gender or sex discrimination, a racist comment, comments about your disability, comments that were sexual in nature, you always have the right to go to somebody in Human Resources and raise those issues that specifically identify that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment based off of what we call a protected class – sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability harassment. Whether or not you are ultimately able to show that it was what we call severe or pervasive enough, understand that you can’t be retaliated against for making a complaint even with that one comment. The employer has to take your complaint seriously and take steps to prevent harassment in the future. What the employer surely can’t do and clearly can’t do is retaliate against you. If you make a complaint or if you’ve made a complaint and you feel that you’ve been subjected to retaliation for making that complaint, understand that you have rights.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California? Read these Workplace Harassment Tips and contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.