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Santa Barbara Employment Law Blog

A victim of workplace sexual harassment must take action

If you consider yourself a victim of workplace sexual harassment, it's imperative to take immediate action. Even though you may feel powerless at first, there are many steps you can take to put an end to the behavior and once again enjoy your career.

The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn't remain quiet and hope that things change for the better in the future. There are steps you can take to protect yourself, including the following:

  • Speak your mind: Tell your harasser that you know what they are doing and that you won't tolerate it any longer. When you speak your mind, you move one step closer to frightening the person into stopping. There is no guarantee this will work, it may even make things worse, but it's the best place to start.
  • Read your employee handbook: If you have an employee handbook, review it for proper procedure. It's here that you'll learn the steps to take if you're the victim of workplace sexual harassment. If you don't find any language on this, consult with your human resources department.
  • Keep good records: You don't want your accusation to turn into a "he said, she said" ordeal. With the right records backing up your claim, it's much easier to prove that you were the victim of workplace sexual harassment. An example of this is an email your harasser sent to you.
  • File a formal charge: You can file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the appropriate state government agency.
  • Take legal action: If all else fails, you may need to take legal action to protect your rights as an employee. You can seek remedies such as: reinstatement if you were terminated, back pay, damages for the emotional impact and the requirement for your employer to take steps (such as training) to stop this behavior.

What you need to know before filing a wrongful discharge suit

California is an “at will” state. This means you can quit, or your employment terminated for any reason or no reason at all. However, if you believe you were fired or forced to resign as retaliation, in a manner that violates contractual obligations or anti-discrimination laws, it is illegal. At Anticouni & Associates, we have experience representing clients who have been wrongfully terminated.

According to FindLaw, terminations due to violations of common law are exceptions to at-will employment. Three primary common law exceptions include the following:

Same-sex harassment and the law

Sexual harassment in California can be seen in many different forms. While the most common scenario is a male harassing a female, this is not always the case. Women can be the perpetrators towards men, and you can also be sexually harassed by someone of your same gender. It is important to be aware of the law and some examples of what may constitute harassment in sexual form.

According to The Globe and Mail, harassment between two of the same sex is not nearly as common as harassment dealing with different genders, but that these cases are on the rise. One of the reasons for this is because the workplace climate is changing in regard to sexual harassment in general and more are willing to come forward when something occurs. Whether it is name calling or behavior that is sexually offensive, harassment is about the exertion of power.

Keep track of your time worked to protect yourself

One thing that many new workers face is difficulty understanding their paychecks. It is sometimes hard to know when pay periods start and when they end. It is because of this that it's easy for people to make mistakes and claim that they have not received the correct wages.

It is always good to understand how your paycheck works at each new place of employment. Questions about your paycheck should be directed at your employer or manager. If they explain more wages and you still think there is a discrepancy, ask again. If you still cannot determine why there is a difference in what you see versus what they do, you may want to start taking notes.

Steps to take if you have been sexually harassed

While it would be great if every work situation was free of conflict and drama, this is not usually the case. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is one type of behavior that can make working in an environment challenging and uncomfortable. Although California has laws against sexual harassment, it still occurs and it is important to know how to proceed so that the claim is taken seriously and a proper investigation is carried out.

Forbes reports that a survey showed around 33% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Of those women, only 30% actually reported the incidents and one of the main reasons is they are afraid. To help more women and men come forward, there are certain steps one should follow. The first is to document each and every situation in which you felt harassed. Documentation should be written and/or typed up and kept at home or in a safe place, preferably not at work. Take detailed notes and include the date and time as well as if there were any witnesses to the transaction. Any other evidence, such as emails, texts and notes, should also be collected and copied.

What protections do independent contractors have?

There are numerous benefits of being an independent contractor in California. These include being able to choose where they work, when they work and how much to charge. Basically they are their own bosses which means much more flexibility than if they were employees. Being an independent contractor, however, also has a number of disadvantages, and one is that they are not protected in the same way other workers are.

According to NPR, the practice of hiring contract workers is increasing in a variety of industries such as accounting, warehousing, education, transportation and manufacturing. One of the reasons more contractors are being hired is because it is beneficial for the employers, as they do not need to pay for things such as benefits, workers' compensation, unemployment and payroll taxes. While working as a contractor can be beneficial, there are many federal and state laws they are unable to take advantage of. These include:

  • Workplace safety and health protections
  • Age Discrimination Employment Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 

Holding powerful people accountable for their actions

Recently, an increasing amount of attention has been given to sexual harassment and sexual assault. A number of high-profile cases have appeared in recent months and many people are becoming aware of how problematic sexual harassment and assault are in society. Unfortunately, many people continue to mistreat staff members and subject them to sexual harassment which violates the law. Moreover, some people may choose to stay silent for unfortunate reasons. For example, they may be afraid to hold someone who is in a position of power accountable for what they have done.

Sometimes, people who have a high-ranking position in society feel as if they are invincible or able to get away with unacceptable behaviors. It is especially important to hold people like this accountable for a number of reasons. First, they may have a considerable amount of influence over others and the ability to impact perceptions of sexual harassment, sexual assault and accountability. For example, those who may be less successful or those who have less authority may feel as if they can get away with unacceptable behaviors as well.

Is my employer obligated to provide nursing breaks?

New mothers in Santa Barbara probably have a lot of questions as they return to the work force. For instance, what are the rules regarding nursing breaks in the workplace? The United States Department of Labor strives to answer these questions, so you can be fully aware of your rights, as well as your employer's responsibilities.

Are there laws governing nursing breaks at work?

The Fair Labor Standards Act protects your rights

Being a worker in America is not always easy, and the fact that it is has been nine years since the minimum wage went up federally doesn't brighten the picture. As of July 24, 2018, the minimum wage in the United States has been $7.25 for nine years. At the time that it was raised, the country was in a recession. This made people wonder what the long-term effects would be on the economy and workers in America.

Today, the same questions are asked, and many states have had to take minimum wage into their own hands. It is always an argument about whether the minimum wage should be increased and what would happen if it was. There are some other things to know about the minimum wage, though.

What are reasonable accommodations?

If you are an employee in California who has a disability, an employer may not turn you down for a position, or fire you from an existing one, just because of your disability. In fact, federal regulations require that employers make reasonable accommodations for the employee so he or she can perform the job on an equal level to colleagues. These accommodations can come in different forms, from physical changes to work schedules to job reassignment.

According to the Department of Labor, reasonable accommodation refers to a modification to the work environment or specific position that enables the employee to successfully perform what is necessary for his or her job. These productivity enhancers may include:

  • Accessible and facilitating software or other technology
  • Changes to the work station and/or office spaces
  • Accessible communications
  • Policy changes such as a flexible work schedule or use of a service animal

Contact

Anticouni & Associates
201 N. Calle Cesar Chavez
Suite 105
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Phone: 805-699-5968
Phone: 805-845-0864
Fax: 805-845-0965
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