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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.

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.

Wrongful termination guidelines in California are complex

When employees get a job, they expect to get paid. They don't expect to be fired for illegal reasons. When an employee is terminated for no good reason, that employee will likely suffer from financial difficulties because of the loss of income. That financial difficulty along with the stigma of being fired can be difficult to overcome.

Employees who don't think they were terminated for a legal reason might be interested in learning about wrongful termination laws in California. These guidelines help keep employees from being fired for things like whistleblowing or filing complaints about sexual harassment.

All forms of harassment can lead to a hostile work environment

In our blog post last week, we discussed a politician who is being accused of sexual harassment. If you recall, the latest accusation doesn't involve the politician physically touching anyone. Instead, the politician was accused of grabbing his own genitals in the restroom as another person was standing in front of the urinal. That might have some of our California readers wondering what constitutes harassment in the state.

Who can be a victim of harassment?

California politician accused of sexual harassment, again

We have often discussed how sexual harassment isn't acceptable for any workplace. Political campaign offices aren't a suitable place for sexual harassment. A recent news story about a Republican candidate out of San Diego shows that sexual harassment comes in many forms. Some of those forms don't involve the harasser touching the victim in any way.

A Navy veteran who was working on the politician's campaign is the one who is making the accusations against the politician. The veteran claims the politician was hovering over him while he was at the urinal. The veteran says the politician was "grasping his genitals" with his pants up and his zipper undone. The veteran says he walked out without saying anything to the politician.

Whistleblower protections cover more than just being fired

Last week, we discussed some points about whistleblowers and how they have important protections to ensure they aren't fired or retaliated against for speaking up. When employers ignore those protections, whistleblowers have the right to seek the protections afforded to them by these laws. We want to help California residents to understand their rights and learn their options when it comes to whistleblower protections.

People need to work, so some people choose to just look away when a company is involved in practices or incidents that violate certain laws. In those cases, the need to keep a job seems to outweigh the need to blow the proverbial whistle. We understand how scary it can be to report unlawful actions. We want to help you learn about the federal and state laws that help to keep you protected.

Can a whistleblower be fired for making the report?

In some of our previous blog posts, we have discussed cases that involve whistleblowers who bring violations of the law into the public's eye. Those cases might have some of our readers wondering exactly what is a whistleblower and what protections are afforded to these brave individuals. The answers to some basic questions might interest our California readers.

What is a whistleblower?

Non-employee sexual harassment isn't legal

In last week's blog post, we discussed how people work for tips in the restaurant industry are more prone to have to deal with sexual harassment than those who don't depend upon tips. The sexual harassment in many of those cases comes from the customers or guests of the restaurant who is getting service. The fact that the sexual harassment is coming from customers doesn't mean that the workers should have to deal with the harassment. California restaurants are still expected to handle these types of cases.

Sexual harassment of any sort is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers who have at least 15 employees. This act protects workers from having to deal with unwanted sexual advances from supervisors, other workers, or non-employees.

Servers often deal with sexual harassment to save tips

Servers who have to rely on tips to make a living wage are often subjected to behavior from customers that would make some people blush. Lewd comments, sexual innuendos and other unwanted advances plague the servers in the restaurant industry. While those facts might make some people scream that servers should just stand up to rowdy and unruly restaurant patrons, it often isn't that simple. Our readers in California might find this complex issue rather interesting.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center has released a report that took surveys completed by 688 workers from the restaurant industry into account. It found that workers who rely on tips for a living are dealing with unwanted sexual advances at a higher rate than those who are in non-tipped positions. That rate of sexual harassment is increased in states that have a lower tipped minimum wage.

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.

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