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Sacramento Sexual Harassment Law Blog

What exactly is a hostile work environment, legally?

Some places are just not great places to work. You may have an incompetent boss, a rude supervisor or a clique of coworkers that makes life unpleasant for anyone not in the club. But is any of that enough to make a hostile work environment, legally speaking?

No. Having to work with incompetent, rude, domineering or even outright unpleasant people isn't something that matters, legally. So what does?

If you witness wrongdoing at work, do you have to testify?

There are times when something happens at work and all anybody wants to do is to stay as far removed from the whole mess and hope it goes away.

Unfortunately, if you're a witness to some sort of misconduct that ends up in litigation, you can end up being called on to testify. Depending on who engaged in the misconduct and who calls on you, you may be asked to testify against a current or former co-worker (who may also be a friend) or against your employer. Neither may sound like a comfortable situation—but do you have any choice?

Must a physical advance be sexual to be sexual harassment?

Most people realize that actions like grabbing someone's genitals, fondling someone's breast or forcing a kiss on someone's lips are inherently sexual. But does a physical advance on someone have to be inherently sexual in nature in order to constitute sexual harassment?

No, it doesn't. Even an action that could in no way be described as "alluring" can form the basis of a sexual harassment claim. So can non-sexual physical contact that merely serves as a pretext for getting the victim in closer.

Scorched earth tactics and retaliation lawsuits

How badly can an employer want to retaliate against a whistleblower?

Apparently, pretty badly, if the $10 million spent defending the wrongful termination claim of a Department of Energy employee is any indication. The process is known as "scorched earth litigation" and it is designed to intimidate and frighten most people into backing down off of a lawsuit and moving on, rather than staying embroiled in a case that can drag on year after year.

Constructive dismissal: Forced out by a hostile environment

All it takes is the realization that a company is going to put its reputation ahead of the wellbeing of its employees to make a sexually abusive supervisor figure out that he or she can get away with just about anything.

That can end up creating a toxic work environment so hostile that some employees feel like they have no choice but to resign or retire. Even though the employee is the one to take the action to terminate his or her employment, the law recognizes this as a "constructive dismissal," where the employer essentially forced the employee into action. A constructive dismissal is simply another form of wrongful termination.

3 things you should know about qui tam actions

A qui tam action is a type of civil lawsuit brought by a private individual, alleging that an individual or business has been defrauding the government. It's made possible through the The False Claims Act, and it encourages private citizens with information about fraudulent activity to act as whistleblowers through considerable financial incentives.

If you are considering stepping forward with information about fraud against a federal program or agency, there are some important things you should consider.

Women scientists hope to see changes regarding sexual harassment

Scientists -- especially women scientists -- hope that 2017 is the year that things change so that sexual harassment and gender bias among scientists starts to become a relic of the past.

2016 was the year a peephole opened up to reveal an ugly view of the role sexual harassment plays in the scientific community. The response has been tremendously vocal and proactive, with the hopes of changing the situation once and for all.

Whistleblowers who make internal reports are also protected

Thanks to changes in 2014 to the laws protecting whistleblowers in California, employees who report suspected violations of federal or state laws to their bosses, instead of directly to the police or government officials, enjoy the same protections as those that go outside of the company with their information.

Unfortunately, not every company seems to have gotten the message.

Your protection against retaliation goes on after the job ends

For a lot of people, filing a formal discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or suing an employer for discrimination is often a desperate measure after every other avenue of relief has been exhausted.

It usually doesn't end up being a comfortable situation for anybody involved, which is why it isn't unusual for an employee in that situation to resign and move on if he or she is able, no matter how the discrimination complaint or lawsuit turns out.

Nurses often experience sexual harassment from their patients

Most people who enter the field of nursing are compassionate individuals who want to help people—so that may make it exceptionally difficult for them to deal with sexual harassment from their own patients.

When a patient subjects a nurse to sexual harassment, it creates what is known as a hostile work environment. It can come about through a variety of subtle and overt methods:

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