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Sacramento Sexual Harassment Law Blog

Forest Service accused of sexual harassment and abuse

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is being held accountable by members of the U.S. Congress over years of sexual harassment complaints. One of the central parts of the congressional investigation was an extremely disturbing and tearful testimony brought forward by a wildland firefighter.

The female firefighter from California's Eldorado National Forest told the story of a male supervisor her who fondled her breasts with a letter opener while smiling like he knew he was going to get away with the act. The woman said that all she could do was stand there in shock after the incident.

What are common examples of sexual harassment?

Are you unsure if you've been facing sexual harassment in the workplace? It can sometimes be hard to decide if you're dealing with a real issue that breaks the law, and you may not want to move forward until you're sure. Below are some examples of sexual harassment to help you know what you're looking at:

1. Sharing explicit information. This could include pictures or videos, but it could also include notes, email messages, text messages, letters, and the like. If these are explicit or overly suggestive, they could count as harassment.

Fired university workers say they were discriminated against

A number of Information Technology workers at University of California, San Francisco saw their employment come to an end when they were fired and their jobs were outsourced to foreign workers. Now, they're suing the school. They want to get their jobs back, and they also want to stop other schools in California from doing the same thing.

The workers are claiming they are being discriminated against on the grounds of age and national origin. First off, they claim that preference is being given to workers from India over workers from the United States. They also claim that the jobs are going to young men, and that they were fired in part for being "too old." This also implies that sexual discrimination could come into play if male workers get preference.

Whistleblower awarded $631,200 in Medicare fraud case

A respiratory therapist in Fresno County was working at a sleep medicine center when she noticed what she believed to be Medicare fraud happening at the facility. She decided to speak out, becoming a whistleblower and exposing the scheme. As a result, she was fired from her job.

She ends up with the last laugh, though, as the case recently went to court and the jury decided to award her $631,200.

Things your employer should to after you report sexual harassment

If you feel you are being harassed sexually in the workplace, then one of the first things you might consider doing is reporting the behavior to the appropriate supervisor or human resource representative at your company. Obviously this wouldn't be the case if the harassment is coming from that person or if you don't feel safe making the report for another reason, and you should never hesitate to consult with an outside employment law professional if you aren't sure about the next best steps.

Once you do report possible sexual harassment within the workplace, then be prepared for and expect your employer to take action. First, whoever you reported the incident to should follow company protocol in reporting it up the chain of command appropriately. That doesn't always means reporting the incident all the way up through leadership; often, it means providing the information to an HR or compliance officer so an investigation can take place.

Your employer can't retaliate against you for . . .

In many cases, if you fail to show up for work or simply don't do your job to agreed upon parameters, your employer can fire you or take other disciplinary action against you. There are some actions that you can take on the job that are protected by federal or state law, though, and your employer cannot retaliate against you for those actions. That means your employer cannot take disciplinary action, reduce your pay or fire you if you engage in some of the following activities.

You are protected when making reports about discrimination, safety or financial fraud to the authorities or appropriate government agencies. This is known as whistleblowing, and if you do it in good faith, then you are protected by the law.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment: What is it?

Sexual harassment scenarios can be divided into two broad categories, one of them being quid pro quo harassment. This is often the easiest to identify as a victim, but it's not always easy to prove.

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase. Loosely translated into English, the phrase means "something for something." It means that you give up or do something in order to receive something in return. That alone isn't illegal - quid pro quo relationships exist all the time in business and some of them are even formalized by legal contracts. One person might provide a certain piece of work; in return, he or she is paid an agreed upon amount of money.

Former executive sues Yahoo! for wrongful termination

A former Yahoo! Inc. executive is suing the Internet giant for wrongful termination. The suit, which was filed this month in a San Jose federal court, is also charging gender discrimination at the company's Sunnyvale headquarters. He's seeking unspecified damages for violations of state and federal employment laws and discrimination.

The man, who worked as a senior director in the company's editorial division for three years. He was terminated in January of last year. He says that there was no valid reason for his termination. The plaintiff alleges that the company's quarterly evaluation system, under its chief executive officer Marissa Mayer, is unfair.

Governor vetoes bill to extend family leave rights at small businesses

The United States is thought of a leader in many areas, but we appear to be behind on one issue: family leave. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized country in the world that does not ensure a job once parents return from family leave. Recently California work-life advocates pushed for a bill which would have required small businesses to guarantee employees' jobs after parental leave. The bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The bill would have required small businesses of fewer than 49 employees to give employees up to six weeks off of work after childbirth or adoption. Governor Brown said that the reasoning behind the veto was that the law would bring yet another expensive restriction to small businesses which already face enough challenges.

Sexual orientation is no reason for discrimination

Your sexual orientation -- or how you identify with regard to gender -- isn't really your employer's business. If you do a good job and stay within the parameters of your work policies, then your employer can't take action against you simply because he or she doesn't agree with your gender or sexual orientation choices. In fact, doing so is a type of discrimination and can be unlawful.

It's important to understand the difference between simply not liking your choices and taking specific action solely because of your choices. Your employer doesn't have to like or agree with your choices. He or she has a right to voice an opinion about those choices in general and participate in political or other campaigns that are in line with his or her beliefs.

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