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Sacramento Sexual Harassment Law Blog

Contract workers are also protected against sexual harassment

Contract workers are often in an interesting place when it comes to what rights they have. For example, they may not have the right to take paid sick days. However, according to a court in California, they do have the same rights to be protected from sexual harassment that are given to any other types of employees.

The ruling was made when a contact worker said that she was harassed by a police officer. That officer was from Oceanside. The woman who was harassed -- she said it happened on a repeated basis -- was a phlebotomist, and she worked with the police when they needed to have blood drawn.

Employees often ignore sexual harassment

There are many reasons sexual harassment in the workplace goes overlooked in California. Sometimes, employees are too concerned about losing their jobs to say anything; other times, they don't know where to turn. One of the biggest reasons, though, is that many employees just shrug it off and ignore it.

One young woman told the story about working as a waitress back when she was 18, in one of her first jobs. The young man who was her supervisor would often make sexual jokes and flirt with the staff. No one said anything.

You can pursue claims regarding sexual harassment and retaliation

Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal. That, however, doesn't stop some employers from making the workplace difficult for people who do file reports about sexual harassment. As we discussed last week, you can't let a fear of retaliation stop you from filing complaints about sexual harassment.

We know that dealing with sexual harassment at work isn't pleasant. We also understand that trying to put a stop to that harassment can often lead to new problems. Your employer might take illegal actions just because you don't want to be harassed.

Important facts regarding sexual harassment

Companies in California are bound by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that sexual harassment is a type of discrimination. As such, all employees should know a few key facts about sexual harassment so that they can protect themselves if necessary.

First off, sexual harassment does not always look the same. In some cases, it could be as simple as a crass joke made in the workplace or a string of jokes. In other cases, it could be an unwanted sexual advance or some type of inappropriate touching. It could also be the demand for sexual favors, with the implied or spoken threat or termination if these things are not done. These are just a few examples, but they do show how wide the range can be.

Retaliation claims require serious and prompt action

Some employees who are victims of sexual harassment don't say anything about the harassment because they are concerned about retaliation. It is important for all employees to know that retaliation based on filing complaints of sexual harassment isn't something that is allowed.

When you file a complaint about sexual harassment and your employer takes adverse, or retaliatory, action after that, you can take action about the retaliation. You will have to show that your employer knew that you filed the sexual harassment complaint. You will also have to show that the retaliation wasn't because of actions you did, besides the sexual harassment complaint.

Employees have the right to work in a harassment-free environment

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of forms. The thread that binds them together is that all instances of sexual harassment involve some sort of sexually-related actions. Last week, we discussed the fact that transgender people are being subjected to sexual harassment. This is something that is unacceptable in all cases. We don't want any of our California neighbors to deal with unwanted sexual harassment.

Think about the media uproar when Bruce Jenner appeared as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. Many people were supportive of Jenner living life as Caitlyn. Other people, however, were horrified that a respected former Olympian would desire to live life as a woman. Regardless of which side a person is on, it is vital that they respect Caitlyn Jenner as a person if they were to work with her.

The way you complain can change your retaliation protections

Whistleblower laws were designed to protect employees when they feel the need to report wrongdoing in the workplace. They could be reporting fraud, a breach of safety regulations or reporting on employment issues like sexual harassment or discrimination. In any case, they need to be free to take appropriate action without fear of losing their jobs, which is why these laws were passed in California.

Did you know, though, that the way that you complain sometimes determines whether or not you are protected from a boss's retaliation? It's very important to follow the letter of the law so that you don't accidentally invalidate those protections and end up getting demoted or fired.

Fighting sexual harassment and hostile work environments

Sexual harassment and a hostile work environment can affect people in every line of work. As we discussed here last week, low-wage workers are more likely to suffer from these problems for a variety of reasons. It is important to remember that just because someone is considered a low-wage worker, that doesn't mean that they should have to deal with a hostile work environment or sexual harassment.

Uncomfortable behaviors in the workplace aren't conducive to top-quality work. In fact, if you are being sexually harassed or if you have to deal with a hostile work environment, you might find that your productivity suffers. You might not feel comfortable at work. You might always have to look over your shoulder. Your supervisors might be putting too much on your plate. In all of those cases, you might not be able to do the work you are capable of doing.

Low-wage workers likely to suffer from harassment at work

A hostile workplace can affect any worker; however, low-wage workers often have a more difficult time proving sexual harassment and other similar issues in court. This is because the court often upholds a very narrow definition of which employees are classified as supervisors.

In some cases, a supervisor is someone who is in charge of other workers. That definition, however, is often narrowed by adding in the stipulation that only the employees who are in charge of other workers and who can hire and fire employees are supervisors. With that narrow definition, harassment by low-level supervisors is often overlooked.

How is wrongful termination handled for union workers?

Wrongful termination is something with which no worker wants to deal. Many jobs can end without any notice or reason; however, there are cases in which the loss of a job can be classified as wrongful termination. When it comes to union workers, there are special considerations that must be taken into account when the worker is being terminated.

How is termination different for union workers?

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