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Sacramento Sexual Harassment Law Blog

Make sure you take the steps needed for whistleblower protections

Taking a stand against your employer is a scary step to take. When you decide that you can't handle what is going on at your job any longer and take action, you shouldn't have to worry about retaliation. Sadly, many whistleblowers do suffer from some form of retaliation.

We know that you made a tough decision when you decided to blow the whistle on the company's actions or inaction. We can help you to learn about your options for taking action if you were retaliated against. If you are planning on speaking out against your company, you might have to take steps to ensure that you can claim whistleblower protections. We can help you learn about those steps.

3 things to do when faced with sexual harassment

It shouldn't be your responsibility to ensure you are safe from sexual harassment in any workplace, but the sad truth is that even good employers can't be everywhere. Sometimes, you have to protect yourself against inappropriate activity in the workplace, and here are three things you can do to put a stop to such actions from others.

First, avoid romantic relationships with coworkers whether or not your company has a policy preventing office romance. Dating someone in the office doesn't always go bad, but when it does, it can lead to uncomfortable situations and even sexual harassment. It's best just not to put yourself in such a situation if you can avoid it.

Retaliatory actions can be difficult to spot

Some people don't speak out against illegal behaviors where they work because they are afraid of being fired, demoted or retaliated against at work. The fact of the matter is that these actions might happen, but they are illegal. Employers are forbidden from taking retaliatory actions against an employee who makes complaints about the company as long as the complaints are factual. We know that facing the prospect of losing your job because you speak up against illegal actions might be unnerving. We can help you to understand your rights and the options you have to handle the situation.

There are some instances in which retaliatory actions might be difficult to notice. You might be moved to a different shift or to a new position. The employer might claim that they have a valid reason for the move. If the move is made strictly because you make a complaint about sexual harassment or some other illegal action, the move is considered retaliation.

Can you curtail sexist comments at work?

No one wants to work in a hostile environment, and constant sexist comments can contribute to hostility. Employers must work to create an environment that is safe for all workers, and that includes educating everyone about sexual harassment and investigating and acting on reports of such behavior. But what can employees do to protect themselves?

One Forbes contributor says that employees who are experiencing mild sexist comments can often quash those comments with the right behaviors. Mostly, the writer suggests that individuals call out -- in the most professional and least dramatic way possible -- sexist comments. When the issue is off-hand remarks, it is possible that the person making them doesn't truly realize they are causing offense.

What are some types of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment doesn't just refer to quid pro quo harassment these days, and there are a number of activities that could be considered harassment in the workplace. If you feel uncomfortable or pressured, you might be experiencing sexual harassment. Understanding what might constitute sexual harassment helps you know whether you may have a legal basis for action against a person or employer.

A first type of sexual harassment is the aforementioned quid pro quo situation. In such a scenario, one person demands sexual favors from another in exchange for job perks, job promotions or withholding negative job actions, such as termination or discipline. Sexual favors can range from wearing a certain style of clothing to actual intercourse.

Investigate an employer's retaliatory actions

Retaliation was the topic that we covered in our previous blog post. If you recall, we discussed how employees who are whistleblowers have specific rights that prevent the employer from being able to retaliate against the employee. Still, some employers opt to retaliate against employees who file complaints of any sort. We know that you didn't speak out about discrimination, harassment or any other negative action just because you wanted to start trouble. We understand that you were only doing what you needed to do.

If you have been retaliated against because you spoke out, you have the right to put an end to that retaliation. We can investigate your case to determine what the root cause of the retaliation was. As long as the retaliation wasn't because of negative performances by you when you are doing your job, you can seek compensation for retaliation.

What is retaliation?

In the case of a whistleblower situation, retaliation occurs if an employer or person of authority takes action against the employee solely because he or she brought information to light through proper channels. A number of industries include niche-specific channels for whistleblower reports, and employees in almost any workplace have a right to report issues of safety to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Under law, workers who report issues through such channels are protected from retaliation. Many times, the report itself is either anonymous or held confidential, but that doesn't mean employers can figure out who made the report. If the report centers on information or activities that were only known by select employees, process of elimination might be possible.

What should you do if you believe you've been wrongfully fired?

After being let go for any number of reasons, it's not uncommon for an employee to feel bitterness or anger toward an employer. If the employee feels he or she has been let go in a wrongful manner -- for reasons or in a way that is unlawful -- then he or she probably has even more emotions regarding the situation. It can be difficult, but avoiding an emotional reaction when you've been wrongfully fired can help you seek legal remedies.

Instead of retaliating against the employer, consider seeking legal assistance with the matter. Retaliating only weakens any case you have and might even result in criminal charges if you cross lines and assault or slander the employer. Often, you can channel anger and the need to act into more productive efforts, such as reviewing any contracts you had with the employer.

Settlement in sexual harassment case includes outside review

Over the past few years, several news outlets have highlighted a concern in the janitorial industry. Specifically, the news stories discussed a high rate of sexual harassment in the industry, especially among workers who handled cleaning duties during evenings and nights in mostly empty offices or buildings. One woman in California sued her former company after she claimed she was raped when working at night.

The woman reportedly claimed that a supervisor raped her while she was cleaning a building in California. The woman was later fired from the company. She alleged that the company fired her because she spoke up about the sexual harassment; if true, that would have been considered retaliation, which is not legal.

What is quid pro quo harassment?

Quid pro quo is Latin for "this for that." Quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone demands an inappropriate thing for a favor or something of value in the workplace. Such requests coming from anyone in the workplace are likely illegal and constitute harassment.

One of the most obvious forms of quid pro quo harassment is a supervisor or boss asking for or demanding sexual favors in return for anything of value. Things of value could include time off, a raise or a promotion. Sometimes, someone does something he or she shouldn't at work or fails to perform up to standards, and someone in power offers to sweep the thing under the rug if the person performs sexual favors. Even if the person did something he or she shouldn't, it does not excuse the person in power from suggesting such a quid pro quo relationship.

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