Employment Harassment Claims
Harassment is one of the many recurring issues in employment, especially in California. As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would define it, it is an unwelcome or unwanted conduct that could be in visual, verbal, or non-verbal forms, in which the affected individual is targeted based on his or her characteristic that is protected by the federal and state laws. Harassment is deemed illegal under the laws if it satisfies the following:
- The harassing conduct is pervasive or severe. That means the harassment, due to its continuity and lack of response, resulted in a working environment that can be described as hostile, intimidating or abusive.
- The employee endures the harassing conduct just so he or she can still continue performing his or her job.
- There were changes to the employee’s status or benefits.
Typically, employment harassment in California is often associated with certain conduct that is/are sexual in nature. However, that is not always the case in a lot of companies in California; there are other verbal, non-verbal, or visual forms of harassment that often target one’s race, color, religion, pregnancy, medical condition or disability, national origin, age, and others. Also, harassment may also happen when the employee being singled out exercises a certain activity or right that is protected by the laws, such as filing a discrimination claim against his or her employer, taking part or testifying in an investigation, proceeding or lawsuit against the same, and refusing to take part in activity that is considered illegal. Usually, harassing conduct may end up in the employee getting subjected to an adverse employment action, such as termination in violation of public policy or in the form of constructive discharge.
Meanwhile, California employers that are covered by the prevailing employment and labor laws on both the federal and state levels carry the responsibility of ensuring that their workplaces are free from harassment. To begin with, they need to make sure that they have a definitive harassment policy indicated within employment handbooks. Also, they must be able to respond to their employees’ harassment complaints, promptly investigating them and acting on it with remedies. Moreover, it is also their duty to train and educate everyone in the workplace, from the immediate superiors down to the employees, about how violating the harassment policies of the workplace could cause repercussions to their overall business operations.
But then, a lot of employers, even if they understand how bad it is for their businesses to potentially face claims or lawsuits filed against them by aggrieved, harassed employees, often disregard the prevailing laws. Some of them tolerate the hostile working environment in their workplaces, even creating them in order for the targeted employees to have no choice but to quit their jobs and make them emotionally and financially disabled because of the harassing conduct.
In this regard, it is not enough for affected individuals to keep themselves mum on this recurring employment issue. It is important that they assert their rights by filing harassment claims. They may do so with an appropriate federal or state agency, or with the help of a legal counsel who specializes in handling and representing clients and their harassment claims or lawsuits.
Basically, a harassment claim in California often involves an individual who was terminated or subjected to any adverse employment action after refusing to grant the harasser’s sexual favors in exchange for a continued employment or complaining about the harasser’s conduct towards him or her. It could also involve an individual who quitted his or her job because of the pervasive, severe, and hostile working environment, which can be construed as a form of wrongful termination via a constructive discharge.
In any of these situations, it is important for affected employees to act immediately after their respective ordeals. They must know that they are protected by the laws against harassment in California, which basically gives them the right to file their complaints or lawsuits against their employers.