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Workplaces across the state work hard to ensure a safe environment for all employees. Unfortunately, some instances of harassment still occur. Reports of harassment continue to come in. What can you do about it?

Nonphysical sexual harassment in particular often slides under the radar for numerous reasons. Figuring out a plan to address and combat this growing problem is crucial.

What is non-physical sexual harassment?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discusses the issues sexual harassment presents. In particular, the focus is on nonphysical sexual harassment. This type of harassment comes in different forms. For example, talking about someone’s sexual life behind their back falls under this category. So does the coercion or threat of an employee to perform sexual favors in exchange for something. Finally, gender-based derogatory remarks fall under this category, too. You cannot tell a female coworker to “get back to the kitchen”, as an example.

Addressing this form of harassment

There are many ways to address this. The first is to ensure that everyone knows your company will take nonphysical sexual harassment as seriously as any other form. Do not brush off cases that do not involve physical contact.

Next, make sure your human relations department is doing its job. Are the members of it reliable and trustworthy? Do they make others feel welcome and safe? If you need to, take a survey to see what the general opinion on HR is. Consider implementing any suggestions you get or making fixes to problems you see mentioned.

Always act quickly, too. The longer you let a problem fester, the more of an issue it can turn out to be in the future. Fast action now saves heartache, time and resources later.

If you are engaged in a workplace conflict, it is often in your best interest to make others within the company aware of the problem. In many cases, you will need to address the issue with your direct supervisor. However, it may also be possible to speak with someone higher up in the company if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your concerns with that individual. Regardless of who you talk to, it’s important to be prepared when initiating a conversation about a potentially sensitive issue.

Have a witness

Ideally, your boss will empathize with your concerns and take steps to rectify the issue in a timely manner. However, there is a chance that your supervisor will try to retaliate against you for making allegations against your colleagues. Having a witness sit in on a meeting can make it easier to protect yourself in the event that you need to take further action in the matter. It may also be worthwhile to have an employment law attorney join you during a meeting with your superior.

What would be an appropriate solution to your problem?

It’s a good idea to consider what would need to happen to resolve a conflict before seeking help from a supervisor. For instance, if you’re upset about an inappropriate comment that your colleague made, a simple apology may be an appropriate way to end a dispute. However, if your colleague has already turned down your request for an apology, you might want to ask that this person be transferred, given a written warning or face other types of discipline. Having a clear understanding of what you need to move on from a workplace incident may make it easier for your boss to take action in a timely manner.

If you are being mistreated at work, you may be entitled to various forms of relief. In some cases, you might receive compensation for lost wages, the value of lost benefits or other damages. An attorney may be able to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case.

Some employees in California and elsewhere – often managerial or other upper-level workers – have lengthy and tailored employment agreements that spell out in detail key elements of their relationship with an employer. Central provisions within such contracts often set forth the terms and conditions that will be legally guiding in the instance of job termination.

Such is not routinely the case for the bulk of America’s workforce. In fact, most employees across the country engage in work pursuant to a so-called “at-will” relationship with management. What that means is that an employer can essentially release a worker at any time and for any reason, without legal repercussions.

Many people are surprised to hear that, and regard an at-will contractual relationship as conferring an absolute one-sided power on an employer.

That might ostensibly seem to be the case, but it is in fact not true. Termination linked with an at-will relationship comes with one key caveat.

And that is this: Job termination must not be for an illegal reason.

Candidly, an employer’s motivation is not always easy to perceive. Some company bosses couch terminations in a pretextual way. For example, they might cite subpar performance, when the real reason for a termination was grounded in aversion to something like a worker’s race, religion or sexual orientation.

Questions or concerns regarding a job termination should be directed to a proven employment law attorney. A lengthy list of federal and state protections exists to safeguard workers from discriminatory workplace behavior. A number of categories are “protected” under relevant laws, meaning that a worker cannot be terminated because he or she fits within one or more of those classifications. In addition to the above-cited classifications, protected categories include sex, ethnic origin, disability, pregnancy and medical conditions.

Experienced legal counsel can provide further information.

We note a point on our website at the established Bay Area [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-2″] that often emerges as prevalent when workers are treated unfairly – often unlawfully – by their employers.

That is passivity, which looms large in many contexts and operates to the clear detriment of affected workers.

On the one hand, such a response is understandable: Legions of employees reasonably enough view themselves as relatively powerless when contrasted to the seemingly unbridled prerogatives of an employer A boss is, well, a boss.

On the other hand, though, workers in California and across the United States should know that they are accorded hard-earned protections under federal, state and local laws against employer overstepping at the workplace. As we prominently note on our website, employee rights can often be aggressively exercised to help affected workers prevail in worker-management disputes.

Like unlawful job loss, for instance. We duly note that no California worker “has to passively accept a wrongful termination.”

A proven employment law attorney often has fertile grounds to examine when probing into the details surrounding a worker’s firing. Cases are spotlighted daily across the country that underscore the pretextual motivations of bad-faith employers seeking to rid themselves of unwanted workers.

Substandard performance might be alleged when, in fact, management simply dislikes an employee based on his or her ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, race or other protected classifications. Company executives sometimes wrongfully terminate a worker for his or her labor views and communications with other employees, or when a worker takes the guise of a whistleblower reporting illegal management acts to governmental authorities.

The bottom line: Workers can readily eschew passivity in such instances. Indeed, they command strong legal rights, which often entitle them to receive maximum compensation in response to company wrongdoing.

We welcome contacts to the firm from individuals having questions or concerns regarding wrongful termination or another employment law matter.

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