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Defending against harassment claims: Is your business next?

As the driving force fueling the success of a business in Silicon Valley or elsewhere in the Bay Area, what do you dream about at night as a creative entrepreneur? Understandably, the ongoing dynamics of your business plan are front and center. You focus on growth, profitability, and sustained excellence.

An additional candidate for thought has emerged in troubling fashion for business owners. It is this: the possibility - indeed, the likelihood at some point - that a sexual harassment claim will roil the company.

Litigation: Woman accuses employer of wrongful termination

The vast majority of people in California work hard to fulfill their workplace responsibilities. For some people, this may include asking difficult questions and informing supervisors of acts of others who may have violated federal law. Those put in such a position should be able to do so without fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, a former employer of Sig Sauer, a gun manufacturer, has turned to litigation after claiming she was fired for investigating an incident involving a manual change made to a shipping address.

The woman claims that she was hired as the director of import/export compliance in Sept. 2015. During her period of employment, she states in court papers that she received performance-based pay increases and was not the subject of any disciplinary action. However, in June 2017, her status with the company changed after she noticed that an employee had altered an automatically-generated mailing label with one manually created.

Pending lawsuit over alleged copyright violation

Those who create films in California often pour all of their time, energy and talents into the final product. Once completed, they expect that their efforts are properly recognized -- and, perhaps, compensated -- by others who might benefit from their efforts. Unfortunately, the creator of a documentary based on the life of a football player is now the plaintiff in a pending lawsuit due to allegations of copyright infringement, fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract.

The law involves the life of football player Chucky Mullins, who was paralyzed while attempting to tackle Brad Gaines during a game in 1989. Mullins died just years after the injury due to complications. The plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit created a documentary called "Undefeated" that featured interviews from various people connected to the story, including Gaines and friends and families of Mullins.

Litigation over closure of fertility clinic

Many occupations in California and across the country require a worker to spend a significant amount of his or her life in education and training. As a result, the worker becomes a valuable member of a team. Unfortunately, litigation in another state may interest those in California in a similar profession.

The lawsuit involves a fertility program at a hospital that had been in operation for just under 40 years. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a doctor who had worked in the program for approximately 20 years. She claims that although the program was closed, she could have remained at the hospital where she could perform surgeries that saved fertility and interpret ultrasounds. However, she claims that the hospital declined to do so because she had previously voiced concerns over some of the fertility program's practices and because of her disability.

Litigation against state claims racial discrimination

In a perfect world, the treatment a person receives in the workplace would be based on his or her abilities and effort. Despite the efforts made in race relations over the last several decades, minorities still face workplace discrimination in California and across the country. In fact, a man has recently turned to litigation after he claims he faced discrimination in his job in another state.

The incident involves a black security aid at a state mental hospital. The man's job requires him to provide security for workers at the hospital. However, he claims that he and other black workers are assigned tasks that could potentially result in physical harm more frequently than their white co-workers.

Litigation an option for victims of sexual harassment

People's attitudes toward the workforce have changed substantially over the course of the last century. For example, there are -- theoretically -- equal opportunities for women and minorities. Unfortunately, there are still those workers who experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace, often prompting victims in California and across the country to pursue litigation. A recent study conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revealed some troubling statistics about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The commission created a team of 16 members from differing regions and disciplines to work on the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. The study took 18 months to complete and involved testimony from 30 witnesses in addition to public comments. According to reports, approximately 30,000 of the 90,000 complaints received by the EEOC in 2015 involved harassment.

Jets' Erin Henderson pursues litigation

There are many people in California who put all of their effort and energy into their careers. This can especially be true for professional athletes. Often, even when they are not training or competing, these athletes are worried about how their choices will impact their physical and mental conditions. Unfortunately, former NFL player Erin Henderson has chosen to pursue litigation after he claims that he was wrongfully terminated by the Jets due to a brain disorder.

Henderson previously played for the Vikings but was cut from the team after he battled alcohol abuse. However, his representative claims that he was placed on the non-football injury list for the Jets in Oct. 2016. This decision was made reportedly because he was suffering from bipolar disorder.

California forbids employers from requesting wage history

On October 12, California Governor Jerry Brown signed several bills he believes will “make a positive difference for women, children and families across the state.” One of those bills is AB 168, which beginning in 2018 will forbid all employers of any size in the state, including local and state governmental units, from asking job applicants for their salary and benefit histories, either in writing or orally. 

Policy reasons 

Kmart faces litigation over banana suit

As the last days of September slip away, people in California and across the country turn their attention to fall and the holidays that come with it. In fact, people in this country are projected to spend more than $9 billion this year on Halloween alone. As a result, many companies are planning on how to best capitalize on these planned expenditures. In fact, costumes are such big business that Kmart faces litigation over a costume that may be extremely familiar to some.

The lawsuit was filed by Silvertop Associates, which operates as Rasta Imposta. It claims that Kmart Corp. and Sears infringed its copyright involving a banana costume. According to reports, Kmart has purchased the costume from Rasta Imposta since 2008. However, the two companies were reportedly unable to come to an agreement this year, prompting Kmart to purchase the costumes from another vendor.

Google faces litigation over discrimination claims

A decade ago, telling someone to "google" something would likely be met with a look of confusion. However, Google has become such a household word that almost everyone in California and across the United States is familiar with the company. Lately, though, many people are associating the company with issues related to workplace discrimination rather than a successful technology company. Google now faces even more litigation after three former employers filed a class action lawsuit.

The three women who filed the suit have accused the company of discriminating against women by paying them less than their male counterparts. One of the woman, a software engineer described as "experienced," quit her job after four years. During her time there, she claims she was front-end facing whereas "back-end" software engineers were all men and considered to have more difficult, yet prestigious, jobs.

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