Here at LiLaw Inc., we represent both employers and employees in the Greater Gay Area in matters concerning illegal harassment in the workplace. Most prominent in the news, of course, is sexual harassment, but other types of harassment are also illegal such as those based on race, age, disability, religion and more.
We advise California employers about how to prevent harassment in their workplaces, how to train personnel in that regard, how to draft employee handbooks and written policies, how to handle and investigate complaints and how to respond if claims alleging unlawful harassment at work are filed in federal or state agencies or courts.
California state law includes considerable requirements for private employers regarding anti-harassment training, harassment prevention, establishment of anti-harassment company policies and practices, robust reporting procedures, investigation and corrective action after complaints, retaliation prevention and more. To comply with these detailed state legal requirements, employers are advised to follow experienced legal counsel.
We also advise employees about what to do when they are on the receiving end of such treatment and about their legal rights and remedies.
Many are speculating right now that we are at a turning point in our national consciousness about the prevalence of sexual harassment, given the explosion of public allegations against people in power in industry, entertainment and government. It seems every time you open the newspaper, virtually or literally, a new headline supports this movement.
For example, earlier this month the Los Angeles Times reported that a former female director of the Banc of California has filed a suit in California state court alleging that she was wrongfully terminated after she reported serious allegations of widespread sexual impropriety within the company.
By the numbers
It is not surprising then that statistics show that people are more often filing harassment lawsuits. The San Francisco Chronicle recently compiled data from various sources about this trend:
- Over 3,500 federal harassment suits (all types) have already been filed this year, an increase over last year, which was also an increase over 2015.
- Sex-based-harassment complaints filed in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC were “slightly” up in 2016 over the previous year, even before the Weinstein allegations surfaced.
- Similarly, complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or DFEH were up 12 percent in 2015 (about 4,800) over 2014, also before the current climate.
The article cites a California law professor as saying that the increase may be because when women see that complaints in high profile cases are being taken seriously, they may feel more confident in their own potential lawsuit success.
The Chronicle also notes that some experts as speculating that the increase in EEOC sexual harassment filings may reflect more willingness by men, gay and transgender people to come forward.
Any California employer or employee faced with issues of harassment is advised to seek immediate legal advice from a knowledgeable employment lawyer.