Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace | Aiman-Smith & Marcy
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Harassment & Discrimination

Workplace Harassment and Discrimination

Both federal and California laws specifically prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace. For example, under California law, employers cannot discriminate against workers on the basis of several protected categories, including “race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation”. Harassment, that is, offering employees a “quid pro quo” or creating a hostile work environment, is similarly prohibited under both the laws of California and those of the nation.


Workplace Discrimination

Simply stated, discrimination occurs when an employee is treated differently because she or he is a member of a protected class.

There are two basic kinds of workplace discrimination, those which involve “disparate treatment,” and those which involve “disparate impact:”

Disparate treatment is defined as “inconsistent application of rules and policies to one group of people over another.” In other words, the employer treats an employee differently on the basis of that his or her protected class, such as race, gender or age. An example of disparate treatment would be promoting only males to senior management positions.

Disparate impact does not require that an employer intended to discriminate, but only that the results of his actions result in discrimination against a protected class of employees. For example, an employer’s requirement that candidates for a job exhibit a certain level of strength or physical stamina could unfairly disqualify female applicants.


Pregnancy Discrimination

The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on childbirth, pregnancy, or related medical conditions.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  was introduced to allow the parents of a new child, whether adopted or born into the family, to take unpaid leave, while protecting their job. Employees who qualify and take such leaves must be reinstated to their same or a comparable position.

Although California’s anti-discrimination laws do not protect volunteers and independent contractors, they are protected by California’s provisions that prohibit pregnancy-based harassment.

If an employer refuses to hire, terminates, or harasses an employee because they require pregnancy-related leave (or they may need it in the future), these acts could be considered unlawful pregnancy discrimination. The employer could be in violation of the applicable leave laws.


Workplace Harassment 

Workplace harassment comes in many forms. Some employers hurl insults, some deny promotions, some scream at their teams at every weekly meeting. Sometimes it’s unwanted touching, sometimes it hurts your career, but no matter the details the worst kind of workplace harassment is the kind done in secret.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the regulations of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) prohibit harassment of employees, independent contractors, and job applicants, and require employers to take reasonable actions to prevent workplace harassment. 


Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can be a big problem. It can make women (and men) uncomfortable at work. In fact, there are times when a person feels forced to leave a job that they love because of harassment.

Many people continue to ask someone that they work without on a date or for sexual favors. If they get turned down, they may threaten their job. These people may not get the raise or job promotion that they were counting on, simply because they were not interested.

Other times harassment looks like unwanted advances. Co-workers may slap a co-workers rear end or push themselves close to them just to see their reaction. All of these are considered sexual harassment and are inappropriate and often times illegal.

Before you seek the help of a lawyer, it is important that you document everything. You are going to want to write down everything that is happening to you. It also helps to write down what procedure you have followed when dealing with the company that you work for. If you have been talking to the person responsible and your supervisor, it is important to make notes of what is being said. This will help your case if it ends up going to trial.

Call Aiman-Smith & Marcy at 510-817-2711 if you have any questions regarding workplace harassment or discrimination.

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