The-Many-Faces-of-Workplace-Discrimination-2-Examples-of-Unacceptable-22Friendly22-Workplace-Harassment.jpg (2149×1159)Workplace discrimination comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be angry and prejudicial or friendly and well-meaning. It can be casual or targeted, have some specific goal or simply be floating around the company culture. The biggest problem with workplace discrimination and harassment is that the vast majority of cases don’t look like what we’ve been trained to expect. Too many episodes of Mad Men and Law and Order SVU have us thinking that all workplace discrimination is overt sexual harassment. While sexual harassment is still an ongoing problem, it doesn’t take a slap on the rear to qualify as harassment and workplace prejudice doesn’t require overt racial slurs to be negatively biased.

Discrimination Stereotyping vs Reality

Not every instance of workplace discrimination and harassment is what you might think. Often the worst instances occur when someone feels they are doing the right thing by following an internal, if flawed, moral code. Stereotypical discrimination, the “undeniable” kind, involves direct sexualization, unfriendly touching, and direct insults. But today we’re going to look at two examples of workplace harassment and discrimination that look “friendly” on the outside because it’s delivered with a smile but are still harmful to you and your work environment.

“You’re My Work Mom”

The vast majority of sexual harassment involves some kind of desire or intent. Workplace attraction has always been a tricky obstacle course to cross, but what do you do when you find yourself being sexually harassed… without the sex? One story we’ve heard involves a middle-aged team lead (let’s call her Nora) who took part in training a new younger male coworker. The young man came from a conservative background, was very nice, but soon started calling Nora his “work mom”. This started as a kind of weird joke until he began calling her “mom” in front of the customers, who were confused and congratulated her on having such a polite son.

The problem is that Nora wasn’t comfortable with the interaction or anyone mistaking her relationship with the coworker. She asked him multiple times to stop and, nice as the kid was, he didn’t. He continued to call her “mom” in front of coworkers, customers, and management. This is a form of workplace discrimination because the young man A) fixated on the fact that his trainer was a middle-aged woman, and B) wouldn’t stop after being asked multiple times. Sexual harassment comes in a lot of different packages and you don’t have to tolerate it in any form.

“This is Jane, She’s Disabled”

Another story we’ve heard is of an employee (let’s call her Jane) with a prosthetic leg. It wasn’t obvious, it didn’t get in the way, and the prosthetic did not in any way hinder Jane’s ability to perform work tasks. In other words, Jane did not consider herself handicapped for the purposes of work. However, when one of their coworkers found out about the prosthetic, they made it their business to tell the whole world. Any time Jane’s name came up or the coworker was introducing Jane to a new customer, he’d find a way to mention Jane’s disability.  Jane was constantly dealing with comments like “This is Jane, she’s Disabled you know” or “Don’t ask Jane to do that, her prosthetic leg might be a problem”. He said it with a smile and a laugh, but Jane didn’t appreciate the comments and asked his coworker to stop, which the coworker agreed to but still continued making their comments.

It soon got out of hand, with customers and new coworkers treating Jane like they should walk eggshells. This is absolutely a form of workplace discrimination. It may not seem hostile or directed at the subject, but obsessing over something like gender, age, family status, or disability status is a form of discrimination, especially when it starts to create problems in the workplace.

Are you the victim of another “unique” or “friendly” form of workplace harassment or discrimination? As these examples show, it doesn’t have to look like classic harassment, have a sexual or financial motive, or be targeted for a mean reason to make a hostile workplace. If you or someone you know is being targeted and harassed at work and management won’t do anything, contact us today.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986