The Difference Between Workplace Bullying & a Hostile Work Environment

Many times, the terms “workplace bullying” and “hostile work environment” are used interchangeably to define poor treatment of an employee that is either instigated by the employer or by employees who are not prevented by the employer from treating a co-worker poorly. Legally, there is a distinct difference between these two, as the court will not intervene in matters of workplace bullying, but it will act in a hostile work environment. Let’s examine the differences between the two situations and what they mean for your ability to obtain a legal remedy.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Another term that is quite familiar to most people is “schoolyard bullying,” which is a type of behavior commonly seen among groups of children where a bully singles out a certain person in a targeted effort to cause harm to the interpersonal relationships and the reputation of the child. Unfortunately, this behavior has been increasingly seen exhibited in the workplace by adults, as well. In fact, according to a survey on the matter, about half of U.S. workers have either been the target of workplace bullying or have witnessed someone else being bullied at work.

Workplace bullying includes acts of humiliation, intimidation, and threats. This behavior is often consistent and is meant to inflict mental and psychological harm. In more than two-thirds of the instances in which a person is the subject of workplace bullying, the bully behavior is exhibited by the person’s boss. In most cases, the victim of the behavior is in a non-supervisory position. And in most cases, the behavior is legal.

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

There is a type of bullying that is against federal law, and an employee who experiences this type of bullying can take action in court to obtain compensation for harm caused by it. If the victim of the harassing, intimidating, or threatening behavior is part of a legally protected class, then the behavior qualifies as a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and associated civil rights laws. A legally protected class is a group of individuals who are protected from discrimination as a result of:

  • Race or ethnicity – Employers cannot refuse to hire an employee or deprive him or her of benefits afforded to other employees on the basis of race or ethnicity.
  • Religion – Employers must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the business.
  • Age – Employers cannot state specific age preferences when advertising positions and cannot use age as a reason to deny certain benefits to employees that other workers are provided.
  • Sex, including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or sexual identity – Individuals have the right to be paid a fair wage for their work that is equal to the pay other workers receive for similar work, regardless of gender, orientation, or sexual identity.
  • Disability – Reasonable accommodations must be provided to enable disabled workers to hold a position in the workplace.
  • Genetic information, including family medical history

It should be noted that it is also against the law for an employer to retaliate for the filing of a hostile workplace environment complaint by firing or otherwise punishing the employee who leveraged the complaint or other employees who served as witnesses to the discrimination.

Proving a Hostile Work Environment

It is estimated that about 20 percent of all cases of workplace bullying involve a hostile work environment due to discriminatory harassment of a person in a protected class. Unfortunately, it can often be difficult to prove such cases, and the proof generally relies on the strength of your documentation and the ability to have witnesses corroborate your complaint. If you have been experiencing bullying in the workplace, file a formal complaint with your human resources department. Doing so will often alert others in the organization of the behavior and give opportunity for a resolution. If a resolution is not forthcoming, then your official complaint can serve as evidence for a legal case. You should also keep a list of times when the bullying occurs as well as the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the harassment.

When making a decision on a hostile work environment complaint, the court will consider the following elements of the case:

  • Consistency. A one-off comment will generally not give rise to a hostile work environment case. However, if the court finds that the discrimination occurs on a regular basis, it will be. 
  • Severity. The courts will consider how severe the instance of discrimination was and how thoroughly the discriminatory behavior was allowed to permeate the workplace.
  • Intention. The court will determine whether the behavior was merely meant to offend or if it constituted a physical threat or humiliation. Often, cases involving harassment that includes physical touching will be viewed as more intentional than and offensive than verbal harassment will be.
  • Interference. Not all harassing behavior constitutes a hostile work environment, even if it involves statements that are discriminatory in nature against an employee of a protected class. In order to be considered a hostile work environment, the harassment must result in an unreasonable interference to the employee’s work performance.

Perkins Asbill Can Help

If you believe you have been the subject of a hostile work environment, it is important to speak with an experienced employment lawyer about your case as soon as possible in order to take advantage of the experience and understanding of this type of complaint. Your attorney can provide a number of services aimed at helping stop the harassment and protect your rights as a member of a legally protected class. Those services include:

  • Assistance in determining if your case meets the legal requirements of a hostile workplace claim, and determining the best legal option for you.
  • Help in collecting and organizing the evidence needed to prove your case.
  • Establishing a value to your claim that is based on the monetary loss that resulted from the harassment, as well as compensation for the psychological injury that you experienced as a result of ongoing harassment.
  • Filing your claim in court within the statutory deadline.
  • Assistance with collecting your settlement or award.

Let an experienced employment lawyer from Perkins Asbill help you understand your legal options. Contact us online or by calling 916-446-2000.

5 Common Workplace Retaliation Tactics

People always say to listen to your gut. If your gut tells you that you are the victim of workplace retaliation, listen. Retaliation can take many forms so it may not always be clear to you if you are suffering from workplace retaliation. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace retaliation is the most alleged complaint they receive.

That’s when you need to speak with an experienced California employment lawyer. With over 30 years of experience, Perkins Asbill has the skill and determination to help you hold your employer accountable if you face legitimate retaliation.

To help you understand retaliation, we’ve compiled a list below of the five most common tactics. If what you experience is not on this list, that doesn’t mean your employer is in the clear. Speak with a trusted legal advisor to find out for sure if you suffer from workplace retaliation.

1. Exclusion

If you find out office happenings through the grapevine, you may be experiencing workplace retaliation. When your manager or company purposely excludes you from routine meetings, correspondence, or informal information sharing, that may rise to the level of retaliation. 

Bosses commonly use exclusion to hurt an employee’s job performance. After all, if you don’t know what’s happening in the company or if you don’t receive the most up-to-date information about a project, you may not complete your work accurately. This could lead to a negative review, reprimand, or even termination.

2. Reassignment

A common tactic of workplace retaliation includes reassigning an employee to a new department or changing their job duties. This may occur when an employee makes a complaint against the company or their manager, who then transfers the employee to another department.

This change in department or in job duties does nothing to cure the issue you complained about. In fact, it can cause further problems for you as you have to adjust to a new workload and supervisor.

3. Salary or Hours Reduced

Managers who have control over your hours will routinely reduce those hours after you file a complaint. They know this is the best way to get back at you because it hurts your pocketbook. There are legitimate reasons to reduce salary but a company must reduce an employee’s salary correctly. If no one else in your department has to suffer reduced hours, you could be the victim of workplace retaliation. Similarly, forcing an employee to take a pay cut but still do the same amount of work could also represent clear retaliation tactics.

This may also come in the form of being passed over for a promotion. Maybe you applied for a promotion and it seemed like you were the favorite candidate. But then you filed a complaint and suddenly there’s a different, younger, less experienced, employee taking that promotion you earned. This is probably not a coincidence. Remember, listen to your gut.

4. Harassment

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing receives more sexual harassment complaints than any other type of workplace harassment. After filing a complaint, employees face bullying and harassment. This can come from both their manager as well as colleagues. Many supervisors will spread the word that you filed a complaint and try to get other employees on their side.

You may even have to deal with intimidation from your manager. They may threaten your job directly, causing you to worry about your tenure. If colleagues have rallied behind your manager, they may leave you threatening notes. All of this is in an effort to get you to drop your complaint and let your manager off the hook.

5. Termination

The most serious of all workplace retaliation tactics comes from termination. But this action may also make it much easier to connect the dots and show that your termination directly resulted from a complaint you filed. 

By no means does getting fired make for a slam dunk workplace retaliation lawsuit, but it does mean you need to seek legal counsel immediately. Termination affects not only your ability to pay your expenses and live your life, but it can also seriously affect your reputation and ability to get another job. That’s why you need to take action to clear your name.

Workplace Retaliation Hurts You

The common theme across all of the workplace retaliation tactics listed above, and all the others not listed, is that the employee making the complaint is the one who suffers most. Making a workplace complaint to HR is not a straightforward decision to make. But when you feel that you have been wronged or have suffered some form of discrimination, taking that step is the appropriate next step to try to rectify the problem. Whether it is a colleague or a manager, correcting and changing that type of behavior is good for everyone.

Too often, however, employees like you become double victims. First, you were the victim of sexual harassment, race discrimination, or some other type of workplace discrimination or abuse. Then, you file a complaint trying to take the right steps to change this behavior and make the workplace safer and more enjoyable for everyone. Unfortunately, that results in becoming a victim for a second time as you face retaliation for your HR complaint.

Understanding what to do next can be challenging. You may even want to just walk away. While that might be easy, it will give your manager exactly what they want by getting you out of the picture. It may also leave you in financial hardship if you cannot immediately find another job.

Speak with a California Employment Law Attorney Today

Perkins Asbill is here to help. You do not have to face this alone. No matter what type of workplace retaliation you have or are currently suffering from, you deserve to have your rights protected. Our experienced legal team stands ready to help you understand your legal options and take proactive steps to make your situation better.

Contact Perkins Asbill today to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights and improve your situation after suffering workplace retaliation.

When Does Workplace Bullying Become Harassment?

Bullying in the workplace can rapidly create a toxic environment–or it may be part of an overall toxic environment to begin with. Unfortunately, an average 19% of adults have personally experienced bullying in the workplace, and another 19% have noticed bullying happening to someone else. Worse, sometimes bullying crosses the line into harassment, causing even more serious concerns–not to mention potential legal repercussions.

Has bullying crossed over into harassment in your workplace? 

Bullying Vs. Harassment: Isolated Incidents vs. Ongoing Problems

If you hear a racial slur or experience perceived gender inequality once, it is likely just bullying–frequently from an office bully who does not get his way. On the other hand, if you notice ongoing examples of the same behavior, it could constitute workplace harassment. Report any concerning behaviors to your HR department or contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your next steps. 

Common Harassment Behaviors

An estimated 54% of women have reported workplace harassment. Minorities may also experience high degrees of harassment, especially in a workplace made up of a high quantity of another race. Workplace bullying may cross into harassment when any of these behaviors are evident. 

An individual frequently uses racial or gender-based slurs. 

Sometimes, people may use slurs due to a lack of knowledge. They may simply fail to note the word as offensive the first time it is used. After frequent repetition and reprimands, however, it becomes obvious that the individual is deliberately harassing specific people within the workplace. This behavior can constitute harassment even if the individual uses the common, “I was just kidding!” or, “I didn’t mean anything by it!” 

You feel physically intimidated by a bully.

Men, in particular, often use their greater physical size and strength to try to bring someone else in line with their wishes. You may notice someone deliberately looming over you or using aggressive behaviors that put you on your guard or suggest that if you do not comply with the individual’s demands, you will have to enter a physical altercation. 

An individual regularly posts or shares offensive pictures or content. 

Some content simply does not belong in the workplace–including any content that belittles someone or makes them feel uncomfortable. If you have a coworker who shares these materials on a regular basis, especially one in a position of authority, that coworker has already crossed the line into harassment. This includes content set as a backdrop on company machines, shared in company chats, or sent through emails or private messages. 

An individual engages in mockery or ridiculing behavior, especially toward a specific individual.

Some bullies deliberately engage in mockery or ridicule others because they want to create a response. They may generalize those behaviors toward anyone, target specific groups of people, or even target specific individuals. If you feel uncomfortable due to repeated jabs or comments, you may already have suffered workplace bullying. 

The behavior interferes with your ability to complete your job duties.

It’s not uncommon, in a toxic work environment, for employees to disengage. They may stop putting forth as much effort at work or struggle to keep up with their usual job responsibilities. It may become increasingly difficult for anyone in the workplace, especially targets of bullying or harassment, to get things done. Bullying and harassment can also specifically interfere with many job tasks, especially if the bully tries to force you to take on additional work. 

What Should You Do If You Face Harassment at Work?

Many people have no idea what to do when they face harassment at work. Should you report it? If the bully or harasser is in a position of power, you may fear that you will lose your job. Should you ask the bully to stop? What if it makes the behavior worse, instead? No one should have to live with bullying or harassment in the workplace. To help keep your work environment safer, follow these steps. 

1. Ask the individual to stop.

Do not engage in confrontation. Do, however, let the bully know that the behavior you have observed is unacceptable. Sometimes, people simply need to be educated about the power of their words and behaviors. Other times, simply showing that you do not intend to take that treatment silently can improve many of those behaviors. 

2. Report the behavior to HR.

Depending on the behavior, you may want to report to your Human Resources department as soon as you observe it. For example, if you notice someone using racial or gendered slurs, you may want to report the behavior sooner rather than later. Sometimes, especially if you feel that addressing the bully directly may put you in danger, you may want to report the behavior to HR anonymously and let them deal with it. 

3. Document everything.

Any time you witness or experience harassment, document it extensively. The more evidence you have, the harder it can prove to turn that behavior around on you. You may want to note dates, times, specific language used, or any behaviors that made you feel uncomfortable. Take screenshots of harassing messages. If you have recordings of taunts or other harassing behaviors, including video recordings of physical intimidation, save them to use as evidence later. You may want to make copies of any particularly important information and store it off-site or with your lawyer. 

4. Contact an attorney.

If you experience ongoing harassment at work, you may have legal rights regarding compensation and employment. Your employer also cannot terminate you for calling out harassment, even if you call out your boss or management team. Contact an attorney to learn more about your legal rights and how you should respond following serious harassment in the workplace.

Bullying in the workplace can rapidly create a toxic environment–or it may be part of an overall toxic environment to begin with. Unfortunately, an average 19% of adults have personally experienced bullying in the workplace, and another 19% have noticed bullying happening to someone else. Worse, sometimes bullying crosses the line into harassment, causing even more serious concerns–not to mention potential legal repercussions.

Has bullying crossed over into harassment in your workplace? 

Bullying Vs. Harassment: Isolated Incidents vs. Ongoing Problems

If you hear a racial slur or experience perceived gender inequality once, it is likely just bullying–frequently from an office bully who does not get his way. On the other hand, if you notice ongoing examples of the same behavior, it could constitute workplace harassment. Report any concerning behaviors to your HR department or contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your next steps. 

Common Harassment Behaviors

An estimated 54% of women have reported workplace harassment. Minorities may also experience high degrees of harassment, especially in a workplace made up of a high quantity of another race. Workplace bullying may cross into harassment when any of these behaviors are evident. 

An individual frequently uses racial or gender-based slurs. 

Sometimes, people may use slurs due to a lack of knowledge. They may simply fail to note the word as offensive the first time it is used. After frequent repetition and reprimands, however, it becomes obvious that the individual is deliberately harassing specific people within the workplace. This behavior can constitute harassment even if the individual uses the common, “I was just kidding!” or, “I didn’t mean anything by it!” 

You feel physically intimidated by a bully.

Men, in particular, often use their greater physical size and strength to try to bring someone else in line with their wishes. You may notice someone deliberately looming over you or using aggressive behaviors that put you on your guard or suggest that if you do not comply with the individual’s demands, you will have to enter a physical altercation. 

An individual regularly posts or shares offensive pictures or content. 

Some content simply does not belong in the workplace–including any content that belittles someone or makes them feel uncomfortable. If you have a coworker who shares these materials on a regular basis, especially one in a position of authority, that coworker has already crossed the line into harassment. This includes content set as a backdrop on company machines, shared in company chats, or sent through emails or private messages. 

An individual engages in mockery or ridiculing behavior, especially toward a specific individual.

Some bullies deliberately engage in mockery or ridicule others because they want to create a response. They may generalize those behaviors toward anyone, target specific groups of people, or even target specific individuals. If you feel uncomfortable due to repeated jabs or comments, you may already have suffered workplace bullying. 

The behavior interferes with your ability to complete your job duties.

It’s not uncommon, in a toxic work environment, for employees to disengage. They may stop putting forth as much effort at work or struggle to keep up with their usual job responsibilities. It may become increasingly difficult for anyone in the workplace, especially targets of bullying or harassment, to get things done. Bullying and harassment can also specifically interfere with many job tasks, especially if the bully tries to force you to take on additional work. 

What Should You Do If You Face Harassment at Work?

Many people have no idea what to do when they face harassment at work. Should you report it? If the bully or harasser is in a position of power, you may fear that you will lose your job. Should you ask the bully to stop? What if it makes the behavior worse, instead? No one should have to live with bullying or harassment in the workplace. To help keep your work environment safer, follow these steps. 

1. Ask the individual to stop.

Do not engage in confrontation. Do, however, let the bully know that the behavior you have observed is unacceptable. Sometimes, people simply need to be educated about the power of their words and behaviors. Other times, simply showing that you do not intend to take that treatment silently can improve many of those behaviors. 

2. Report the behavior to HR.

Depending on the behavior, you may want to report to your Human Resources department as soon as you observe it. For example, if you notice someone using racial or gendered slurs, you may want to report the behavior sooner rather than later. Sometimes, especially if you feel that addressing the bully directly may put you in danger, you may want to report the behavior to HR anonymously and let them deal with it. 

3. Document everything.

Any time you witness or experience harassment, document it extensively. The more evidence you have, the harder it can prove to turn that behavior around on you. You may want to note dates, times, specific language used, or any behaviors that made you feel uncomfortable. Take screenshots of harassing messages. If you have recordings of taunts or other harassing behaviors, including video recordings of physical intimidation, save them to use as evidence later. You may want to make copies of any particularly important information and store it off-site or with your lawyer. 

4. Contact an attorney.

If you experience ongoing harassment at work, you may have legal rights regarding compensation and employment. Your employer also cannot terminate you for calling out harassment, even if you call out your boss or management team. Contact an attorney to learn more about your legal rights and how you should respond following serious harassment in the workplace.

One bully or ongoing harassment from a single person can quickly turn even the best work environment upside down. As an employee, you do not have to tolerate that behavior. Contact Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation to learn more about your legal rights following workplace harassment. 

The Top Circumstances That Cause a Toxic Work Environment

In a toxic work environment, employees often struggle with productivity and motivation. Worse, a toxic work environment can cause a host of physical and emotional health problems, many of which can have substantial impact on your life outside of work. An average 1 in 5 Americans have left a job within the past five years due to a toxic workplace environment. Around 26% of American workers note that they dread going in to work every day.

Are you dealing with a toxic work environment, often as a result of poor management choices and an overall poor culture in your workplace? Take a look at these top 5 circumstances that can create a drain on your work and personal life. 

1. Harassment and Discrimination

Any time your office environment marginalizes or targets minorities, from people of a specific gender to those of a specific race or religion, it can cause tension to ride high. Between 25% and 85% of American women have faced sexual harassment in the workplace, depending on the description of harassment. Women may be blocked for promotions, ignored for certain jobs or tasks, or have to deal with casual sexual harassment from their colleagues.

Minorities, especially people of color, also continue to face discrimination in many workplaces. Minorities may have a harder time securing a job at all in certain industries, or they may have a harder time getting promoted. They may also face direct harassment from racist team members. 

Not only do harassment and discrimination cause problems for the targeted group, they can increase tension in other groups, as well. Savvy managers show zero tolerance for those behaviors to help maintain a better overall working environment. 

2. Office Drama

Drama in the workplace can have a substantial impact. A single toxic employee, including one prone to gossip or causing problems, can cause decreases in productivity across the office environment. Half of employees decrease work effort or spend less time at work due to toxic hiring decisions. Others may take their frustrations out on customers, or simply lose track of time at work while worrying about the behavior of a toxic employee.

Office drama can stem from in-office romances, disputes between employees, or management team members who seem to have something against other members of the team. Ongoing office drama can lead to an overall unproductive office–not to mention one where employees simply do not feel safe. 

3. Lack of Communication in the Office

In a solid office environment, employees know who they need to go to with problems–and they trust that problems will be taken care of quickly. Communication needs to go both ways in the office. Not only do managers need to communicate with employees to keep them informed of what is going on in the workplace, including policy changes and potential challenges, employees need to be able to communicate with their management team. They should not fear that they will be punished for a lack of understanding, but rather that they will receive support from their management team to fix any problems they may face. 

Poor communication can quickly create toxicity in the workplace. Employees may talk to one another, rather than talking to and trusting their managers. This talking can quickly move to grumbling, complaining, or workplace drama, which may, in turn, increase the toxicity level in the office. 

4. Lack of HR Support

A company’s HR department can go a long way toward creating the support that employees need in order to succeed. HR is a critical investment for most employers. HR should take care of employee training, including providing employees with both the resources they need to excel at their chosen professions and the resources they need to help avoid a toxic work environment. 

An effective HR team will also address any toxic situations as quickly and effectively as possible. Sometimes, HR may ignore problems until they become much more serious, causing resentment to grow and employees to struggle in their work environments. If those situations are allowed to continue, it can prove much more difficult to reverse the damage. On the other hand, if HR steps in early and proactively addresses any potential challenges, it can often create a safer, more secure working environment for everyone involved. 

5. High Employee Turnover

High employee turnover is one quick sign of a toxic work environment, since a toxic environment can cause employees to quickly leave in an effort to escape their current situations. Equally, however, high levels of employee turnover can lead to a toxic work environment, especially if the management team has unrealistic expectations of the remaining employees. 

When employees leave, the management team must quickly find new hires to take their place. This leads to several key problems. First, in the meantime, the remaining team members must take on that additional workload. This may mean increased hours or more tasks to take care of during the work day. At its worst, this can increase the risk of employee burnout. 

In order to alleviate that strain, many managers will try to rush the hiring process. Unfortunately, this raises the risk of hiring toxic team members. In some cases, employers may hire team members who simply do not have the skills necessary to complete a particular job. 

Finally, new team members may require substantial training before they can meet the standards expected by the employer. In the meantime, the remaining employees may need to pick up the slack and take care of any tasks that the new hires cannot do, further increasing the strain on existing employees. It can also take time for employees to truly mesh with one another in a new environment, which can further increase workplace stress. 

Minor periods of workplace difficulty can increase employee stress substantially. Working in a toxic environment, on the other hand, can cause immense challenges for employees, including steadily decreasing mental and physical health. If you have encountered problems stemming from a toxic work environment, contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.

Should I Hire a Lawyer Before Filing an Employment Claim if I Suspect Policy/Law Violations?

You noticed that policies or laws were violated in your workplace. Perhaps you faced retaliation after reporting serious violations, or maybe you faced harassment at work. Now, you need to file an employment claim.

Do you need a lawyer?

You may choose to work with an attorney for a variety of reasons as you move toward an employment claim. For example, you might need an attorney if:

  • You faced harassment at work that HR did not address, especially if that harassment led to retaliation when reported
  • You faced discrimination for any reason in the workplace
  • You faced retaliation for reporting violations
  • Your employer threatens to sue you for any reason
  • Your employer has asked you to sign complex or confusing paperwork, including a noncompete contract, that you do not fully understand
  • Your employer denies your rights, including your right to overtime, your status as a full-time employee, or your Family Medical Leave Act rights

When Do You Need an Employment Attorney?

Any time you plan to file an employment claim and feel that policies or laws have been violated, consider the benefits of working with an experienced employment attorney. Working with an employment attorney can provide much better odds of success in your claim. An employment attorney can:

Help You Understand Your Rights

Many people suffer in a hostile working environment for years, believing they do not have the right to a claim. For example, your employer may insist that you have “salaried” classification, which means you may not receive compensation for overtime, and force you to work an excessive number of hours each week without adequate compensation. Your employer may also change your status to “contractor,” rather than full-time employee, or hold you as a part-time employee, which means you do not receive certain benefits from the company, rather than classifying you as the full-time employee your hours suggest you are. All of these actions may lead to significantly less compensation than you really deserve for your contributions to your business, especially over the course of months or years. 

Worse, you may find yourself dealing with discrimination: lower wages than your coworkers just because of your gender, getting passed over for promotion because of your race or religion, or even having ideal projects handed to others in your organization because of a disability, in spite of the fact that you do excellent work in spite of it. Other employees may even face direct harassment. 

An employment lawyer can help you understand your rights, including your right to compensation following harassment or discrimination. 

Give You Instruction Concerning Documentation

Document, document, document: it’s one of the most critical rules of dealing with any type of employment claim. If you face any type of discrimination in the workplace, deal with harassment, or must handle a rights violation of any kind, make sure that you document it. An attorney will walk you through the type of information you will need to provide as part of your claim, including:

  • Documentation concerning hours worked
  • Any communication you have had with HR over the issue
  • Specific communications that may prove the actions you took or the demands made by an employer
  • Any written evidence of discrimination

An employment lawyer can also help instruct you on how to document verbal harassment or demands, which can prove more difficult to compile after the fact. 

Help Collect Evidence

Sometimes, you may not realize that you need to collect evidence of discrimination or harassment until well after it begins. In its early stages, for example, you may not realize that a manager or boss has actively discriminated against you. Over time, you may simply watch ideal projects pass you by, or see a coworker receive accolades, promotions, and raises you do not. 

An attorney can help you collect evidence regarding those indiscretions, even if they occurred in the past. An experienced attorney can also give you a better idea of what to look for going forward so that you can more accurately document any events that occur in the workplace, from discrimination to illegal actions. An attorney can also help showcase evidence of, for example, retaliation due to whistleblowing, which your employer may take steps to hide. Your employer might, for example, fire you for a minor indiscretion after you reported the employer to a professional board for failure to take adequate safety precautions. 

Represent You

What you say to your employer, or former employer, matters when dealing with an employment claim. Just as you plan to collect documentation that will show that your employer acted illegally, your employer may try to take as many steps as possible to collect evidence against you: evidence that you did not actually work the hours you claimed, or that you did not perform your work tasks as well as other employees, for example, which would explain why you got passed over for promotion. The representative you speak with may try to trip you up or convince you to say things that do not match up with actual events. The representative may also try to convince you to accept a lower settlement than you really deserve for the financial or physical losses you faced, or may try to convince you to write off any missing funds. 

An attorney, on the other hand, can take over those discussions for you, ensuring that you do not mistakenly say something that could hurt your claim and increasing the odds that your employer will take you seriously. An attorney can also take over with negotiations or communications without emotional investment, which can increase the odds of a successful resolution. Your attorney will pass on any necessary information to you. 

Do you need an experienced employment attorney to aid you as you file an employment claim? Any time you feel that your employer violated policies or laws in dealing with you or others around you, you should hire an attorney before moving forward. Contact Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation today at 916-446-2000 to learn more about your legal rights before filing an employment claim.

Common Types of Harassment in the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

Harassment at a place of work is nothing to joke about. As an employee, you have a right to work at a site that is free from insults, intimidation, and bullying. And yet, even though there are established laws that protect you against these harassment tactics, this sometimes-illegal behavior still occurs. What makes this situation even worse is that there are so many different types of workplace harassment that even the most diligent of supervisors can miss the signs. However, as an employee experiencing this type of harassment, you should not just have to deal with it.

To help you better understand if you are getting harassed at work, we have prepared the following blog post, which will explain the most common types of harassment found in the workplace, and what you can do about it.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment refers to the physical or verbal conduct that shows hostility towards another individual based on their race, gender, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, or other protected personal characteristics. Such workplace harassment is considered illegal under both state and federal law.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment involves harassment due to your skin color, ancestry, citizenship status, or race. This harassment can include racist jokes, insults, slurs, racial disgust, and even degrading comments.

Gender Harassment

Gender harassment results from discrimination against another individual because of their gender. This harassment often involves stereotypes indicating how a man or a woman should act.

Religious Harassment

Religious harassment is more focused on an individual’s religious beliefs. However, it can sometimes overlap with harassment based on race. Religious harassment can involve comments or jokes about religious traditions, holidays, clothing, and customs. Or it can be in the form of pressure to convert an individual into a different religion.

Age Harassment

Age harassment often includes any teasing, unfair criticism, insults, or being left out of activities because of an individual’s age. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers 40 years or older.

Disability Harassment

It is illegal to discriminate against another employee because of their real or perceived disability, their relationship to a disabled person, or their use of disability services. This type of harassment is often experienced through patronizing behavior, crude jokes, or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations.

Personal Harassment

Personal harassment is a type of harassment that is not based on one of the protected classes. But rather, it is the most basic form of bullying that is not illegal. Often this behavior creates an offensive or intimidating work environment for the victim, that includes

  • Crude Jokes
  • Offensive Comments
  • Personal Humiliation Tactics
  • Critical Remarks
  • Intimidation Tactics
  • Excluding Behaviors

Physical Harassment

Physical harassment, often referred to as workplace violence, is harassment that involves physical threats or attacks. In some instances, it can even be regarded as an assault. Physical harassment needs to be taken very seriously in the workplace and explained clearly to make the actions more defined.

Some examples of physical harassment include the following:

  • Threats of direct harm or an intent to inflict this harm
  • Physical Attacks that include shoving, kicking, or hitting
  • Threatening Behavior (such as shaking your fist angrily)
  • Destructive Behavior that is meant to intimidate another employee

Depending on the industry (health care, social services, law enforcement, education), the employees may be at a higher risk of workplace violence.

Power Harassment

When there is a power disparity between the harassed and the harasser, it is often referred to as power harassment. The harasser who has a higher status in the workplace hierarchy bullies someone in a lower rank, making excessive demands of them, intruding into their personal life, providing verbal intimidation, demeaning comments, or physical threats.

Psychological Harassment

Psychological harassment often involves specific actions that hurt an employee’s mental wellbeing. Victims of this harassment feel belittled or put down on a professional and personal level, and this harassment can quickly escalate into impacting their health, social life, and work product.

Psychological harassment can include actions such as:

  • Isolating the victim
  • Ignoring the victim
  • Trivializing the victim and their ideas or thoughts
  • Spreading rumors about the victim
  • Challenging anything the victim says

Online Harassment

Technology has significantly improved our working environment. However, as more employers embrace technology’s power, online harassment or cyberbullying is continuously on the rise. This type of harassment often includes:

  • Spreading gossip or lies about the victim through social media channels
  • Sharing humiliating information about the victim by mass chat or mass email
  • Sending harassing text messages or other instant messages to the victim

Retaliation Harassment

Retaliation harassment is a form of harassment used in retaliation against another employee for participating in a lawfully protected activity. For example, if employee A files a complaint against employee B, and employee B finds out, and they start harassing employee A as revenge for filing the claim- this type of harassment is called retaliation harassment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is sexual in nature and includes unwanted sexual conduct, behavior, or advances. Not only is this type of harassment always on the news, but what makes it so prevalent is that it can happen on any worksite, affect both men and women, and impacts the victim’s life immediately. Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Sharing sexual photographs
  • Making sexual comments or jokes or posing sexual questions
  • Posting Sexual Posters
  • Inappropriate sexual touching or gestures
  • Sexually invading another employee’s space.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment also translated to “this for that” is a form of exchange-based sexual harassment. It is often experienced when a supervisor or manager conditions work benefits in exchange for some sexual favor. It can also occur if the harasser turns to blackmail to coerce another employee into a sexual act. This type of harassment can be either explicit or implicit, meaning the harasser can outright ask for the sexual exchange or hint at it.

Third Parties Harassment

Third-party harassment is a type of harassment in the workplace instigated by a third-party or someone outside the organization, such as a customer, supplier, or vendor. The victims of this type of harassment are often low-status workers or low-power jobs (such as a sales associate or cashier). And even though this type of harassment does not fit the typical workplace harassment narrative, it still is the employer’s responsibility to stop this behavior.

Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is often the result of personality conflicts that have escalated into something serious. Even though this harassment is not illegal, a verbal harasser usually involves a consistently unpleasant individual who is constantly throwing insults, swearing, yelling, or making public and private threats. These insults can be particularly damaging since they often go unnoticed by supervisors. It is also important to remember that if this harassment is based on a protected class, it is illegal.

How Can an Experienced Employment Lawyer Help?

If you are getting harassed at work, and you have taken the necessary actions to get this behavior to stop. Yet, your employer has not appropriately responded. You need to contact an experienced employment lawyer today. The legal team at Perkins Asbill is ready to provide you with the legal representation that you need and the help that you deserve. Do not wait any longer; call our office at 916-446-2000.

What Steps Do You Need to Take if You Work in a Hostile Work Environment?

Having a bad day at work is one thing. Getting harassed daily by a co-worker or your boss is a whole separate matter. If you feel like you are working in a hostile environment, you have a right for these actions to stop, and if they do not, you deserve to go after the people that are causing you to this extreme fear, anxiety, and stress at your workplace.

In this blog post, we will detail what exactly is a hostile work environment, what steps you need to take if you are working in such a situation, and how an employment lawyer can help you.

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

hostile work environment is legally defined as offensive or unwelcome behavior that causes one or more workers to feel scared, intimidated, or uncomfortable in their place of employment. Simply put, a hostile work environment is the sum of all communications, behaviors, and actions done by an individual at work (boss, client, colleague, vendor) that alters the expectations, terms, or conditions of a workplace that a worker feels comfortable with.

What is NOT a hostile work environment:

  • A worksite that is unpleasant
  • A bad boss
  • Obnoxious co-workers
  • Lack of benefits or perks
  • Feeling undervalued or underpaid

Therefore, to truly have your work environment meet the level of illegal hostility, it needs to go beyond the causal lousy joke.

Legal Requirements for a Hostile Environment

Dealing with a hostile environment can be a complicated process, as most of these cases are extremely fact-specific and quite subjective. Additionally, it is hard to say precisely when a working environment becomes illegal, as most often, nobody in the workplace will admit to their wrongdoing. Therefore, to determine if your workplace is hostile, the court needs to consider all aspects of the harassment, including the severity of the behavior and frequency.

So how does someone succeed in a hostile work environment case? By establishing the following factors:

  • Discriminatory in Nature: The workplace’s actions must result in discrimination against a protected classification, such as age, disability, race, or religion.
  • Pervasive: The workplace communications or behavior must be pervasive, or lasting over time, and not just limited to some remark or statement that an employee found unacceptable. An action becomes pervasive if it continues over some time, is all around the employee, and is not investigated adequately by the employer to make the problem stop.
  • Severe: The workplace actions or behavior must be severe, such that they disrupt the employee’s ability to work or their work product. In addition, the severity can occur if it interferes with a worker’s career progress; for example, they fail to receive a promotion because of the hostile environment.
  • Unwelcome: The inappropriate actions, harassment, communication, or behavior must be unwelcome. Generally, to show that it is unwanted, there is some evidence that an employee asked the hostile worker to stop their behavior, but it continued to persist.

The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

If you are still hesitant about whether you are working in a hostile environment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the actions, communications, or behavior unwelcome?
  • Are the actions, interactions, or behavior happening over a period of time, repeatedly?
  • Could you view the incident as hostile, both subjectively and objectively?
  • Are the actions, communications, or behavior discriminatory towards a protected class?

If you answer yes to these questions, you need to speak with an experienced employment attorney who can protect you against these illegal actions by your employer.

What Evidence Do You Need to Show Hostility?

Once people figure out they are working in a hostile environment, the next question they often ask is now what? In response, we have prepared the below necessary steps that you need to take to document this hostility.

Company’s Internal Complaint System

If you think you are working in a hostile environment before you do anything, make sure you create an internal official complaint. Yes, many people often worry about telling their HR about their issues in fear of getting in trouble. However, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against any employee who complains about harassment or discrimination, even if the claim holds no validity.

Obtain Evidence

Obtaining evidence that shows the organization or management was aware of the hostility, or that they should have been made aware is crucial for your claim. Start by documenting times, dates, places, and discussions at which you reported this harassment to the appropriate people. Even if it is an informal meeting with a supervisor, documenting these discussions can help show that the hostility was pervasive and that employer did nothing about it.

Witnesses

Having witnesses support your case can make your claim stronger. Therefore, if there are people who saw the harassment take place, make sure to get their name, contact information, and write down exactly what they saw. If the witness is willing to do so, have them provide you with a written statement or an email detailing the incident.

Document Everything

Just as witness statements are critical, physical proof of your harassment can also be vital in proving your claim. Make sure to save all communications (notes, letters, emails, and voicemails) that detail the hostility and how often it occurred.

Keep Proof of Negative Impact

A great way to document how a hostile working environment affected your work performance is saving all your performance reviews from your employer and keeping all your medical records. These records can show that you not only sought medical help around the time you claimed you were being harassed at work, but it can also provide you with a timeline that can strengthen your overall case.

Contact an Experienced Employment Lawyer

If you are experiencing a hostile work environment, you need to contact a knowledgeable and skilled employment lawyer today. With everything you are going through, you do not need to add more to your plate by trying to figure out which laws apply to your situation. Instead, these lawyers can take care of all of this legal work for you while fighting for the justice you deserve.

If you would like to discuss your employment issue or find out more about our business and employment law services, give us a call at 916-446-2000 today. We look forward to providing you the legal representation that you need.

 

 

WHAT DAMAGES MAY YOU SEEK IN RESPONSE TO HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE?

Many people take pride in the fact that California is one of the most diverse states in the union. You would think that fact would preclude harassment and hate violence in the workplace, but sadly, many workers in the state continue to experience it.

In order to combat these deplorable actions, the state passed the Ralph Civil Rights Actto protect people from threats or acts of violence. Anyone considered the member of a class protected under the act may file a complaint seeking damages for the harm suffered at the hands of an abuser in the workplace.

You may be entitled to damages

If it turns out that you became the victim of workplace violence based on your race, gender, age or any other class protected under the act, you may qualify for compensation for the harm caused to you. If your claim successfully proves your allegations, you may receive the following damages, which you may request in your complaint:

  • Actual damages that include financial losses such as money paid out for medical care, property repair or lost wages. You may also be eligible to receive compensation for the emotional distress and suffering that often accompanies such harassment and violence.
  • The court may issue a restraining order to keep your attacker or attackers away from you. That individual or those individuals may go to jail or pay fines for violating such an order.
  • A court may order your abuser or abusers to pay you a civil penalty of $25,000 depending on the circumstances.
  • A court may award you punitive damages, which the law intends to punish your attacker or attackers for violating the law.
  • A court may also order the guilty party or parties to pay your attorney’s fees accrued in connection with the lawsuit.

Hate violence and harassment include a variety of actions or behaviors that could also constitute criminal acts. California law does not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals based on certain criteria such as those mentioned above. If the actions warrant it, your abuser or abusers may face criminal charges as well, which the state will prosecute.

You may feel frightened or anxious about coming forward, but the law works to protect you. If your employer failed to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, then you have every right to go outside the company for help. You can protect yourself and your rights. Help is available if you aren’t sure what those rights are and want to know what legal options you may have.

5 FAQS ON WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN CALIFORNIA

As a woman working in the tech industry or a related industry in California, you may feel you need all the help you can get to deal with sexual harassment at work.

It is therefore good to know that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently issued a 9-page guidebook for employers to help them comply with applicable laws against sexual harassment. Such guidance is sorely needed, as women repeatedly face pervasive harassment and hostile corporate cultures in industries such as tech, manufacturing and engineering.

In this post, we will consider some common questions about bringing a claim in California for sexual harassment at work.

How is “sexual harassment’ defined?

In addition to the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, California law defines sexual harassment as encompassing many types of offensive or unwanted behavior. It isn’t only obvious things such as leering, making dirty jokes, or unwelcome physical touching. Other behaviors are prohibited as well, including asking for sexual favors in exchange for job benefits and retaliation (or threatened retaliation) for turning down sexual advances.

Are there current lawsuits that exemplify the problem of sexual harassment by California employers?

Absolutely. In one case filed earlier this year, a female engineer for Tesla brought suitagainst the company alleging “pervasive harassment” of men by women on the factory floor. The alleged harassment included whistling and catcalls, as well as inappropriate language.

The engineer’s lawsuit also alleged she experienced discriminatory pay and promotion practices. She also contended that Tesla retaliated against her after she raised whistleblowing concerns about a manufacturing defect.

What training do employers have to provide against sexual harassment?

If an employer has at least 50 workers (employees or independent contractors), all supervisory personnel must get prevention training. The training must be at least two hours, once every two years, and occur within six months of someone becoming a supervisor.

The curriculum for the training must cover not only legal definitions, but practical examples of conduct to be avoided and what should be done if harassment does occur.

Is it possible for employer harassment to occur on social media sites?

As we noted in a post in June, there is a case in the courts now on this issue. The case involves the managing director of a bank who allegedly used LinkedIn to harass a young woman.

How are employers supposed to investigate allegations of sexual harassment?

The guide issued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing includes guidelines on having a prompt, impartial investigation by someone with proper qualifications.

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN THE CALIFORNIA WORKPLACE

 

A California worker has the right to a workplace that is free from harassment, discrimination and any type of mistreatment related to his or her religion. Despite the laws shielding individuals from unfair treatment, religious discrimination is still a very real, very serious problem.

If you experienced any type of discrimination in the workplace, you may feel intimidated or overwhelmed by your current situation. Many workers do not report these instances because they may fear further mistreatment or retaliation. If you are unsure if what you experienced is actual discrimination or if you want to take legal action against your employer, you do not have to walk through this complicated process alone.

How can you know if you experienced religious discrimination?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits the discrimination of any individual on the basis of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or other factors. It can be difficult to determine if you experienced discrimination, especially in a world where many employers are politically correct and more perceptive than ever.

You may have valid grounds for a legal claim if you experienced any of the following in the workplace, either from an employer or from a co-worker:

  • Inappropriate questions about religious wear
  • Negative generalizations about your religious practices
  • Hostile comments or threats
  • Exclusion from group projects or meetings
  • Passed over for deserved promotions
  • Inappropriate jokes or remarks
  • Unfair pay or failed payment of earned wages

With the help of an attorney, you may be able to bring unfair practices to light, as well as hold the employer accountable for inappropriate actions or for allowing a hostile or discriminatory work environment. The best way for you to gain a complete understanding of your rights and options is to seek help as soon as you believe that religious discrimination occurred.

Fighting back against unfair treatment

California victims of any type of employment discrimination may be eligible for certain types of financial and legal remedies. These include:

  • Back pay
  • Reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney fees
  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Policy changes

Whether you want compensation, vindication or the assurance that what you experienced will never happen to another person, you can accomplish your legal goals and obtain the remedies needed to move forward. You have the right to pursue a prosperous career and work in a physically and emotionally safe environment, regardless of your religious practices.