As an employee in the state of California, your rights can be confusing. Unfortunately, you work in an at-will employment state, and there are many situations in which your job may be at risk for absolutely no reason at all.
You still have the right to ensure you’re safe within your workplace. One of the potential issues you can face is harassment, which you should never tolerate whenever you encounter it. Knowing what your rights are if you experience any kind of harassment on the job can help you protect your rights as an employee.
Our blog will help you answer some of the questions you may have after workplace harassment:
- What is workplace harassment?
- What is discrimination?
- Who is responsible?
- Can your boss fire you or retaliate for reporting it?
- What are your rights to recover after it happens?
- What happens if you don't report harassment in time?
To get the answers you need, click any of the links above or continue reading to learn more.
What is Workplace Harassment?
Workplace harassment is any situation in which you deal with stereotypes, inappropriate jokes, unwanted touching or advances, and any other actions that make you uncomfortable. If the harassment results in you either having a difficult time at work or makes it so you want to leave your job, you should know that you have rights as an employee.
Harassment can occur because of several protected classes, including the following:
- Age: Your employer cannot make offensive comments regarding your age. Similarly, harassment can occur if your employer passes you up for job opportunities because of your age.
- Medical condition: Your employer should ensure you are not on the receiving end of bullying if you have a specific condition or disability.
- Race: Your race should not play a role in your ability to advance in your place of employment. Similarly, you should not have to endure racial slurs, stereotypes, or jokes.
- Religion: Your religion and personal beliefs should not involve your work life. You shouldn’t have to face jokes or bullying because of your religion, nor should you face pressure to convert to another religion.
Other protected classes can include your gender, sexual orientation, and more. If you face harassment because of any of these characteristics, you have legal options to hold the responsible party or your employer accountable.
What is Discrimination?
Discrimination can occur in numerous forms and involve the protected classes set forth by California law. Discrimination laws state that employers cannot make employment decisions based on race, gender, medical condition, religion, sexual orientation, and many other characteristics.
For instance, your employer cannot fire you for being above a certain age. Similarly, he or she cannot overlook you for a promotion or raise because you are younger than other employees. Employers must make decisions based on merit.
Discrimination is illegal, and you have rights as an employee to take legal action should you face any problems in the workplace because of it.
Who is Commonly Responsible?
If you face harassment at work, it’s vital to recognize the people who can be held liable for the struggles you endure. Here are the various parties you can take legal action against and how they may hold some liability:
- A Coworker: You may work closely with numerous people throughout your day. While some people think that joking, pranks, or statements are harmless, they can cause you significant discomfort. You can hold a coworker accountable for their actions.
- A Supervisor: Your supervisor may harass you because of your age, gender, or other characteristics. He or she may overlook you for a promotion or deny a raise.
- An Employer: The employer at your company can be the person responsible for harassment, but he or she can also be liable if they know of the harassment and do nothing to stop it from occurring. Your employer should ensure a safe workplace. When they don’t, they are liable.
Can My Boss Fire Me if I Report Harassment?
If you face harassment, you should be sure to report it to the proper parties. Harassment in the workplace is prohibited through various state and federal laws. When you experience any kind of harassment or discrimination, you can report the actions you’ve experienced to the proper authorities.
Unfortunately, many people refuse to report harassment because they fear retaliation. Most people rely on their jobs for their income, and they feel as though the report of harassment can lead to them losing their job or their boss making their job more difficult.
You should know that you have rights regarding retaliation. Your employer cannot fire you or punish you because you report a hostile work environment. You are protected by law from any kind of action your employer may try to take against you for reporting harassment or discrimination.
Despite being an at-will employment state, California has some laws to prevent wrongful termination for any reason involving a protected class.
What Can I Recover?
Harassment and discrimination not only lead to an uncomfortable work environment, but it can also lead to you leaving your job completely to find safety. This situation can lead to you suffering significant monetary losses, mental anguish, and more. As such, you may recover specific compensation after workplace harassment.
- Lost income: If you’re unable to work and earn an income because of the harassment, a portion of your lawsuit can pursue the wages you lost.
- Mental trauma: If your harassment leads to mental trauma, you may need therapy. You can recover costs associated with this mental anguish.
If your employer wrongfully fires you for reporting harassment, but you really enjoy or need your job, you may be able to file for reinstatement as part of your employment lawsuit.
At Levin & Nalbandyan, LLP, we’re committed to helping you protect your rights as an employee. We work hard to guide you through the process with a focus on obtaining the outcome you need. You can trust that we’re knowledgeable regarding state and federal laws, and we’ll work with you to build a strong strategy on your behalf.
Our Los Angeles employment attorneys offer free consultations, so you can get the answers you need without the initial financial commitment. We also work on contingency fees, meaning you only pay us when we win.