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San Diego Employment Law Blog

#MeToo has inspired victims to take action across many industries

The #MeToo movement inspired victims of sexual harassment to share their stories online. As more and more women said "me too" to instances of sexual harassment and assault, many decided it was time to take their case to the court.

Many instances of workplace sexual harassment within the entertainment industry became high profile as well-known celebrities faced accusations. But #MeToo has sparked litigation of sexual harassment claims across many other industries you may not have heard as much about.

Workplace harassment can be subtle and difficult to recognize

Nearly every employee in California and elsewhere knows about harassment and discrimination related to their gender, race, age or sexual orientation. However, you may not realize that some behaviors that you may think are merely irritating or uncomfortable can qualify as harassment. You may also find it interesting to learn that harassment can start subtly, only to gradually increase in severity and leave you wondering if it is all in your head.

According to Business Insider, sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and discrimination include frequent, severe behaviors that create an offensive or hostile work environment or result in an unfair employment decision, such as a demotion or termination without cause. Some examples of subtle harassment can include the following:

  • Telling offensive jokes and accusing the offended person of not having a sense of humor
  • Standing too close to a co-worker or subtly touching the other person, such as putting a hand on a shoulder or small of the back
  • Repeatedly asking questions about one’s personal life that are invasive or disrespectful
  • Giving a backhanded compliment, such as, “You may need to fight off the men wearing an outfit like that.”
  • Displaying posters, books and other material in an office or workspace that can be seen as insensitive or offensive
  • Making flippant or threatening remarks against people of a certain color, gender, nationality or sexual orientation

Has a cyberstalker followed you to your new job?

Perhaps you have recently started a new job with a company located in Hillcrest. You like the area, you like the work, you admire your boss and you are getting along well with your coworkers.

Life in the new work environment is just about perfect — except for the cyber stalker.

Have you been transferred because of your disability?

Although you require a wheelchair, you were part of the customer service team until a management change occurred. The new manager moved you to a back office where you are to perform bookkeeping work, which is not your strong point. Were you transferred to a different department because of your disability?

Undue hardship explained

Can jokes be considered sexual harassment?

In the advent of the #MeToo movement, more industries than simply Hollywood have taken a good, hard look at how people treat female employees in the workplace. Many employers have invested in extra efforts to inform workers on what actions are considered sexual harassment

There are still some gray areas, such as where jokes fall into all this. Many men do not see the harm in making an off-color joke at work. While some people may laugh it off, others may become uncomfortable. Ultimately, the workplace needs to be an area where everyone feels safe and supported. In many cases, the court will view a joke as sexual harassment. 

3 tips for talking to managers about harassment

When you go to work, you want to earn a living and utilize your professional talents. The last thing you want is to be subjected to inappropriate behavior at the hands of your colleagues. Unfortunately, though, harassment in the workplace is a common problem. It may be because of your race, gender identity, sexual orientation or nothing at all. Regardless of the context, you need to take action.

Employers should provide staff with resources to address harassment with management, but it is still never easy to stand up for yourself against people who treat you poorly. The following are three tips for initiating an effective conversation with management about the treatment you are experiencing. 

What does it mean that an employer must accommodate workers?

Individuals with disabilities require protections in relation to school, work and public transportation. In 1990, the federal government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a civil rights law ensuring people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. 

Part of the law states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. The language in this provision is a bit vague, and the word "reasonable" can have different meanings to different people. It comes down to the court to decide whether a workplace failed to provide accommodations deemed reasonable, but there are general guidelines both employers and employees should remain aware of. 

Why sexual harassment is so prevalent in restaurants

If you earn your income working in a San Diego-area restaurant, bar or food service establishment, it may not surprise you to know that these work environments are often hotbeds for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is so common in restaurants and other food service businesses, in fact, that USA Today reports that more sexual harassment claims come from the hospitality sector than any other industry.

With more than 14 percent of all sexual harassment claims filed within a recent 10-year period coming from the restaurant industry, you may wonder exactly what it is about the work environment that makes it such a breeding ground for this type of behavior. Some of the problem is likely due to these facts:

Are jokes sexual harassment?

Comedy is already tricky and subjective, and it becomes even harder to distinguish what is acceptable when dealing with serious subjects. Dave Chappelle recently made jokes about the women of the #MeToo movement on his latest Netflix special, which bombed in the public's eye. 

Whether you work in a restaurant or office building, there may be some wannabe comedians who do not see the harm in partaking in some off-color humor. Depending on the work environment, everyone may be all right with these kinds of jokes, but in other instances, these jabs can absolutely come across as sexual harassment

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