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April 2016 Archives

Steps to take to counter sexual harassment at work

Workplace sexual harassment can be stressful and demoralizing, but California employees who are facing it can take steps to make it stop. They should not just quit or try to avoid the problem. People are entitled to work in an environment where sexual harassment is not taking place.

Threat of career harm often prevents sexual harassment claims

Sexual advances from clients toward California employees often go unreported because victims worry about losing status at work. A survey of working women between 18 and 34 revealed that a full third of them had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Although survey data indicates that the experience is common, actual complaints to employers remain rare. Fears about retaliation such as losing a prestigious account, loss of promotion opportunities and outright dismissal keep most victims silent.

Evolving attitudes about sexual harassment

California workers who are protected by laws against sexual harassment would not have had that coverage just a few decades ago. For many years, women in the workplace had little choice but to put up with sexual harassment or quit. There was not even a single word that described the experience until a group of women came up with the phrase "sexual harassment" in 1975. It was soon popularized by media, and in a survey done by Redbook magazine, 80 percent of women reported that they had been sexually harassed in their workplace.

Sexual harassment policies may be hindered by interpretation

According to some researchers, employers in California and other parts of the country may not be implementing sexual harassment policies effectively if they leave their interpretation up to employees. A study conducted at the University of Missouri showed that when employees interpret how their company policies define sexual harassment, they do so through the filter of their own perceptions. This could completely counter the intent with which such policies were written in the first place.

Serious health conditions and FMLA

Although some health issues can resolve rather quickly, others can result in long-term medical treatment and recovery times for patients. A California employer may have questions about discerning between serious health conditions and less serious situations as an employee requests FMLA leave. When conditions provided for in the law are met, an employee may take advantage of job-protected time away.

Determining whether an employee is covered by FMLA

Many California employees appreciate the availability of leave through FMLA as they address personal or family situations such as a serious illness. However, some face conflict with their employers based on disputes over eligibility. Both employers and employees need to be aware of the basic requirements for eligibility to ensure that such misunderstandings can be resolved effectively.

Human resource personnel could be liable in FMLA cases

A California worker dealing with difficulties related to using FMLA leave might wonder about a human resources department's role in a situation, especially if adverse action is taken. An employee could be asked to provide medical documentation to substantiate a request for leave, but there are certain limitations on the employer's part in terms of the timing of such a request. Because much of this activity tends to be handled by human resources personnel, the staff member making any critical decisions related to an employee's standing with a company could be held personally liable for violations of that party's FMLA rights.

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