2017 sure felt like it was the year of harassment. It seemed like every day or two there were new high-profile stories of sexual harassment claims in the news. You didn’t just see the claims though; there were social media movements like #metoo that started, or were rejuvenated as more and more survivors came forward. You don’t have to work for someone rich and powerful to suffer from sexual harassment; just ask any workplace attorney. Out of the fire of all of this hurt, came Senate Bill 396.
What is Senate Bill 396?
Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on October 15, 2017. This new law requires employers with 50 or more employees to expand their already required two-hour sexual harassment training. In addition to the standard sexual harassment training, supervisors will receive training on policies prohibiting harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. All employees in supervisory capacities receive this training once every two years.
What Does All That Mean?
The California Fair Employment and Housing Council have definitions for “sex”, “gender”, “gender identity”, “gender expression”, and “transgender”. Each of these items are independent of the others as well. Because of Senate Bill 396, the already-required training will cover how to avoid harassment based on these items. This way, there will be less of a need for sexual harassment claims, and better protections for transgender individuals in the workplace.
So, What Should You Do If You Think You Need to File Sexual Harassment Claims?
Even with additional training, there will still be sexual harassment claims. If you’re in this unfortunate situation, you need to take advantage of your protections. No one should have to worry about sexual harassment, and that includes you. The first thing you should do after your sexual harassment is contact a labor attorney. You’re going to want a professional on your side.
Fighting back against sexual harassment claims starts before they ever happen. Try to have a plan of action if it happens. Freezing up in the moment is very common, and if this happens to you, don’t feel bad. However, if you’ve thought about how to handle the situation, your loud and clear message in the moment may not just establish that the advances were unwanted, but possibly end any problems before they can really start.
Once you find yourself in the situation of having to file sexual harassment claims, you’ll want to write down everything. Write down when you were harassed, what they said, and who was around to hear it. Do this as quickly as you can. Memories fade, but if you write it down right away you will have crystal-clear accounting. Document everything, from requests for sexual favors, to anything you think might have been retaliation for fighting back. Save every email, every memo. However, don’t record this using work property; use the notes app on your phone, or keep your own paper notebook on hand.
Remember, this is not your fault, and you’re not alone. Men and women deal with sexual harassment every day. If you need help with sexual harassment claims, or any type of workplace discrimination, the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard are here for you. Call (310) 488-9020, or visit the website to see how they’ll fight for you.
7th Circuit of Appeals Court Rules the Civil Rights Act Protects Gay Workers, How Can This Affect You?
In what is being hailed as a significant victory for gay rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Civil Rights Act from 1964 applies protections to gay employees from job discrimination. This expands the protections the landmark law provides to include sexual orientation, great news for anyone seeking the services of California employment lawyers due to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The case started with Kimberly Hively’s lawsuit against Ivy Tech Community College. Hively alleges that she was fired from her position because she is a lesbian. In the court’s opinion, chief judge Diane P. Wood wrote that “Hively’s claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction and policing.” She also wrote that “Ivy Tech is disadvantaging her because she is a woman.”
However, the court did not rule on Hively’s lawsuit in specific. What their ruling did was allow for Ms. Hively’s employment case to continue. This comes after a lower court had previously dismissed her case. The lower court ruled that the Civil Rights Act did not provide protections for sexual orientation.
Ms. Hively represented herself in the lower court because she could not find a lawyer who thought she would win. In an interview, she said “I wasn’t doing it just for me, but for anyone who was going to be bullied in a job for who they decided to love.”
The results of this case are going to make it easier for California employment lawyers to fight for their clients. This is the highest federal court that has granted these employment protections. Because of this, the chances this issue reaches the Supreme Court are much higher. The Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage already, however many legal protections, such as employment and housing have not reached gay people yet. Another ruling in an appellate court in Georgia came to the opposite conclusion. That Georgia court ruled that the Civil Rights Act does not protect against discrimination at work for gay employees.
If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, besides contacting California employment lawyers, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
Bring the Issue to Your Employer’s Attention
If you feel you are being harassed or discriminated against, you should make your employer aware of the situation. It is possible that many cases of discrimination or harassment are not recognized, and go unpunished because the victim did not establish that the behavior is unacceptable or unwelcome. While your employer is unlikely to admit to discrimination, or help you draft your legal papers against them, they are responsible for complying with the law. However, you are responsible for ensuring your rights are protected.
As an additional note, if the person you feel is discriminating against or harassing you is your immediate supervisor, you can report it to their superior, or your human resources representative. It is common for employers to designate a specific managerial or human resources person for accepting complaints. If this is the case, you should report directly to that individual with your complaint.
Keep a Diary
Record the date, and if possible time, as well as where the discrimination happened. Write in your diary who was involved in your discrimination, as well as who witnessed your discrimination, and your incident’s details.
Keep or Copy any Objects Used
If pictures or other objects are used to discriminate against you, either keep it, or take a picture of it for your records. For example, if you come to your desk and see anti-gay statements printed and taped to your computer chair. While your immediate urge may be to destroy, and trash those papers, instead either save them, or take a picture of them. It’s helpful to have the actual items used to discriminate against you, rather than simply describing them.
Review Your Company’s Anti-Discrimination Policy
Your Employer probably has an anti-discrimination policy in writing. Here, they have acknowledged they will not act in ways that are discriminatory. Save your copy of your employer’s policy.
Contact California Employment Lawyers
It’s a terrible place to be as the victim of discrimination. It will rip and tear at your emotions, and can make it difficult to separate your feelings from the law. Your labor law attorney can help you look clearly at the situation and make sure your outcome is favorable.
The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard have represented many employees seeking to right injustices they’ve felt in the work place. The Daily Journal named Cathe as one of the 2015 Top Employment Lawyers in California.
After a former employee at Uber made workplace harassment complaints that were not resolved to her satisfaction, her story became big news. Of course the final determination of who was right or wrong in the circumstances will ultimately be decided by settlement, or in a court of law. If you’re an employer, the description of the general atmosphere in this prominent company, and the public’s reaction to it, provides a perfect opportunity to review your basic obligations to investigate employee harassment complaints:
1. Employers Have a Duty To Investigate Complaints
The Fair Employment and Housing Act says that employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. Additionally, Government Code section 12940, subdivision (k) requires the same types of protections for employees. If you fail to enact preventative measures, you can be held liable for workplace harassment between co-workers. To avoid liability, employers should follow the law as closely as possible.
2. Precautionary Actions Might Be Necessary
Depending on the allegations and evidence, it’s important to decide if any immediate actions should be taken. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers examples of precautionary steps that include “scheduling changes so as to avoid contact between the parties; transferring the alleged harasser; or placing the alleged harasser on non-disciplinary leave with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation.” That being said, the EEOC states that the complainant “should not be involuntarily transferred or otherwise burdened, since such measures could constitute unlawful retaliation.”
3. Any Investigation Must Be Thorough
The FEHC (Fair Employment and Housing Commission) states that employers are required to fully investigate allegations of harassment. This investigation must be made immediately, and be thorough and complete. The investigator must be an objective third party. Anyone with information about the incident or incidents should be interviewed. Simply deciding if a harassment claim has merit is not enough. The results of the investigation should be communicated to the complainant, to the alleged harasser, and, as appropriate, to any other employees who are directly concerned. You should take all complaints of workplace harassment seriously.
4. Investigations Need To Happen Immediately
There are a lot of different cases that have ruled differently about what time frame qualifies as immediate. It’s smarter to assume that any harassment investigation should be begun and completed as quickly as humanly possible. In Steiner v. Showboat Operating Co., 25 F.3d 1459, 1464 (9th Cir. 1994), the court decided that the employer’s response to complaints were not immediate because it didn’t seriously investigate or reprimand the supervisor until after the plaintiff filed charge with the state FEP agency.
If you look at Van Zant V. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 80 F.3d 708, 712 (2d Cir. 1996) they held that the employer’s response was prompt. They began their investigation the same day the complaint was made, and they conducted interviews within two days. After ten days, they had fired the harasser. Moving on to Nash V. Electrospace Systems, Inc. 9 F.3d 401, 404 (5th Cir. 1993), the court held the investigation as prompt because it was completed in one week.
5. The Investigator Should Be Experienced and Unbiased
While your investigator could be a human resources manager, some caution is warranted. There shouldn’t be any conflicts of interest or bias toward either the victim or the person accused of workplace harassment. A superficial appearance of impartiality my not be enough. The investigator’s background, credentials, and experience could be closely examined if a lawsuit ensues, and it may uncover a bias towards one party that’s not obvious.
If you’re unsure if your business has an appropriate anti-harassment culture in place, it’s smart to consult an attorney who deals in harassment law. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, and you have any questions about how to handle a workplace harassment claim, contact The Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard.
A hostile work environment doesn’t just affect individual employees. It can easily disrupt the entire workplace. You should report signs of workplace harassment to your supervisors so they can address them immediately. It’s the best way to avoid workplace harassment going forward.
Certain conditions must be present for a workplace to be considered hostile in a legal sense. An annoying co-worker who talks incessantly about their day isn’t really creating a hostile work environment. A coworker who regularly makes sexually explicit comments or jokes is a different story.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between annoying behavior and harassment. Here is a handy list of 5 ways to recognize a hostile work environment:
1. Sexual Harassment
Do you feel a co-worker or supervisor has been getting a bit too ‘touchy’ lately? Do you repeatedly hear sexually inappropriate comments? If so, you may be a victim of a hostile work environment. Despite progress, sexual harassment in the workplace is still common. Sexual harassment refers to offensive, degrading, hostile, or intimidating conditions in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if the person causing the problem is a supervisor or a coworker.
Unwanted behavior ranges from sexually offensive jokes to actual physical molestation. If behavior like this is common in your workplace, it’s important to document it. Make sure to take note of whether the sexual harassment was verbal, physical, or both.
Discrimination of any kind is illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on race, age, gender, religion, or national origin.
You will have a strong case for a hostile work environment if a discriminatory act occurs regularly, and it is not stopped after being reported. If you’re not sure if you’re a victim, an employee rights lawyer can help you determine if you suffered discriminatory behavior in the workplace.
3. Pressure To Remain Quiet
Pressure to ignore unfair work practices is a lesser known form of hostile work environment. It’s against the law to retaliate against a whistleblower who reports unsafe or unfair work environments. Whistleblower retaliation is generally present if supervisors do anything to prevent a worker from exposing a hostile work environment. Pressure to remain quiet can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be an overt threat. Your supervisor might pass you over for raises, or give you less desirable work duties.
Pressure on whistleblowers doesn’t always start with management. In some cases, coworkers are the ones who want you to keep quiet about problems in the workplace. It’s common for people to avoid rocking the boat at work at all costs. For legal purposes, your employer is liable for whistleblower retaliation no matter where it’s coming from.
4. Lose a Promotion
Harassment at work can lead to serious emotional and psychological distress. It doesn’t have to result from a single traumatic event, either. Sometimes a constant, low-level stream of slights is even more destructive to an employee’s morale. A demotivated employee may feel reluctant to give their best effort at a job that doesn’t value their performance. That can lead to a loss of productivity. This loss of confidence in your basic ability to perform your job could end up costing you a promotion.
If a supervisor declines to promote you for any reason other than your job performance, you might be able to prove discrimination. This is especially true if the same supervisor promotes other employees of another gender, age, or race.
5. The Supervisor Knew But Didn’t Say Anything
Employers are required to prevent conditions that lead to a hostile workplace. In addition, they’re required to quickly deal with problems when the do arise. If you’ve explained the situation to your employer, but are ignored or suffer retaliation, you might have a strong case for a discrimination lawsuit.
A culture of fairness and dignity creates a positive work environment. Employees must feel safe, and they should be able to report problems when they arise without fear of unfair consequences.
Contact a Labor Lawyer for More Information
In conclusion, there’s no reason to tolerate harassment in the workplace. You should take a series of steps when you have trouble with harassment or discrimination. Firstly, it’s important to inform your supervisor or employer when you recognize a problem. If that doesn’t work, you may receive help from your Human Resources department. In some cases, you might have to confront a coworker yourself if you witness a problem.
You should get advice from a qualified labor lawyer if you feel you’re not being treated fairly at work. In the Los Angeles area, Cathe L. Caraway-Howard specializes in employment law. Her firm has won several high-profile cases that ended workplace discrimination. Contact her office today for more information.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unpleasant experience, whether it’s by an ordinary co-worker or a celebrity. Nobody likes being treated as a piece of property or plaything. Workplace harassment affects more than your feelings, too. It usually interferes with the performance of your day-to-day duties. That can result in a lack of promotions and pay raises, through no fault of your own. Battling against workplace harassment is difficult in a typical office setting. If your harasser is famous, or highly placed in the corporate world, you’ll face additional challenges. That’s no reason to put up with sexual harassment. You can level the playing field by consulting with sexual harassment lawyers.
Celebrity Cases Bring Unwanted Attention
When a celebrity becomes involved in a sexual harassment case, it attracts a lot of attention. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a celebrity in show business or any other field. There have been a number of well-known cases where harassment charges are brought up. It is never easy for the victim of the harassment. Certainly celebrity cases, such as the allegations against Bill Cosby, create a lot of turmoil for everyone connected to them. The public stature of the harassing celebrity can add increased pressure on the victim to just go along. When Anita Hill spoke up against Clarence Thomas, the fact that he was nominated for the Supreme Court brought more scrutiny than if he was simply a lawyer in private practice. Even more attention fell on everyone involved when the accused harasser was Bill Clinton, who was the sitting President of the United States.
Stand Your Ground
It is challenging when you know you will face the harsh light of scrutiny. That often happens when anyone brings up harassment charges. In any field, there are celebrities. When they misbehave, everyone connected to the situation gets attention whether they want it or not. Famous chefs, well-known religious leaders, political figures, business executives, all have the same aura of celebrity that a Hollywood star can have. The ability to call on a celebrity reputation to brush off accusations can be intimidating to the victim of workplace harassment. But before the law, everyone’s stature should be equal. The big ego of a workplace celebrity can create the specter of job termination if you move forward with your accusations. If you seek the help of employment lawyers, you can make your case just as effectively as you can when the harasser is Ordinary Guy.
Always Document the Events
When faced with celebrity sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s important to stay determined. Always make and keep records of individual incidents of sexual harassment. These steps avoid a he said/she said situation. These steps have nothing to do with the nature of celebrity and everything to do with standing your ground.
- Keep a log of the unwanted interactions, with dates and times
- Make a note of other people who were present and saw any part of the interaction with your harasser
- Document any physical interactions. Use photos to document injuries
- Work with an attorney, and keep the lawyer informed of any changes in the situation
Repercussions for a worker who brings a harassment charge against a celebrity can be very similar to those a workplace whistleblower might face. In high-profile cases, sexual harassment lawyers who are also familiar with whistleblower retaliation are more likely to be able to help you. Sexual harassment in the workplace creates a hostile work environment for the victim. When a work environment also contains the high energy charge of a celebrity, the victim of harassment faces an uphill battle.
Sexual Harassment Lawyers Can Help
If you’re the victim of celebrity sexual harassment, the best thing you can do is consult with an employee rights lawyer. Having solid legal help at your side makes an important difference. The sexual harassment lawyers at the Employee Rights Law Group are ready to help you in your fight for justice — no matter how famous your opponent might be.
Workplace discrimination brings down the morale of all employees. Even if you’re not the target of discriminatory behavior, it can affect the overall atmosphere in any job setting. Discrimination is defined as unfairly treating a person or group of people differently. In practice, discrimination can be many things. A good discrimination lawyer can outline a long list of behaviors that constitute workplace harassment. It can be harder for an individual to identify discrimination in practice, and do something about it. Here are some tips that employees can use to help protect themselves and their co-workers against unfair discrimination:
Respect Racial and Cultural Differences
People aren’t identical. It’s important to accept people’s differences and work together as a team. Respecting cultural differences doesn’t require an in-depth study of every race and culture on the planet. It simply means that everyone should be treated as an individual human being, first and foremost.
Be Professional in Speech and Conduct
It’s important to address coworkers in a respectful manner, and always wise to think before you speak. It’s also helpful to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Being mindful of other people’s feelings, and remaining courteous at all times, will minimize the chance of causing a hostile work environment.
Let Calmer Heads Prevail
If you think that something you’re about to say or do might be hurtful towards another employee, then you should stop before you start. Especially when emotions run high, making insinuations or continuing to argue will only make things worse. Usually, the best move you can make is to simply walk away and allow yourself to calm down before continuing. Likewise, if you notice a co-worker getting upset, it’s best to suggest that they remove themselves from the confrontation until they’ve cooled off.
Avoid Culturally Offensive Humor
Everyone has heard a co-worker crack a joke at the expense of someone else. Most people consider good natured ribbing as a form of bonding between employees, but it can easily turn into a form of shunning and shaming. This inevitably leads to issues of a hostile work environment, and invites workplace retaliation. When in doubt, it’s usually best to leave pranks and jokes for outside the workplace.
Know Your Company Policies
You can empower yourself by knowing how the company handles workplace discrimination. If you know the correct procedure for reporting discrimination in their workplace, you’re more likely to make a positive difference. Knowing the ground rules can help you, and others, too. For example, if you see something that looks like gender discrimination, you can instruct the victim on the proper way to file a complaint.
Learn Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities
It’s easier than ever to find out information about discrimination. A quick search on the internet for examples of discrimination delivers a wealth of examples on discrimination and harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also has excellent information about workplace discrimination and employee rights.
Being pro-active is important to help stop workplace discrimination. The first step in combating workplace discrimination is identifying it and reporting it. Report incidents of inappropriate, discriminatory, harassing or abusive behavior to your supervisor. If your immediate manager can’t help, try sending a message to the Human Resources Department. Workers in unions find it especially useful to speak to a union representative.
If you’ve tried to resolve the situation on your own without success, don’t give up. then it may be time to speak to an employee rights lawyer. In the Los Angeles Area, call the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard. She and her legal team have had overwhelming success in taking on cases of workplace discrimination, gender discrimination, and other issues of civil rights and labor law.
The signs were there — you just didn’t know it yet, or what to do about it. Workplace discrimination is often subtle and difficult to notice right away. If you believe that something doesn’t feel right, you might be hesitant to discuss it with coworkers. Complaints at work are usually frowned upon, and could even make matters worse. It can be even more difficult to prove discrimination without outside help. Many times, victims of workplace harassment and discrimination aren’t comfortable speaking with their superiors for fear of retaliation, and don’t know where to turn.
Here are a few signs a workplace may be discriminatory towards their workers, or that a single person has been unfairly targeted for workplace discrimination:
If store is only staffed by people who are similar in gender, race, religious or sexual orientation, there’s a chance this may have been intentionally done by the employer. It could be due to the demographics in the area. Other times, hiring managers ensure that only a certain type of people get hired. This can be done subconsciously, as a result of a comfort level with familiar people. Other times, it can be an overt case of discrimination against whole groups of people.
Same People, Same Roles
If an office is diverse, but women are all rank and file workers and only men become managers or executives, this may be a sign of a discriminatory environment. Of course, discrimination is not always that clear cut. There may be a specific reason why certain people are placed in certain roles and others are not, and may not be based on discrimination. A director looking for a group of actors who look Asian will probably not hire any African-American actors.
Skipped Over for Promotions
If you have all the right skills for a better job, and have been working diligently, it’s natural to be disappointed if you’re passed over when it’s time for promotions. You may eventually suspect workplace discrimination. It’s true that employees are not guaranteed bonuses, wage increases, or promotions. However, constantly being overlooked when lesser qualified candidates are receiving promotions can be a sign of workplace discrimination.
Increase in Workload
You could be a victim of workplace discrimination if you’ve suddenly been assigned more work than you can possibly complete in your allotted hours. If other employee workloads seem far more manageable in comparison, it may be worthwhile to ask why you are being assigned so much more work. If you don’t get results by telling your superior that that the work is overwhelming you, there is a strong possibility you are being subjected to workplace discrimination.
Responsibilities Are Being Diminished
Conversely, if an employee with many years of experience is suddenly being given fewer tasks to perform, there may be an issue with workplace discrimination. Speaking with a superior sometimes results in a sensible explanation of why work is scarce. There may be a legitimate reason that is not discriminatory. However, if this occurs continually, especially when other employees are being given more tasks, there may be an issue.
Federal and state laws require employers to to provide a safe workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, harassment of employees is prohibited. But laws don’t solve every problem. If an employee believes they are experiencing workplace discrimination, it’s vital that they speak with a discrimination lawyer, employment lawyer or another civil rights attorney who is versed in labor laws. It’s smart to let an attorney hear about the problem, and let them make the determination if there is case of discrimination. Most attorneys provide a free initial consultation over the phone or via online chat. A good legal counsel will let a person know right away if they believe there is discrimination or harassment. They’ll be able to offer expert guidance on what steps to take next.
There may never be an end to workplace discrimination and harassment, but with the right tools, it can be identified and reduced significantly. Employees who know how to identify workplace harassment stand a better chance of reducing or eliminating hostile work environments. That will make their workplace happier and healthier for everyone to work in!
“Do me a favor, won’t you?” That comment may not start out sounding like a problem, but for many workers it has been the opening move in a disturbing “game” of harassment in workplace conditions. It may not be as blatant as the infamous Hollywood “casting couch,” but it can still have disturbing repercussions when a supervisor asks an underling to do something outside the parameters of their job description, especially when the “favor” is a personal one.
Classic Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Once upon a time, people only thought of sexual harassment in the workplace as being of the “have sex with me or I’ll fire you” type. Over the years, as harassment issues have become more clearly defined and combated, sexual harassment lawyers have made it more hazardous for unscrupulous supervisors to make that threat. “Give me what I want, or I’ll withhold something you rightfully should receive” just doesn’t slip by scrutiny these days. But in spite of advances in employment protections from harassment, human nature doesn’t really change much. Ill-natured people in positions of power will still try to exert that power in some fashion or other over the people working under them.
Favor For Favor
One of the ways this type of workplace harassment shows up is the initially seemingly harmless act of asking for a personal favor. At first it might not seem out of place for a supervisor to ask for a simple favor, but by going along with it, the worker may find the requests escalating into disturbing territory. The “quid pro quo” factor may show up in mild favorable terms at first: “Do this and I’ll put in a good word for you.”
An employee rights lawyer will tell you to beware of this type of opening, especially when it comes from your supervisor. Even if the favor for favor request starts out in this kind of positive note, it can move into more threatening tones fairly quickly. “Remember I’m the one who writes the evaluations,” could be the veiled threat that really exposes the harassment that is growing in the workplace.
Chain of Work Evaluation
One of the things that has led to the apparent decrease of Quid Pro Quo Harassment is the obvious nature of it when the person doing the harassing is directly in charge of the worker’s position and advancement in the company. But even if the person who has the real power to fire or promote someone is careful about such behavior, that does not mean that the mid-level supervisor is equally cautious. The mid-level supervisor is the one who makes the immediate assessment of an employee’s work performance, and usually the supervisor’s evaluations are accepted at face value without further verification. Many acts of harassment or gender discrimination may get hidden in less than accurate reports of an employee’s work performance.
Hidden retaliation on the part of a supervisor whose unwanted sexual advances have been rejected isn’t always easy to spot. The employee who feels that she or he is being punished for failing to go along with “doing a favor” for a boss may have many challenges in proving the problem. But the reality is that such an undercurrent can create a hostile work environment. If you feel that this subtle version of Quid Pro Quo Harassment is affecting you, contact an employee rights attorney for advice. You may be able to do something about the situation with legal help.
The Encounter of Trump, Lewandowski & Fields
Touching, tapping, grabbing, and holding: these types of physical contact have been in public discussions since a March 8, 2016 incident at the end of a Donald Trump campaign event in Florida. The discussions have included issues of harassment, battery, and assault. The bare facts of the situation are as follows:
- Trump finished his speech and press conference and was departing through the crowd of the assembly.
- Michelle Fields (at the time a reporter for Breitbart) continued to try and get Trump to answer some questions, matching stride with him. She may have touched his arm to get his attention.
- Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, grasped her arm to pull her away from Trump. There was some degree of force to his grasp, as the video recording (Trump’s own, in fact) shows the back of her jacket pulled toward that side.
Beyond those facts, things start to become more challenging to sort out. Three days later, Fields alleged to the police that Lewandowski’s action was excessive, leaving bruises on her arm. The police felt the evidence sufficient to file a charge of battery against him. Trump maintained support for his campaign manager, and after viewing the video pointed out that Fields had herself touched him, implying that her action was in some way comparable to what she was claiming Lewandowski had done.
Assault & Battery: What Are They?
In general, many people do not know the distinction between assault and battery. They are used to seeing the terms together, so they tend to be lumped together in the awareness as the same thing. But they are not the same.
- Assault: Assault is when someone attempts an offensive or harmful contact with a person, or creates a threat to do so.
- Battery: Battery is when someone actually achieves an offensive or harmful contact with another person.
The sticky part in dealing with these issues is the matter of personal interpretation of physical contact. Was the touch really offensive? Was it intended to be harmful? How does one prove that something was offensive? In this case, “offensive” means much more than an affront to the recipient’s sensibilities.
The public incident with Trump, Lewandowski, and Fields demonstrates how difficult it can be to work out the issues of harm committed or intention in the act. On April 14, 2016, the Palm Beach County attorney dropped the battery charge against Lewandowski. Prosecutor Dave Aronberg said, “While the evidence in this case is legally sufficient for the police to charge Mr. Lewandowski, it is not strong enough to meet the burden of a reasonable likelihood of a conviction.”
Keep in mind that just because there will be no criminal prosecution of Mr. Lewandowski, Ms. Fields can still sue in court for battery and does not have to prove her case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” She only has to prove that the touching was more likely than not offensive.
The Other Unwanted Touching in the Workplace
When we talk about unwanted touching in the workplace, we are usually referring to a degree of sexual harassment in workplace conditions. But it is possible that other types of physical contact could occur, especially in a work environment where there is a great deal of physical movement and potential for bodily contact. Warehouse co-workers may affect a rough-and-ready style of social interaction, with “friendly” punches to the upper arm or shoulder. Heavy back slapping, meant to be a hearty acknowledgement or encouragement, might be the personal style of a supervisor.
The problem is that such behaviors when mixed with personal animosity (no matter how the dislike came about) can easily escalate into physical abuse. A hostile work environment generated by personal conflict, or hostilities between the labor force and management, or any other type of volatile, emotional charge, can become a breeding ground for potential acts of assault and battery.
Annoyance, Harassment, and Beyond
Human behavior, especially negative and unwanted behavior can easily move through stages of annoyance, harassment and into the more dangerous physical possibilities of assault and battery. The wide variety of personalities that exist, however, guarantee that no two similar situations will follow the same path. The fears of the recipient of the negative behavior do need to be taken into account, but they also have to be weighed against the realities of actions and intentions of the other party. That is why it is often advisable for the recipient to seek the counsel of an employee rights attorney.
One of the first things in the advice of a harassment lawyer Los Angeles employees will receive is that they need to keep a record or account of interactions with the harassing co-worker. Isolated incidents like the Lewandowski-Fields matter are difficult to evaluate. If the worker is dealing with ongoing behavior, keeping a log of encounters can be very crucial in any legal action. Making note of potential witnesses to the unwanted physical contacts is also important.
If you are dealing with this type of unwanted touching or physical contact, speak to an attorney for guidance about your options. The Employee Rights Law Group specializes in workplace law. “We fight for the little guy.”
When it comes to matters of a hostile work environment, the question of the effect of peer pressure can be a problem. Is it harassment or just ordinary interaction? How is the ordinary worker to determine when it is becoming a problem? The advice of an employee rights attorney can help a stressed worker determine what his or her options are.
Peer Pressure and the Work Place
Everyone has experienced peer pressure at various points in their lives. Whether at school, social organizations, or in the work place, no person moves through the space entirely untouched or unaffected by the people who surround them. The majority tends to urge individuals to “go with the flow” because that does create the sense that things are moving smoothly. This often turns up in work places, because people get used to certain methods and patterns and they will tend to hold on to those forms even in the face of a new, more efficient method.
Is It Harassment?
Peer pressure in the work place can be a grey area when it comes to the matter of harassment. Co-workers may not be aware of the degree of discomfort they can inflict on the colleague who is not conforming to the expected norms of the work place. If a group of workers unquestioningly accept conditions that are actually improper, their pressures on their co-worker would certainly contribute to a hostile work environment.
Feeding the Hostile Work Environment
When a whistleblower starts to expose work conditions that harass individuals, those who work with them will probably react with suggestions like “Don’t rock the boat” or “Nobody else has a problem with it.” Although these co-workers may not realize that they are reinforcing a problem that needs to be addressed, they are contributing to creating a hostile work environment. The reactions of the co-workers might escalate into whistleblower retaliation. For the whistleblower, the addition of peer pressure to an already difficult situation may raise many questions.
When circumstances become complicated by peer pressure, the whistleblower can consult a labor lawyer. Especially when the whistleblower has a strong desire is to avoid workplace retaliation for bringing the basic problem to official attention. Legal advice can help guide the whistleblower through the difficult events of addressing any sort of workplace harassment.