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Bad work environments

When (and why) You Should speak to an Employment Lawyer.

As Americans we believe in equality.  Whether it is race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or another protected class – an employer cannot harass or discriminate against you.  Harassment at work can come in many shapes and forms: losing your job, missing out on a promotion, or being verbally abused-- and we believe in better. Everybody has a right to earn a living for their family, make progress in the professional world,  and not have to suffer from harassment or discrimination. Our laws protect you as employees. There are many ways this takes shape, but legally speaking, workplace harassment happens in two different ways: offensive conduct and quid pro quo harassment.

Offensive conduct is what typically comes to mind when we think of workplace harassment. You know all those boring company videos they make you watch when you start a new job? They usually cover these situations. Employers will do their best to maintain their reputation both publicly and internally by avoiding these cases going to court. Sometimes, that can involve intimidation. If you’re in a job where you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you should consider speaking with an employment lawyer in San Diego. Do not let your employers convince you otherwise. We say this to protect you. There are hundreds of employment workplace cases that go without justice each year because employees are afraid of speaking up or facing workplace retaliation. Some would even call workplace harassment an epidemic in the United States. Each year, more than $120M are settled in court over these cases and it has only worsened over the last decade. It’s no secret that the #MeToo movement has brought an intense focus to the workplace in America, specifically to sexual harassment at work. Although our laws are in need of major reform to protect employees better in this country, an experienced workplace harassment attorney knows how to navigate this complicated topic.

Offensive conduct itself is not illegal unless it is discriminatory from the onset. This is where most people get confused (and why you should consult a work harassment attorney). However, if the conduct is severe enough that a reasonable person would consider it intimidating or abusive, or contributes to a hostile work environment, then it crosses a boundary and can be considered illegal. The tricky part here is documentation. The courts want to encourage and empower companies to revisit and create more robust harassment policies, and will therefore pay very close attention to whether or not you’ve documented your case and have allowed your company enough time to correct the harassment. If you fail to do so, you will likely lose in court.

Our recommendations:

Write. It. Down.

Write everything down, every single piece of pertinent information. Even if you don’t plan on getting in touch with a local workplace harassment attorney, document as much as you can to protect yourself. You never know whether the behavior will continue in the future. Whether or not you’re already documenting these instances, here’s an outline for the specifics you need to make a strong case.

Dates and times. Describe each instance where you feel harassed. Write down your feelings, what was said, anyone who saw it, what their reactions looked like, where it occurred and what you did about it. If you said something to your harasser, write down what their response was and how the situation ended. Describe the nature of each instance; if it was of a sexual nature, unwelcome conduce, physical harassment or any other factor that you feel contributes to a toxic workplace.

If you take the case to a supervisor, write that down too. Names and dates are the most important, as well as an outcome. If the behavior doesn’t stop and you give your management team the opportunity to correct it and they do not, write that down too. Every time the behavior escalates and does not stop, write that down. If it is brought to a superior’s attention and nothing is done about it, write it down. Keep a copy of these notes away from the workplace. You’ll need to be able to show a court that the company had ample opportunities to correct the behavior and did not. If you've already done this and feel you have a case, speak to a hostile workplace attorney today.

Obtain a copy of your employee file. You are right to fear retaliation. Even though the law specifically prohibits retaliation, it can be very subtle and difficult to prove. By obtaining a copy of your employee file, you can demonstrate proof of positive reports on past work compared to any change in pay, or demotion caused after the issue was brought to light.

Keeping documentation is how you’ll build a strong case. The law is intended to protect you from predatory employers and hostile work environments. Furthermore, “The Supreme Court also recognized the importance of the “social context” and the “constellation of surrounding circumstances, expectations, and relationships.”

The law is on your side, it intends to keep companies transparent and accountable. The defendant will do everything they can to discredit you, make you seem “unreasonable” and put holes in your story to absolve the company of any responsibility. Keep taking your notes, and get in touch with us if you’re ready.

Just like a personal injury lawsuit – if you are the victim of workplace harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, your employer is responsible not just for your lost wages – but also for your emotional suffering.  We can help you bring those companies to justice and help foster a high standard for working environments in San Diego.


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