Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton

Sacramento Employment Law Blog

What to do when you face sexual harassment at work

Experiencing sexual harassment can leave you feeling unsure of what to do. Maybe this is something you have been suffering for some time, thinking there is nothing that can be done. After all, you need the job, and sometimes you just have to put up with unpleasantness.

If that rings familiar, you should know you have legal protections under California law. There are specific steps you can take to end the harassment without having to fear for your job. The following points offer a basic summary; however, every situation is different. You can get the right advice for your circumstances by discussing your concerns with an experienced lawyer.

Questions employers should ask before terminating employees

Most California employees know their supervisors can fire them with little advance notice, but in a state known to be especially employee friendly, what happens when they do? 

A wrongful termination suit hit the news recently when, according to NBC, a jury awarded a former Chipotle manager almost $8 million. The long and short of the story is the jury believed the former manager was "victim of a scheme to defame her for filing a worker's compensation claim for a job-related injury to her wrist."

California addresses wage theft

When business is booming and California employees are putting in more than 40 hours a week, they expect to get overtime pay, but what happens if they do not? And besides not getting the pay they deserve, what happens if workers cannot take regular breaks or have time off for vacation? 

The UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education explains that situations like those above constitute wage theft. When companies require workers to put in more time than they receive adequate compensation for, those organizations in effect are stealing from their employees. 

Why should you know about employment law?

When you took your current position, it probably never crossed your mind to wonder whether your new employer would treat you fairly. Employers do, right? Everyone seems to assume so, anyway, and unless you have had a bad experience with a California company, you probably assume your new boss will respect your rights and do good by you.

One thing to remember, though, is that businesses do what they do to get ahead. Their owners are trying to make a profit, and you are part of the equation. They want you to help them get to the milestones they hope to reach. 

Exceptions to California’s at-will employment presumption

As someone who lives and works in California, you may have some understanding of California’s at-will employment doctrine, and you may recognize that it means your employer can fire you at essentially any time, and for almost any reason. There are some exceptions to the concept of at-will employment, however, and there are a number of circumstances under which your employer may not lawfully terminate you. At the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton, we have a comprehensive understanding of exceptions to California’s at-will employment doctrine, and we have helped many clients who experienced wrongful termination pursue appropriate recourse.

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a number of different circumstances under which your employer cannot fire you at any time, and for virtually any reason. For example, one exception to California’s at-will employment concept involves employees in unions who have coverage as a result of a collective bargaining agreement that dictates there must be “just cause” for termination.

Can your appearance get your fired?

It is reasonable to think that if you show up for work on time and do your job well that you do not have to worry about being fired. Most people in California would feel this way. However, this is not always the case. While there are many laws protecting you from discrimination based on specific things, such as age, disability, race and gender, there are still many unprotected areas.

As AOL reports, many of the things you can get fired for have to do with your appearance. Some are things you have little control over. In some cases, the law may protect you, but more often than not you have no way to fight back. To begin with, your weight could cause you to lose a job. Not only are people fired for being overweight but some employers may fire people for being too skinny. Only if your weight is due to a medical condition would you have grounds for wrongful termination. However, some cities have enacted laws that protect you against weight discrimination, so check local ordinances. 

What is whistleblower retaliation?

If you are a California worker who believes that your company is engaging in illegal or prohibited activities and/or practices, you can complain to your supervisor or to the proper governmental agency without fear of retaliation by your employer. This is because you have become a whistleblower, which is not a pejorative term. Rather, it means that you are someone with a conscience who cares enough about laws, rules and regulations that you cannot stand by silently while your company flouts them. You must blow the whistle.

Per FindLaw, there are a number of state and federal laws that protect you from employer retaliation when you blow that whistle. For instance, your employer cannot fire, demote or discipline you for complaining about a variety of workplace situations including the following:

  • Health and safety code violations
  • Fraud or financial mismanagement
  • Workplace harassment and/or discrimination
  • Family and Medical Leave Act violations
  • Wage, hour and overtime violations

Nearly 1 in 5 victims of workplace sexual harassment are male

When you hear stories about sexual harassment or see it on TV, the victims are frequently female, but in truth, men across California and the United States are not immune from this type of treatment. In fact, nowadays, almost one in five victims of workplace sexual harassment are male, disputing the common misconception that this type of behavior happens almost exclusively to female employees.

Per the Washington Post, the sexual harassment problem is becoming increasingly prevalent among men in America’s workforce, and so much so that 10 percent of male employees now report having experienced sexual misconduct or unwanted sexual advances on the job. Additionally, many believe these numbers only paint part of the picture, noting that sexual harassment that happens to men often goes underreported because men fear speaking up or looking as if they cannot protect themselves.

Are you a victim of workplace disability discrimination?

If you have a disability and have ever experienced what you consider unfair treatment at your California job, you may have avoided speaking up, possibly because you were unsure whether your treatment constituted discrimination or because you feared losing your job. Disability discrimination is an umbrella term for a broad number of related behaviors, all of which involve your employer or someone else at your place of business treating you differently because of your disability.

According to, you might be a victim of workplace disability discrimination before a company even hires you if a potential employer asks you questions about your medical condition, whether current or past. Once hired, you might be a victim of this type of behavior if you have a disability and your employer discriminates against you and treats you differently with regard to hiring, assignments, salary, benefits or promotions, among other areas.

Why sexual harassment is so prevalent in restaurants

If you count yourself among the many people across California who currently make a living working in a restaurant or other food service establishment, you may understand all too well just how common sexual harassment can be in such an environment. At the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton, we understand just how much unwanted advances in the workplace can affect you and your ability to earn a living, and we have helped many victims of workplace sexual harassment seek appropriate recourse.

According to USA Today, sexual harassment reports come from the restaurant and food service industry more than any other industry in the nation. Additionally, in fast food restaurant settings, Latina and African-America women face a particularly high risk of becoming victims of workplace sexual harassment, while 40 percent of women across all nationalities also report experiencing harassment in fast food environments. What is it about restaurant environments that make them breeding grounds for this type of behavior?

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