Category: Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Francisco Fine Foods LLC to Pay $220,000 to Settle With EEOC

In September 2018, the Phoenix restaurant service Francisco Fine Foods LLC agreed to pay a $220,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), write an apology letter, and create a more robust equal opportunity system within their restaurants. The EEOC stated that female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, including unwanted touching, requests for sex and more. Those who refused to comply with sexual demands suffered retaliation, according to EEOC. The suit also claimed that an employee was harassed based on her age, being called a “worthless old lady” and co-workers taking bets on her age. The suit claimed that these actions had been taking place since February of 2011.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination and retaliation, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees over the age of 40. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Francisco’s Fine Foods, LLC d/b/a Mariscos Altata, Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-00945- JJT in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit sought back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discrimination in the future.

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What Is Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment and behaviors that fall under this category include: inappropriate touching; invasion of privacy; sexual jokes; lewd or obscene comments or gestures; exposing body parts; showing graphic images; unwelcome sexual emails, text messages, or phone calls; sexual bribery, coercion, and overt requests for sex; sexual favoritism; being offered a benefit for a sexual favor; being denied a promotion or pay raise because you didn’t cooperate. Of course, some women experience what more aptly could be described as sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment can affect both women and men in the workplace. While women are often the victims of workplace sexual harassment, men should not be feel afraid to speak up if they too are made the victim. If a man comes to you with concerns of sexual harassment, don’t belittle their situation as denial or minimalization of female to male or male to male sexual harassment can silence victims and enable the harasser to commit the same acts on others.

Don’t Allow Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace

Cases like the Francisco Fine Foods LLC are all too common in the American workforce. Many people ask the question, “Why don’t victims of sexual harassment come forward sooner?” The simple answer is because victims of sexual harassment are often under heavy pressure from co-workers, the media, and their close relations like friends and family. They feel that when they step forward, they are putting themselves into center view. But, in today’s world, we should encourage sexual harassment victims to step into the view of those around them and let their situation be known. For every person who brings their story to the public, those that would commit sexual harassment have less and less power over their victims.

If you, a friend, family member, or coworker suffer from sexual harassment, contact Aegis Law Firm today and we’ll give you the power to share your story and reprimand sexual harassers in the workforce.

For more information on sexual harassment cases and how Aegis Law can help, visit our sexual harassment law practice page: http://www.aegislawfirm.com/ca-employment-law-practice-areas/orange-county-los-angeles-sexual-harassment-attorney/

Or contact our local Orange County and Los Angeles Offices: http://www.aegislawfirm.com/contact/ (949) 379-6250

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Time’s Up – The Initiative to End All Workplace Sexual Harassment

On January 1st, a new initiative was made public which is committed to ending workplace sexual harassment for all women. Celebrities showed their support for the movement by posting about it on social media, encouraging others to join the cause and donate.

What It Is

Per their mission statement, Time’s Up is “a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live”. What sets this movement apart from October’s #MeToo campaign, is the commitment of women in the entertainment industry to fight for the rights of marginalized women, not only those in the entertainment industry. This helps to address what was criticized about the #MeToo movement. Time’s Up focuses on supporting women in low paying jobs, and providing them with the resources to protect themselves from workplace sexual harassment.

What It Consists Of

The movement itself is multifaceted.

“The initiative includes:

  • A legal defense fund, backed by [$14 million] in donations, to help less privileged women — like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels — protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
  • Legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
  • A drive to reach gender parity at studios and talent agencies that has already begun making headway.
  • A request that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes speak out and raise awareness by wearing black.”

Glancing at the website for the initiative, it is well organized, with an abundance of information. There are sections devoted to helping women identify workplace sexual harassment including distinguishing between quid pro quo and hostile work environment, specific steps to take if they feel they are being sexually harassed at work, and resources to assist with finding representation to name a few. The latter aspect of the campaign is backed by an over $14 million dollar legal fund (which has a goal of $15 million on their GoFundMe and is gaining more donors by the second). According to the GoFundMe page, the legal fund will, “provide subsidized legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace and while in pursuit of their careers. The Fund will ultimately be housed at and administrated by the National Women’s Law Center, an established national women’s rights legal organization. A network of lawyers and public relations professionals across the country will work with the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity to provide assistance to those ready to stand up. Access to prompt and comprehensive legal and communications help will mean empowerment for these individuals and long term growth for our culture and communities as a whole.

 

What You Can Do

Aside from donating to the legal defense fund, there are several other ways the website encourages people to get involved or show solidarity with the movement. For those who feel they are being sexually harassed at work, the following steps are outlined:

  • Speak to the Harasser
    • Demand that the harasser stop
    • Keep a record of the conversation (date, time, placed, what was discussed
  • Start a Paper Trail
    • Keep copies of everything you send and receive from the harasser and the employer
    • Create written notes of all incidents
    • Do not keep the record at work or on a work computer
  • Review Your Personnel File
    • Request to see your personnel files before reporting the harassment
  • Report the Harassment to Your Employer
    • Consult employee handbook or policies – follow the complaint procedure
    • If your company does not have a policy, speak to your supervisor and/or human resources
    • If you think you may want to file a lawsuit against your employer in the future, you have to report the harassment to your employer first
  • Involve your Union
    • If you belong to a union, you may want to report the harassment to your union
    • If you want to file a lawsuit in federal or state court, you must first file a formal sexual harassment complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or your state’s fair employment agency (if one exists)
  • Be Aware of Deadlines
    • Be aware of legal deadlines for filing a formal complaint with government agencies. You cannot bring a lawsuit against your employer unless you have first filed a complaint with the EEOC or the state’s fair employment agency
    • In some states, you may have as few as 180 days from the date of the sexual harassment activity to file a complaint
  • File a Lawsuit
    • After you file a formal complaint with the EEOC and/or your state’s fair employment agency, you may also consider filing a lawsuit

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/movies/times-up-hollywood-women-sexual-harassment.html

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a446e1d692ebea0061c7cd9/t/5a49814d9140b7ea140b8e68/1514766670917/TimesUpNow-WhatToDo.pdf

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a446e1d692ebea0061c7cd9/t/5a4a48b353450a63fe781956/1514817716782/TimesUpNow-KnowYourRights.pdf

https://www.gofundme.com/timesup

https://www.timesupnow.com/#into-anchor

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PIP then RIF – A Workplace Sexual Harassment Case

Ginger Pung began working for Regus Management Group in 1991, continuing to receive consistent positive reviews for her position as General Manager. Everything changed sometime in 2010-2011 when Area Director Scott Ravenscroft became her direct supervisor. Pung states that he pursued her, and eventually she succumbed to his advances. In 2012, the pair began a consensual sexual relationship. This fact alone did not constitute a case of workplace sexual harassment.

All was well until Spring of 2014 when Pung told Ravenscroft that she wanted to end the relationship. She states that Ravenscroft showed up at her house a few times, in attempts to re-initiate the relationship, but she refused.

After it became clear that their relationship was over, Pung states that Ravenscroft became “very controlling” at work, and his overall demeanor towards her changed. On June 4th 2014, the pair had a meeting where Ravenscroft threatened to put her on a “coaching plan”, allegedly because her “numbers were lacking”. A few days later on June 9th, Pung reported her prior relationship to an HR representative and made a formal complaint about the behavior of Ravenscroft. She explained that she had previously seen Regus use “coaching plans” as a tactic leading to the termination of employees, and she felt she was specifically being targeted by Ravenscroft due to her ending the relationship. On June 11th, she was interviewed over the phone by the HR representative, and made the complaint that his behavior was “borderline harassment”. Later that same day, Pung sent an email to the HR representative stating, “To be clear, Regus is now on record that there was a sexual relationship between my boss and I that I terminated. As a result, it is my opinion that I am being retaliated against by my coaching leading to termination.”

On June 23rd, HR concluded their investigation and stated they were “unable to substantiate whether there had been a sexual relationship between the two” but did find that his behavior had “created an appearance of improper conduct”. As a result, Ravenscroft was given a warning and told that if his behavior continued, he would be terminated. While Ravenscroft was to continue overseeing Pung for day to day matters, the responsibility of evaluating her performance was transferred to the Regional Vice President, Jeff Bowron.

After this change, Pung made another complaint to HR for “failing to prevent further harassment”, due to her still reporting to Ravenscroft on a daily basis. She testified that after this additional complaint, his behavior towards her deteriorated even further and she wasn’t the only one who noticed it. Allegedly, other co-workers stated that he was “making harsh and demeaning comments to [her] in emails and calling her questions ‘stupid’ during conference calls”.

Pung later provided evidence that on August 25th, Ravenscroft attempted to deliver a Corrective Action Record to her. The CAR was based on an “asserted drop in sales in June and July 2014. Despite a copy bring produced and shown to Ravenscroft, he testified that he “couldn’t recall the document or discussing her performance [that] August”.

Business seemed to continue as usual, until December. Pung was planning a party for clients, when she reached out to Ravenscroft via email and asked if there was a specific company guideline or formula to determine the budget for one of these parties. He replied and said that while there was no company issued guideline for budget, she should keep her party under $250 total. Ultimately, Pung spent about $560 on the party. Ravenscroft “thought this was expensive”, and reported the information to Bowron. When Bowron approached Pung about the spending, she told him that she didn’t feel the $250 was appropriate for the size of the party (about 100 people were expected to attend), nor did she think she had to follow this budget as it wasn’t supported by any company policy. She argued that “guidelines for this type of client spending were neither enforced nor generally known, and that $150 of the $560 spent was for poinsettias for the lobby”.

The following month, Bowron decided to place Pung on a Performance Improvement Plan due to the holiday overspending. Shortly after, the company implemented a Reduction in Force on February 2nd. Pung was terminated as part of the RIF. After the separation, Pung filed a lawsuit under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act for sexual harassment and retaliation.

She argued that her termination was the direct result of the unfair holiday budget imposed upon her by Ravenscroft, who did not hold anyone else to this standard. She was not aware of anyone else in the company being written up or otherwise punished for spending over any given amount, and additionally, she had thrown similar parties in the past without any repercussions.

Despite her hostile work environment claim being recently dismissed on December 21st, 2017, the rest of Pung’s claims have survived Summary Judgement and may continue to trial.

 

Sources:

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/employee-pip-then-rif-after-ending-consensual-affair-advances-quid-pro-quo-harassment-claim/

http://hr.cch.com/ELD/PungRegus122117.pdf

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Seeking Legal Help for Sexual Harassment

You’ve done your research, you’ve become familiar with your company sexual harassment policy, and you’ve come to the conclusion that you are being sexually harassed. Now what? What steps can you take to make sure the sexual harassment stops, and what are your options if it doesn’t stop? These are very important questions and how one finds the answers determines whether there will be a positive outcome.

Taking the steps to stop sexual harassment begins in the workplace, and may or may not end with legal action. The steps taken and decisions made at every point in the process can make seeking help easier if those steps and decisions are the right ones. If legal help is eventually needed and sought, there are some things that need to be done early. Once sexual harassment is suspected or identified, the victim needs to immediately report the activity to Human Resources. It is also important to speak with a trusted friend or advisor and detail the activity. One important action that can be taken is to keep any and all emails and or recorded messages which will be of great help during a future case. Experts continually stress that there is nothing more important in a sexual harassment action than thorough documentation of the activity and actions taken to counter it.

Seeking legal help for sexual harassment can be an intimidating process. The first step is to investigate the many law firms that practice employment law. Luckily in our modern world, this research can begin online, where information is readily available about potential representation. You should look into reviews from clients, the type of law the firm practices, the number of attorneys who practice employment law in the firm, and how many years of experience they have in employment law. During this consultation, it will be important to have an open and honest conversation with the attorney about the sexual harassment claims and actions taken. It will also be important to present the evidence gathered over time in order to make the best possible case and lead to the best possible outcome.

Contact Aegis Law firm directly at (949) 379-6250 or learn more about our sexual harassment services https://www.aegislawfirm.com/ca-employment-law-practice-areas/orange-county-los-angeles-sexual-harassment-attorney/

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The Signs of Sexual Harassment Are Not Always Obvious

Sexual Harassment: It’s possibly the most serious issue in the workplace. When sexual harassment occurs it disrupts the workplace, is costly in terms of morale/productivity, and leaves emotional (or sometimes physical) scars that can ruin careers. For employees, it is extremely important to recognize when sexual harassment is happening, and to know what can be done about it.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, it is not always obvious that sexual harassment is occurring. Most employees can recognize obvious sexual harassment. An employee that is being touched inappropriately or groped has a strong argument for being sexually harassed. The same goes when an employee’s co-worker consistently uses sexually suggestive language, whistles or makes other lewd noises, gives inappropriate gifts, tells jokes of a sexual nature or attempts to show that employee pornographic material. Often, the individual engaging in such behavior will laugh it off as a joke, or suggest that everyone is just part of the same group of friends and no one should take such action or language seriously. The fact is that sexual conduct, language, or insinuations are never appropriate in a workplace and most companies have written policies making that clear.

Sexual harassment does not stop at explicit words and actions, though. Often, employees are in an atmosphere of sexual harassment and don’t recognize it. Sexual harassment can be against both women and men, and some policies and even court decisions are starting to use the term “gender harassment” to cover inappropriate language or actions based on sexual orientation. Sexual harassment based on one employee’s sexual attraction to another is what most people think of, but often one employee may not like another because they are female or male, or because they are gay, lesbian or transgender. In those instances, sexual harassment may be harder to recognize.

In those cases, sexual harassment could take the form of demeaning language or a situation where an employee finds themselves constantly berated. They might be excluded from groups or major company initiatives and/or given fewer assignments. In companies where there are multiple offices and locations, an employee may suddenly be relocated, often to an office or territory that is less desirable. Instead of being excluded from good assignments, an employee may be given a very difficult, often impossible assignment. In these cases, sexual harassment is subtle and based on a dislike due to gender, and often designed to get an employee to quit.

What can an employee do if they feel sexually harassed? Experts advise not to quit, but rather fight back. This is not easy, and requires research and perseverance. Begin by finding, reading, and understanding the company policy against sexual harassment. Report any uncomfortable instances immediately in writing. In many cases, it is a subordinate engaging in behavior that can be construed as sexual harassment, so if a company has an HR department, make the complaint to them and not to a direct supervisor.  Reporting will often initiate an investigation, and anyone who feels sexually harassed should understand that a company must be an impartial agent, and investigate all accusations, interview all parties and listen to all sides. This is where perseverance comes into play. Continue to report instances and create a paper trail that shows a pattern. Ideally, the situation is resolved and the work environment improves. But in many cases, things don’t turn out that way. Anyone who suspects they are being sexually harassed can and should seek legal advice to protect themselves and their career.

If you are looking for a sexual harassment lawyer to protect your rights contact us for a free case evaluation at (949) 379-6250.