Sexual Harassment Attorney

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.

minimum wage

Minimum Wage Hikes: A Solution to Income Inequality?

Initiated by fast-food workers in New York City, the Fight for $15 is a nationwide movement advocating a higher minimum wage. This push for wage hikes has steadily gained prominence; As of 2017, 30 states have raised their minimum wages to amounts higher than the federal minimum of $7.25/hour. The disparity in minimum wage rates across the federal, state, and city levels is stark. With national movements like the Fight for $15, with increasing income inequality among the bottom 50% of Americans, and with so many state-led policies raising the minimum wage, why is the federal minimum wage so low, and why has it been stagnant since 2009?

Conventional supply-and-demand analysis, and popular opinion, suggests that the minimum wage has a negative effect on employment. However, real world results prove otherwise.

The fast-food giant, McDonalds, claims that its recent wage hikes have resulted in improved customer service, and thus, increased sales. The company’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, started implementing changes in 2015 to try to improve McDonald’s profit margins and customer traffic. In addition to closing weak stores and simplifying the menu, Easterbrook raised the wage offered to his workers to about $10/hour. He did so in the hopes of incentivizing better customer service and streamlining company changes. It seems to have done just that. McDonald’s US president, Mike Andres, remarked that the wage hike, “has done what we expected it to—90 day turnover rates are down, our survey scores are up—we have more staff in restaurants. So far we’re pleased with it—it was a significant investment obviously but it’s working well.”

A similar wage hike by Walmart further reveals the advantages of increasing the minimum wage. From 2015 to 2016, the retail company spent about $2.7 billion on higher wages for hundreds of thousands of its store workers. Its new part-time wage is $10.58/hour, while full-time workers earn $13.38/hour. Like McDonald’s, Walmart decided to increase wages in the hopes of improving customer service and retaining workers. It seemed a necessary step, to incentivize workers who have increasing responsibility, “in a tightening job market, at a time when working in stores is getting more involved.”

Since its wage hikes, Walmart has reported six straight quarters of sales growth, an increased number of shoppers, and improved customer service scores. Not only do the higher wages increase company profits, but they also make workers better off, and thus stimulate the greater economy: The more you make, the more you spend, the faster the economy grows.

What the cases of McDonalds and Walmart prove, is that an increased minimum wage should be considered more seriously, both economically and politically. In their groundbreaking paper, Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States, economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman found that the US is deeply unequal; The top 10% alone, own almost 50% of all pre-tax national income. What they report, however, is that raising the minimum wage can help reduce income inequality.

They found that, if the minimum wage is low, like in the US today, then raising it can actually raise employment by raising labor supply. A higher minimum wage makes it more attractive for low wage workers to start work, which increases their productivity, and stimulates growth.

Thus, with technological progress, globalization, and tightening job markets, minimum wage is an important factor of equality in the wage distribution. For the US to combat further economic inequality, policy changes must be made – starting with the federal minimum wage. As Walmart CFO Brett Biggs stated, a higher minimum wage has a domino effect, in that, “associates feel better about what they are doing. They feel obligated to the company to return that investment.” Thus, politicians and business executives weary of paying workers a higher wage need only think of it as a “business investment” for the country – as a necessary step on our way to economic growth and equality.


Distributional National Accounts

sexual harassment

Transgender woman files McDonald’s Sexual Harassment case

As Pride month comes to a close, a disheartening story unfolds. McDonald’s is no stranger to lawsuits, and they are once again on the receiving end of one. A woman has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the fast food mogul, and the complaint is for lack of a better word, disturbing.

La’Ray Reed was hired in April 2015 as a crew member at a McDonald’s franchise in Redford, Michigan. She states that almost immediately after starting work there, she began to experience sexual harassment from her co-workers and manager. Reed happens to be transgender, and this played a large part in the ensuing harassment.

Very early on in her employment, she states that she received questions and comments from the other employees such as whether she was a “boy or a girl”, whether she was “top or bottom”, and what her “role in the bedroom was”. The sexual harassment continued and the comments became more graphic. She states she was asked, “How big is it?” and people started “talking about having sex with her”.

One of the more bizarre occurrences came in June 2015, when Reed states she was spied on in the women’s restroom. As soon as she exited, she was told by one of the managers to clean out a filthy bathroom in the back of the building which had been used as a broom closet. Reed complied with the request, but then began questioning why she was the only one cleaning such a room out. Typically, employees shared cleaning duties. She was then informed that she was cleaning out the restroom because from now on, that was the only restroom she would be allowed to use.

Perhaps one of the most shocking incidents occurred in late July or August 2015. Reed states she was working the drive-thru position, when a voice came over the headset she was wearing. It was one of her three managers, who said, “You can’t feel it from the front, you have to feel it from the back” for all of the employees to hear. Perplexed, Reed states she then felt another co-worker reach through her legs from behind and grab her genitals. Reed described the incident as “traumatizing”.

Incidents singling out Reed continued. She states one of the managers by the name of Denise would use derogatory terms towards her, such as calling her “boy slash girl”. Reed also mentioned that when the workplace was overstaffed, she would be the one chosen to go home, despite other employees offering to leave and Reed requesting to stay.

Finally, Reed couldn’t take it anymore. She attempted to make a complaint to the corporate manager of the franchise when he was paying a visit to their store. She approached him while he was sitting in his car in the store’s parking lot. She states he appeared “impatient” and said he would follow up and meet with her another time. This never happened.

Reed then attempted to complain directly to the owner of the franchise, Jon Campbell (a named defendant in the suit). Reed gave him a call, and states that he “seemed annoyed”. He told her that he would have one of her managers Noelle call her to discuss the situation, but this did not occur. Reed called him a second time, and in this instance was immediately patched into a three way conversation between Campbell and manager Noelle. In this conversation, Noelle stated that she thought “everything was fine”, and shut down Reed’s complaints.

After the phone call took place, Reed was immediately removed from the work schedule. She called in to the store to receive the following week’s schedule, as employees typically do, and was told that she would have to physically come into the store to get this information. Upon coming in to the store, she found that her scheduled dates of work had been crossed out. Noelle then explained that she had been removed because she was “in trouble”, and advised her to call the other manager Denise. When Reed complied and called Denise, she was notified that she had been terminated. The reason being that she allegedly had three “no call no shows”. Reed immediately questioned the basis of this and demanded proof, but Denise refused to discuss it. She only told Reed to come pick up her final check.

You would think the harassment would end there, with the termination of an employee. Disappointingly, this isn’t the case. Reed went to pick up her final check at the store, and was confronted by another manager, Sheena. According to Reed, she said, “You don’t think I know what you are because of how you dress and look?” The meeting continued its hostile nature, as Reed was told by Denise that in order to receive her final paycheck, she had to sign two forms. In order to get her final pay, Reed complied. It was then that she was handed her final paycheck – for a whopping sixteen cents.

Reed has since obtained representation for a case alleging sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex. She states that the ordeal affected her emotionally and mentally, even leading her to consider suicide. “There were days when I thought everything would be so much easier if I killed myself”.

The restaurant owner and operator, Jon Campbell, commented to Teen Vogue, “We work hard every day to treat our employees and customers with dignity and respect, and discrimination of any kind has no place at our restaurant. As this is a legal matter, I do not intend to comment further at this time.”




Does the EEOC Need to Re-Focus?

A hearing was held on May 23rd by the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to discuss the “need for more responsible regulatory & enforcement policies” by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). The EEOC is a government agency which investigates charges of workplace discrimination and works to uphold civil rights laws. However, many are criticizing the operations of the agency for various reasons.

Subcommittee Chairman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) expressed concern at the hearing over the EEOC’s “flawed enforcement efforts under the Obama administration.” He stated, “At the end of 2016, the EEOC had more than 73,000 unresolved cases,” a statistic which he called, “unacceptable”.

Rae Vann, Vice President and General Counsel for the Equal Employment Advisory Council disagreed with the EEOC’s “self-imposed pressure to ‘fish’ for large, class based claims”. She states their strategy is based on “the assumption that widespread workplace discrimination is present in every district and region – and at every company – across the country.” To address the problem, she believes “Rather than focusing on increasing its systematic litigation docket, the EEOC should do more on the front end to ensure that all discrimination charges it receives are properly categorized, investigated, and resolved.”

However, this does not mean that all in attendance were in agreement. Todd A. Cox, Director of Policy NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. disagreed with Vann’s position. He states, “Our country cannot hope to rid the workplace of employment discrimination on an individual case-by-case basis. Moreover, many of these cases would never be prosecuted by the private bar or civil rights organizations with limited resources, especially when the discrimination is occurring in underserved communities or the likelihood of obtaining significant monetary relief is minimal. An emphasis on systemic enforcement makes perfect sense strategically because it allows the EEOC to address and remedy workplace discrimination on a large scale.”

The size of cases picked up for investigation was not the only issues that attendees of the hearing took issue with. Lisa Ponder, Vice President and Global Human Resources Director for MWH Constructors questioned the accuracy of pay gap data. She raised the issue that the gap is based not on gender, but rather on years of experience. The ratio of males in the industry from the baby boomer generation greatly outweighs the number of females in that generation. Female engineers from the baby boomer generation make up roughly 5% of the industry compared to about 20% from the millennial generation. Without a proportionate number of males and females from the same generation (same years of experience) Ponder alleges that there is no way to accurately interpret whether a gender pay gap truly exists. She also expressed the concern that this leads to a “false narrative that could discourage women from pursuing a career in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.”

Camille Olson, a labor and employment attorney who testified on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce questioned how the new data would even be realistically utilized. “Despite the excessive burden imposed on employers, the EEOC failed to articulate a clear benefit associated with its proposed collection….In addition to the problems inherent in the data that the EEOC proposes to collect, its proposed statistical approach will also be unhelpful in identifying discrimination.” Additionally, she expressed concerns about potential privacy violations in collecting the pay data, citing that in the “hands of the wrong people”, the information from the reports could cause “significant harm to EEO-1 responders and subject employees to potential violation of their privacy”. She said the “EEOC has failed to articulate a clear benefit associated with its proposed collection” and that it would be “unhelpful in identifying discrimination”.

In spite of the aforementioned grievances, not everything discussed at the meeting was a criticism of the agency. Cox did commend the EEOC for the great impact and effort that has been made to eliminate workplace discrimination, spotlighting the guidance on consideration of arrest and convictions in employment.

“The EEOC’s work on the guidance is not only commendable, it is also consistent with the growing national and bipartisan consensus that we need to rethink our criminal reentry systems to ensure that millions of Americans who have a criminal record, but who have paid their debt to society and are qualified for work, are not unjustly denied the opportunity to reintegrate back into society by the misuse of criminal background checks,” Cox said. “To allow the presence of an arrest or conviction record to bar an individual from meaningful employment forever, would deny to millions that most powerful and important American opportunity—a second chance.”






Sexual Harassment Attorney

To Call or Not to Call – Why You Need a Sexual Harassment Attorney

Are you afraid to talk to a lawyer?
Do you think you might need a sexual harassment attorney?

Our country is in the midst of turbulent change, particularly regarding social matters. Issues such as racial and gender equality lead the forefront, calling upon those in power (and well, all of us really) to take a stand against civil injustice.

One of the prominent ideals of gender equality (namely Feminism) is the notion that women do not have to silently accept unwanted attention – regardless of whether others perceive it as “positive” or “negative” attention. Be it from men cat calling as she walks down the street, or a boss who promises career advancement in exchange for a romantic relationship, the boundaries of what is acceptable/complimentary/”just locker room talk” are evolving.

Despite the positive changes which are slowly but surely taking place, women still face antiquated expectations and outlandish double standards. Men who have many sexual partners are “experienced” while a woman is a “slut”. We are constantly told to smile more (something you rarely heard said to a man), “give the guy a chance” even if we aren’t attracted to them, and that sexual assault can be expected if we don’t choose our outfits carefully enough.

For a woman experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, the stakes are raised tenfold. It isn’t just about your physical safety anymore, it’s also about financial security. You are placed in the difficult position of weighing the options – make a complaint and risk retaliation such as termination, or put up with the heinous behavior that you know you do not deserve. This behavior, of course, may rear its ugly head in a variety of different forms. Maybe the guy at the desk next to you constantly makes sexual jokes, though he knows they make you feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps your boss texts you too late at night, talking about how he “wishes you were there with him” (ew, I’m tired and just want to get to sleep). Then there are the more obvious, more worrisome, and unfortunately more frequent examples – the one who tries to get you alone, the one that stands too close to you or follows you whenever you get up to go to the bathroom, or most awful of all, the one that for some reason thinks it’s okay to touch you without your consent.

The implications can be terrifying when you see stories like these in the news everyday (or even due to the news…I’m looking at you, Fox News). Who knows what this person is capable of? On the other hand, if you complain and lose your job, how will you pay rent? Put gas in the car? Feed your family? Many women determine that the financial aspect takes precedence, usually because they feel alone and don’t know what their options are.

But What To Do?

This is the point where an experienced sexual harassment attorney needs to step in on your behalf. Your livelihood and peace of mind are not something to hesitate protecting, and that is what a sexual harassment attorney can help you do. Whether you are still employed or have been terminated, contacting an attorney is the best course of action. Naturally, the thought of reaching out to a sexual harassment attorney can be a stressful experience as well, especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to do so. But rest assured that it is the best way to protect yourself, your job, or possibly others who might be facing the same behavior from the harasser. At many firms (such as our own), the initial contact is completely confidential and without obligation. After gathering the basic information, an attorney will evaluate your situation and invite you in for a free consultation where your options will be discussed. It’s hassle free, and at the very least will give you an idea of where you stand.

Never be afraid to act in your own best interest. You are worth it!

For more information on how to obtain a sexual harassment attorney, see our page on the topic.