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San Francisco Employment Law Blog

Sexual harassment and superstar employees

Experts say that sexual harassment has to be discouraged at an organizational level to make that discouragement effective. If a company wants to stop sexual harassment, those in charge need to assess the culture they've created and then take action.

In other words, management has to step up to the plate and fire the harassers if they want the message to get through that sexual harassment isn't acceptable at any level within the company, whether it's coming from the janitor or a top-rated employee.

Cancer victims still experience widespread discrimination at work

A cancer diagnosis is no longer always the end of someone's life -- and certainly not the end of their career. Given the constant breakthroughs in medicine and the way that treatments for cancer are becoming both less difficult to endure and more effective, many cancer victims continue working through their treatment. Others take a brief medical leave, fight off the illness and return to work when they're almost well again.

So why do so many of them still end up feeling like they aren't as valuable to their employers as they were before their cancer diagnosis?

Gender discrimination laws may help protect abuse victims' jobs

How long is it going to take before society stops blaming the domestic violence victim for the actions of the abuser?

It seems like the problem isn't ever going to end -- especially to abuse victims. For example, a California teacher was recently fired because her estranged and abusive husband entered school grounds and caused a panic. He went to jail -- but she was punished for being a victim by losing her job.

Sexual harassment is about power and control, not lust.

Most people still think of sexual harassment as a predominately female problem. Intellectually, the majority of people probably realize that men can also be sexually harassed -- but that's not the typical scenario that pops into most people's minds when they think about the issue.

For the most part, that's still a fairly accurate mental image. One out of every three women (or maybe as many as half, depending on which study you believe the most) will be sexually harassed at work at least once in her life. However, sexual harassment against men is on the rise.

Acting gay offers workers legal protection but being gay does not

An Atlanta appeals court decision over the firing of a lesbian security guard has upended the definition of sex-based discrimination used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In a case that could have far-reaching implications, a security guard who worked for a Georgia hospital filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit. She alleged that she was harassed and ultimately fired because of her sexual orientation. Her lawsuit, which was taken up by civil rights group Lambda Legal and supported by briefs filed by the EEOC itself, was denied.

When is quitting really the same as being fired?

When workplace conditions become so bad that any reasonable person would feel compelled to quit, the law will sometimes treat that person as if they were fired instead.

This can open the door up to a claim of constructive dismissal (also called constructive discharge), which is a type of wrongful termination claim.

How do you document sexual harassment on the job?

It's very rare for one incident alone to give rise to a sexual harassment claim—most are based on numerous small incidents instead. But how do you document what's happening when there's often no one around but you and your harasser to see?

Keep a sexual harassment journal. Since it's hard to tell what might end up being important down the line, document as much as possible:

Former California principal alleges pregnancy discrimination

It seems hardly believable that a school district in this modern age wouldn't have a policy in place to deal with the maternity leave of one of its administrators.

Yet, that's precisely what the former principal of a California elementary school is alleging. Perhaps worse, the district admits that it wasn't pleased with her pregnancy or requests for accommodation but fails to see that as a problem.

Public policy trumps over at-will employment

If you had a good job with a highly-valued tech company, could you be lured away by a competitor that promised to be bigger and better?

That's exactly what one former Snapchat employee claims happened. The ex-employee claims he was lured away by the Facebook rival after being given inflated growth metrics by Snapchat recruiters.

Are younger workers most vulnerable to sexual harassment?

Are younger employees, particularly those in their teen years, especially vulnerable to sexual harassment?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission certainly thinks so. One of the agency's directors in San Diego said that young workers can be more vulnerable to sexual harassment because they may be unaware of their rights under the law.

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