The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against an employer alleging that one of the company owners sexually harassed an employee and then punished her and fired her when she complained. The case raises issues of sexual harassment and retaliation that could be relevant to California employees and employers. According to the facts as laid out in the complaint, a part owner of the company, who was also a manager in direct contact with employees, made a number of unwanted sexual advances toward the employee plaintiff while they were working an event.
Following the event, the employee asked for and secured permission to arrive late to work one day. When she did arrive late that day, she was punished by having her weekly shifts reduced to one from five. When the employee complained that the part owner had sexually harassed her, she was fired. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief against the employer in addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages and back pay.
According to the EEOC, more than half of all charges filed with the commission during 2018 were retaliation charges. Retaliation happens once an employee has acted in a way that is protected by law, usually some protestation or report of harassment. If the company then takes an adverse action against the employee, that could lead to a retaliation charge with the EEOC or in civil court. It is possible that retaliation claims can arise even in the absence of actual harassment.
Individuals who have experienced sexual harassment at work may wish to schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney. An attorney who practices employment law may help by examining the facts of the case and identifying causes of action the employee might have. An attorney might be able to negotiate a monetary settlement with at-fault parties or draft and file a complaint in cases that cannot be settled.