People in California who are jealous of someone's success at work might retaliate by spreading rumors about that person sleeping with a superior to secure promotions. A case recently heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit resulted in a decision that exposed an employer to possible liability because the company fired the female plaintiff after she tried to address widespread rumors about her alleged sexual activities in exchange for promotions.
When allegations of sexual harassment were leveled against a California federal appeals judge by 15 women in December 2017, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts responded by appointing a working group to investigate abusive, unwelcome or offensive sexual conduct in the federal court system. That group submitted its report in June 2018, and its recommendations have since been endorsed by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. The group concluded that sexual harassment was widespread in district and circuit courts and often went unreported due to fears of retaliation.
Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and an increased media focus on sexual harassment on the job, many California workers continue to suffer from inappropriate advances and other misconduct in the workplace. One campaign is focusing specifically on harassment incidents in the health care industry, following similar efforts in entertainment, tech and other major sectors. Time's Up Healthcare aims not only to fight sexual harassment but also to increase gender diversity and equality in the industry.
Both federal and California law protect workers against being victims of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome advance, crude joke or other behavior that makes a worker uncomfortable. The behavior merely needs to be discriminatory on the basis of sex as opposed to being sexual in nature. Victims can be either male or female, and the perpetrator and the victim may be of the same sex.
Despite the #MeToo movement and the increased spotlight on sexual harassment, employees in California are still at risk on the job. The acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noted that the federal agency deals with large numbers of sexual harassment complaints and can be nearly overwhelmed with the frequency of these issues. She noted that harassment continues to be a persistent, pervasive problem in many American workplaces, despite awareness-raising efforts and media exposure.