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Common Sexual Harassment Workplaces
SEXUAL HARASSMENT CAN ALSO OCCUR AT ALL TYPES OF JOBS.
Below are some possible scenarios and locations of sexual harassment at the workplace. However, every employee’s experience is unique. If you feel you have been or are being sexually harassed, contact the Los Angeles employee lawyers at our office.
Sexual Harassment of Employees at a Dentist’s or Doctor’s Office: Many dental and doctor’s offices are small, somewhat intimate workplaces headed by one or two dentists or doctors and staffed by one or two support staff members who may perform multiple roles, such as receptionist, biller, medical assistant, and dental assistant. The dentist or doctor may work closely with the employees over a full day, and, over time, can develop inappropriate interests in and take increased liberties with the staff, beginning with what may seem like casual conversations about their personal lives, in order to get an idea about who may be least resistant to potential sexual advances and ultimately manipulate the assistant to discuss his or her own sexual experiences and sex life at home. The dentist or doctor can claim to be educated about sexuality and human relationships, and to pretend to have the assistant’s best interests at heart. The dentist or doctor can talk about personal sexual issues as a way to appear more “normal” in an attempt to open a door to make these inappropriate conversations about sex seem acceptable, since everyone is equal and has personal problems.
These sexual topics of conversation will likely make an assistant feel uncomfortable, but because the dentist or doctor tries to sell it as only conversation and in taking a clinical interest in the assistant’s well-being, the assistant may rationalize the harassing behavior and not complain about it at first. In fact, there may be no one to complain to, no human resources department, and no office manager. Or if there is an office manager, that person might not see things as the assistant does and ultimately do nothing about the harassment.
Another result of working at close quarters in a dentist or doctor’s office is the increased potential for inadvertent physical contact, both around the dentist’s chair or doctor’s examination table and in the small office spaces and narrow halls. This can be used as an excuse for the dentist or doctor to “accidentally” bump into or brush up against an assistant, first seemingly innocently and with contact only between non-sexual parts of the body, such as the bumping of shoulders together or the touching of the assistant’s arm with an elbow, just to see what the reaction will be. Later, the doctor or dentist can explain away any further contact with other body parts as more of the same. This contact can escalate and ultimately lead to flagrant groping and explicit requests or even demands for sexual favors, especially if the dentist or doctor feels protected from any consequences for this behavior.
In fact, an assistant who decides at some point not to further tolerate unwanted comments and touching and tells the dentist or doctor to stop may be fired for some made-up reason in retaliation for refusing to accept the advances. Each case of sexual harassment is different. If you feel that you have been sexually harassed during your work at a dentist’s or doctor’s office, contact the Los Angeles employment law firm, for a free consultation.
Sexual Harassment of Employees at a Bar or Restaurant: Working in a restaurant or bar as a server or bartender often involves a struggle for hours. Most servers work part time for at or barely above minimum wage and rely on customers’ tips to make up for the limited available hours and low pay rate. This puts a scheduling manager or supervisor in a potentially powerful position, enabling them to make life financially difficult for a server with a stroke of a pen on a calendar. In such situations, a manager or supervisor might imply an increased willingness to provide more hours to the server or bartender in exchange for a date. Or, in an equally insidious manner, the manager could take advantage of the power imbalance and make inappropriate physical contact with the server’s body, brushing up against or groping in passing. This contact can escalate to flagrant grabbing of body parts or reaching and groping under the clothing, as the manager or supervisor or owner feels able to get away with just about anything due to the server’s dependence on getting enough work hours to make a living. Despite this harassment, the server may feel that quitting is not an option because there are few work opportunities outside the present job.
Often stories are passed around in a workplace about servers who complain about sexual harassment by a manager or supervisor and wind up being fired as a result, and that leaves the server feeling vulnerable and having no choice but to tolerate the harassment. If you are in such a situation and have contemplated quitting the job because of how you are treated on the job, or if you have quit, we invite you to give us a call. Our office has years of experience pursuing sexual harassment cases.
As a work environment, many restaurants, especially large ones with many line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers, table bussers, servers, hosts, and cashiers, tend to be rowdy. Like a college campus, a work place where a large group of employees working together is a breeding ground for inappropriate talk and behavior. These employees find that the line between slightly off-color joking around, inappropriate topics of conversation and improperly intimate questions blurs during the course of a shift, especially in the down time between meal time rushes. Some employees may joke among themselves about their sexual prowess or discuss the size of their body parts. They may also make no secret of their sexual interest in one or more of their coworkers, or comment on the size and shape of their body parts. They may feel that as long as it’s “just talk,” employees who hear this talk have no place complaining about it, as no one is making a direct come-on. However, such talk may become vulgar and frequent enough to make coworkers uncomfortable enough to complain to their direct supervisors. Sometimes, though, these direct supervisors may also take part in the inappropriate behavior and therefore either do nothing about it; or they may argue that, since no one has touched anyone inappropriately or made direct comments about anyone, the coworkers need to just accept things as they are or quit. An argument might be made that all coworkers are perceived as part of a team and should understand and accept that people will talk this way just to make the work place more tolerable. A large restaurant may conduct an official investigation if someone complains about sexual harassment to a corporate office or Human Resources, but with no concrete response due to what they consider lack of concrete evidence or lack of willingness of other coworkers to complain about the behavior out of fear of losing hours – and the behavior may continue. If you find yourself in a situation where you have nowhere to turn for help within your workplace and you think the only way to escape this environment is to quit, contact the Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer as you have rights.
A restaurant’s kitchen, food prep areas and dishwashing station also tend to have limited space for the number of employees working in them, so working in those areas can lead to various types of incidental contact as workers move among the various work stations. Harassers can exploit the cramped conditions to “accidentally” grope a coworker in ways they can claim were not deliberate. The harasser may justify grabbing a coworker’s hips by claiming they were preventing an accident from occurring. However, repeated contact exposes the inappropriate intent behind it. Yet the employee may feel that proving the sexual harassment is too difficult and therefore not complain until the touching escalates to the groping or squeezing of body parts. In some situations, this conduct is provable, such as when there are surveillance cameras recording these incidents. This is often not the case, however. Habitual harassers know how to keep their actions unobserved and therefore difficult to prove, and this can make it seem like complaining about the harassment will cause more trouble and not improve the situation. If you are being harassed, contact the Los Angeles employee lawyers for a free consultation.
Sexual Harassment of Employees on the Factory or Assembly Line: Another problem arises in workspaces such as factories and assembly lines, where an aggressive environment develops over time among not only the coworkers but also among the ranks of the supervisors. Current employees or supervisors will find a victim, perhaps a new employee whom they perceive as weaker or less aggressive, to harass as a way to assert dominance. They will make mock sexual advances toward their target, take pictures of the coworker’s body from behind with their cell phones, grab their own groin areas and leer and smile, or even grab the targeted coworker’s body parts and laugh. If the coworker reacts aggressively by shoving or even hitting one of the others, that could lead to termination for allegedly causing the altercation. In response to complaints about this treatment, management might just tell the complaining employee to “deal with it” or “take it,” suggesting or stating outright that they all are just joking around, that they are not actually participating in sexual harassment because there is no sexual intent behind their actions. It may be seen as a sort of hazing of the new employee, an indoctrination into a certain way of interacting with the crew.
Management might even imply that the employee’s complaints illustrate that he or she is not a “good fit” with this particular employer and that the employee would be happier working elsewhere. Management may find it an inconvenient to deal with the inappropriate behavior of a group of employees, so it is easier to discipline or terminate the one who complains. If you have considered complaining about your situation on the job, or if you have complained about the harassment and have been terminated, contact the Los Angeles employment lawyer.
Sexual Harassment of Employees in a Warehouse: A warehouse is often a huge, maze-like workspace with areas where workers can find themselves quite isolated at times while performing inventory or other tasks that require minimal staff in far-reaching sections of the warehouse. During this time, an employee may be propositioned by a coworker or direct supervisor to meet outside of the workplace. Rejection of the initial proposal sometimes does not mean an end to that type of interaction. In fact, the harassment can escalate to physical contact, such as attempts by the supervisor to hug the employee or stroke the employee’s hair and body despite all protests.
During conversations, workers, leads and supervisors in a warehouse may participate in rough, often vulgar conversation. This creates an environment that makes some of their coworkers feel uncomfortable or even unsafe, especially in the more remote, isolated corners of the warehouse, where more aggressive, invasive forms of sexual harassment can occur.
The challenge in this kind of job is to overcome the pressure for employees to create personas for themselves as “just another one of the team,” in hopes that by doing so they will gain the respect of coworkers and be protected from being groped, aggressively propositioned, or otherwise sexually harassed by other coworkers when they feel they can do so without be observed. They may also be threatened that, should they complain about the harassment, the harasser can take advantage of connections with management to create some false reason to fire anyone who complains.
In some cases some employees and supervisors and management can create bonds that may take precedence over a company’s sexual harassment policy. Supervisors and managers may find it easy to disbelieve someone who complains about being sexually harassed. The most they may do is rearrange the staffing so that the complaining employee no longer works in close quarters with the harasser, yet continues to be forced to interact with that person at other times in the day. Such a situation may lead an employee to want to quit the job. If you are in this position, or if you have already quit or been fired, contact the Los Angeles employee lawyer. Workers in Los Angeles have the right not to be sexually harassed at work.
Sexual Harassment of Employees During Business Outings: Many employers have their employees participate in group corporate outings, retreats, or conventions out of town, and the company will arrange for staff accommodations in a common hotel at or near where the events are scheduled to take place. These occasions frequently involve work-related activities during the day and socializing / networking events in the evenings. The combination of alcohol, the distance from home, and a kind of concentrated, loosened socialization outside the company’s corporate structure can cause people to behave in a manner that is significantly different from the office. A tension develops between acknowledging the power differences between management and staff and enjoying the less formal social flow of a gathering with an open bar.
A manager or executive may take advantage of this situation. The manager or executive can invite “select” employees to enjoy a “private party” in the relatively plush offerings of the executive suite, compared to the sparer rooms occupied by – maybe even shared by – the subordinates. The manager may manipulate the situation to be alone with one of the employees, hoping that the consumption of alcohol has lowered the employee’s inhibitions and made the employee more receptive to manipulation and seduction by praising the employee’s work and implying the possibility of a raise or promotion within the company. The manager may encourage the employee to talk about personal relationships as an indirect way to find out about the employee’s sexual life and experiences, or to just broach the topic. The manager may also act drunk during this early stage to use as an excuse for later, more blatant sexual advances. The manager may even attempt to increase the level of emotional intimacy with talk about personal issues before attempting to make the interaction physical through requesting or attempting an “innocent” shoulder massage, an offer that the coworker sleep in the suite rather than return to the employee’s room, and ultimately caressing the employee’s body.
If the employee rejects the sexual advances and leaves the suite, the employee may fear retaliation at work if the harassment is made public, and there may be concerns about how the events will reflect on the employee’s own behavior. There may also be a change in the how the employee is treated at the company in response to a complaint about the harassment. In some cases the employee may be terminated shortly after complaining. You have rights in this situation. Contact the L.A. sexual harassment attorney for a free consultation.
Sexual Harassment of Employees at a Construction Site: Because the working social environment at construction sites has evolved over time into an established setting for rough, frank, and often inappropriate talk, management often finds it difficult – or even unnecessary – to rein in these behaviors, even though workplace demographics have changed in recent years. Construction workers are still notorious for their unabashed, sometimes explicit “cat-calling” toward people walking by the sites. This same attitude certainly exists internally as well, and if a construction worker is subjected to this sort of inappropriate sexual talk on a daily basis and complains to management about the harassment, there could be a backlash. The complaining employee could be identified as a maverick interfering with the daily routine of the majority of the workers on the site. Under such circumstances, if the employee does not just “go along to get along,” the management could find some pretext, could make up some criticism of the worker’s work performance, and have the complaining employee terminated in order to pull the “bad apple” from the bunch. If this sounds like something that has happened to you or is happening to you, you have rights. Contact the Los Angeles Employment lawyer for a free consultation.
Sexual Harassment of a Personal Assistant: L.A. is a big city for personal assistants. Major film and television actors, producers, authors, studio heads, corporate and other executives will hire an individual to take care of a number of personal tasks, including driving, shopping, scheduling meetings, and social events. Child care sometimes figures into the job as well. This kind of job can generate a close relationship between the employer and the assistant that the employer may take advantage of. The employer can take advantage of having some amount of fame and media-generated charisma and give the impression that an actual emotional bond, such as a close friendship, is being formed over the course of the employment. The employer may begin to treat the assistant like a friend. Or an older employer may convince the assistant that assistance is needed at a more intimate level, such as with bathing or changing clothes, even though it’s not actually necessary. Frequently the employer attempts to use the potential for greater opportunities in the future by way of exposing the assistant – who often has aspirations in the industry in which the employer is a major figure – to important, influential people, as leverage, regardless of whether the employer intends to actually provide the assistant with any such an opportunity.
While each situation is different, personal assistants are inherently at risk of sexual harassment due to close interactions with the employer and the lack of oversight often available in more conventional work settings. Fear of termination by the employer and the subsequent loss of opportunities puts the assistant in a position of choosing between allowing the harassment to continue or losing a potential avenue for professional advancement. Personal assistants have rights, including the right not to be sexually exploited or harassed. If you in a similar situation, you have rights. Contact the Los Angeles sex harassment lawyer for a free consultation.
Sexual Harassment of Employees at a Retail Store: Retail stores, including food markets and department stores and large box stores, cover large amounts of territory and employ many people in many different positions, such as cashier, sales associate, shelf stocker, loss prevention officer, food server, and maintenance worker. These workplaces are like small communities. The large number of employees and wide diversity of roles means that the potential for sexual harassment is elevated. In one such situation, a supervisor who has access to the video surveillance room in the store can use the technology to “stalk” a subordinate on the floor by calling the station where the employee works and making sexual comments while observing the subordinate on the screen. The supervisor may feel that the physical distance between them protects the supervisor from getting in trouble for commenting on the employee’s body, as are the supervisor’s attempts to joke around in attempt to make the employee feel less victimized by the comments and the awareness of being watched. Before the harassment begins in earnest, the supervisor may just call to “be friendly,” to talk about personal relationships and other non-work-related matters, just to pass the time when things are slow. Casual conversation is used as a toe in the door to more detailed, and then explicit questions about the employee’s personal relationships and sexual experiences. This “friendly” talk can often move from brief phone chats over the store’s communication systems to text messages via mobile phone saying things like “I like the view from up here” to repeated requests to spend time together in the monitor booth during a break when they can be alone, or to meet somewhere outside work for drinks or dinner. The supervisor may have convinced the employee to some degree that the supervisor was led on, and may find it difficult to justify complaining about the supervisor’s behavior to Human Resources or to a manager. Furthermore, a complaint about the supervisor may lead to questions about the employee’s own behavior.
Like many other jobs, retail staff members are “as-needed” employees who work whatever hours the store needs them to work and struggle to get the needed hours and shift start and end times that suit their personal and family schedules – many also have taken on a second job to make a living and need their work hours to be compatible. This means that they are incentivized not to “rock the boat” by complaining about sexual harassment at the risk of losing hours or having their work schedule changed in a way that won’t fit their lives. Also, the harasser may be in a position of favor with supervisors or managers, so even if an investigation occurs after the harassed employee complains, unless there is concrete proof of repeated harassment, management might decide in favor of the harasser and “punish” the complainer by reducing or changing their work hours with the pretext of limiting interaction with the harasser. Or, the employer may wait a while and then terminate the complaining employee for an incident, mistake, or write-up that occurred in the past. Employees who have experienced this type of harassment and retaliation for complaining have rights. You can contact the Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney for a free consultation.Contact Us
If you have experienced sexual harassment at your workplace, contact the renowned sexual harassment lawyers at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. Contact us now. Free Consultation.