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Nearly a Half a Million Dollars for Harassed Worker

Posted by: Gail Cecchettini Whaley, J.D. on Thursday, August 22, 2019 at 12:00:00 am

Employers are well aware that sexual harassment is unlawful under both California and federal law, but that doesn’t stop the problem from occurring. In fact, statistics show that sexual harassment claims have been on the rise in recent years. And it’s not just sexual harassment that’s unlawful; harassment based on any protected class, such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, age, etc. is unlawful.

Recently, the DFEH settled a harassment case for $450,000. The DFEH charged a mobile home park with violating California law by subjecting an employee to sex and national origin harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

A woman sued the mobile home park where she both lived and worked, alleging that her former supervisor repeatedly harassed her. She alleged she was subject to unwanted touching, verbal harassment, and ridicule for complaining. Other managers saw the harassment but did nothing to stop it.

Managers also allegedly made offensive comments about the complainant’s national origin, calling Mexicans names such as “wetbacks.”

After the employee complained, she said she was retaliated against: her hours were allegedly reduced and she was ultimately terminated. She was represented by California Rural Legal Associates and the DFEH filed a lawsuit on her behalf.

The mobile home park will have to pay $450,000 as part of the settlement.

In addition, an independent monitor will be appointed over the mobile home park for four years. The monitor will oversee compliance with the settlement, including by reviewing policies and complaints, interviewing staff and residents, and submitting annual reports to DFEH. The mobile home park will also implement an anti-discrimination policy in both Spanish and English and attend anti-discrimination, harassment, and cultural sensitivity trainings.

“Unlawful harassment can be based on multiple intersectional grounds, including sex and national origin, and we encourage anyone experiencing harassment at work or in their home to file a complaint,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “The appointment of independent monitors is an important tool for DFEH in ensuring that employers and housing providers take seriously their obligation to eliminate discrimination and harassment in their operations.”

Take Action!

Do you know what you need to do to prevent harassment at work? California employers have an ongoing affirmative duty to prevent and promptly correct workplace harassment.

At a minimum, the following action steps are required by California law:

  • Provide all employees with an up-to-date harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy (and an acknowledgment page for them to sign)
  • Post the required DFEH poster, which includes information on the illegality of sexual harassment. Employers with 15 or more employees must also post the federal Equal Employment Opportunity poster. (Both are included in CEA’s California/Federal Employment Law Poster.)
  • Distribute a pamphlet on sexual harassment to all employees at the time of hire. (CEA’s new hire packet has all the forms you will need.)
  • Meet your new CA training obligations by providing one hour of harassment prevention training to all employees and two hours of harassment prevention training to supervisors. All employers with 5 or more employees must meet these training requirements by the end of 2019.

Let CEA help! From Harassment Prevention Training and Employee Handbooks to Investigations and HR Audits, CEA is here to offer personalized support and service to your California businesses.

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