There have been some explosive allegations aimed at a California lawmaker by his former chief of staff. The former employee claims that he was wrongfully terminated after he spoke up about sexual misconduct by the lawmaker toward other employees.
Not only is sexual harassment still a big problem in the nation's workplaces, retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is also an ongoing issue. Around 75 percent of victims say they've experienced retaliation for filing a complaint.
Apparently, you don't even have to be a victim to experience that kind of retaliation. You merely have to speak up in defense of others.
According to the lawsuit filed by the former staffer, the Assemblyman he served engaged in a wide pattern of illicit behavior. This included things like:
- Telling a staffer what type of pantyhose he preferred her to wear
- Asking a female staffer about her sexual activity with her partner
The assemblyman was accused previously of sexually-related offenses. Police investigated the claims, but were unable to substantiate the charges.
However, maybe even just as troubling as the possibility that staffers were subjected to a hostile work environment and sexually harassed is the fact that the Assemblyman may have been told who filed the confidential complaints against him.
Records do show that the former staffer was fired shortly after the sexual harassment complaints were filed. If so, that's a pretty grave error. The former staffer also claims that he didn't find a helpful audience when he took his complaint to the Assembly office. This office is supposed to deal with these kinds of problems. He believes that's how the word leaked that he was behind the reports.
It's illegal to fire someone for reporting sexual harassment. While those accused have the right to defend themselves, they don't have the right to terminate someone's employment for making a complaint.
It's likely that this issue will take a while to settle. The defendant will be given an opportunity to show that the staffer's termination was unrelated to his complaint. That's usually done by showing a long-standing pattern of poor work performance or some other documentation of problems with the employee.
A lawsuit like this, however, which involves one of the top politicians in the state, is likely to set the tone for how people can expect retaliation lawsuits to be received for quite some time to come.
Source: pressdemocrat.com, "Former California Assembly employee claims wrongful termination in suit," Jonathan J. Cooper, April 19, 2018