There has been an upswing in attention paid to sexual harassment and gender discrimination concerns in the workplace in California and throughout the country, especially after recent scandals in Hollywood and national politics. However, despite the increased attention to the issue, statistics indicate that sexual harassment complaints have actually dropped significantly in the past 20 years. For example, in 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 16,000 complaints related to sexual harassment; in 2017, that number was reduced to 9,600. This reflects a decline of over 40 percent.
California residents who work in the offices of federal government agencies are now covered by enhanced whistleblower protection provisions. The Office of Special Counsel has issued various memos to federal agencies reminding them about the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump after being passed without much debate by Congress. The OSC memos remind supervisors at federal agencies that retaliating against employees who blow the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse situation could bring about serious consequences at the personal level.
In an unusual display of bipartisan cooperation, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill on Feb. 6 that would reform the way that Congress handles allegations of sexual harassment. Backers of the bill include California Democrat Jackie Speier and senior members of the House Administration Committee, but some have criticized the proposed rules because they make it more difficult for members of the public to learn about inappropriate behavior on Capitol Hill and place roadblocks in the way of sexual harassment victims who wish to sue their abusers.
Some California employees may be reluctant to report sexual harassment at work. The Society for Human Resource Management found that of the 11 percent of employees who said they had been sexually harassed in the last year, more than three-fourths did not report the harassment. One problem that emerged was that employees might not know the specifics of their employers' sexual harassment policies, including whether they would be protected from retaliation. Many people also felt that reporting the harassment would not change anything.
Employees are sometimes frightened to speak up when things are amiss at work. When there are potentially illegal activities, the employees have every right to speak up. In some cases, these individuals will have a duty to speak up. It is imperative that you don't let fear of retaliation stop you from reporting illegal actions at work.
The California-based Monster Beverage Corporation is facing a barrage of lawsuits from women who claim that executives at the energy drink maker harass and abuse female workers. The women say that they were routinely exposed to discrimination in the workplace and faced retaliatory action when they spoke up. One of the company's vice presidents is named in the filings. He is accused of using inflammatory language about women and gossiping about the sex lives of female employees.