From the downfall of a famous producer to the ousting of a beloved talk show host, recent allegations of sexual harassment have called attention to a problem that has existed for a long time. However, harassment at work is not always as flagrant as in the cases of Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer. Sometimes, it can be subtle.
Much of the press attention that has been garnered by the #MeToo movement has involved aspiring actresses and media executives. However, women of all shapes, sizes, economic classes, and races face bullying on a daily basis. Unlike Hollywood actresses, they may believe they are not in the financial position to sue. An ordinary woman would never be able to speak to as wide an audience as a famous woman would. The recent attention to sexual harassment has made it easier to sue a business.
Sexual harassment is a term that is ever-evolving in its definition. The EEOC defines it as, “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” It excludes random comments and teasing. The victim can be of any sex or orientation. The person being harassed is not necessarily the only victim. Anyone who hears or sees the harassment may be considered a victim.
One of the problems with sexual harassment cases is establishing beyond doubt that the advances were indeed unwelcome. It may also be hard to prove that someone who merely hears or sees harassment is effected by it.
Although it may not have put an end to harassment everywhere, the movement has created awareness in corporate America and changed some of the laws in California.
For many years, The state of California allowed corporations to force employees to give up their right to a trial by insisting that they sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. Arbitrators are not attorneys or judges, but rather independent contractors, hired by corporations who are scarcely regulated by the state. A 2019 bill signed into law by Governor Newsom forbids companies from making workers sign arbitration agreements. About half of the workers in the U.S. are forced to sign these kinds of documents.
Harvey Weinstein famously had his victims sign non-disclosure agreements after paying them off. Legislators in many states are attempting to pass laws that would regulate non-disclosure agreements. However, there are actually several different varieties of NDAS.
Almost all companies ask you to sign a basic NDA agreement stating that you will not give away trade secrets or post about the company on social media.
Other companies have non-disparaging provisions, which state that an employee may not make any derogatory comments about the company. Some companies have tried to make it illegal to complain about sexual harassment on social media, but such agreements may violate a person’s civil rights.
The NDAs that were used in the Weinstein case were drawn up as part of a settlement agreement. Settlement agreements normally have a few provisions. The NDAs forbade women from discussing allegations of harassment or the settlement amount they received.
Many settlement agreements also have Non-Cooperation Provisions, which forbid a person from assisting another person in litigation against a company. There are also affirmation agreements that require a person to say nice things about their ex-employer.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment in California, you should visit fightsexualharassment.com. A good attorney can make all the difference in proving your case and getting you the settlement you deserve.