A whistleblower for the sexual harassment case against former California state senator, Tony Mendoza, recently received a settlement for $310,000. A former California Senate employee reported that Mendoza and staff retaliated against her for bringing to light allegations that Mendoza sexually harassed another employee. The lawsuit, which began two years ago, made claims that Adrian Ruelas, his legislative director at the time, was subjected to workplace sexual harassment by the senator according to a number of complaints, which eventually led to his resignation.
Understanding your rights in the workplace
When your supervisor or co-workers create a hostile work environment, you may fear the repercussions of calling attention to this toxic behavior. It has become too common that when a person comes forward with a sexual harassment allegation, they find that they become penalized through a variety of HR actions. This retaliation could come in the form of firing, a redistribution to another role, a reduced salary, and other biased decision-making regarding your career. This form of discrimination is one of the most common in the US, as reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). California defines several protected acts that an employer cannot retaliate against:
- An employee who reports an employer or co-worker’s violation of state or federal law
- An employee who takes part in a sexual harassment investigation or employment discrimination investigation
- An employee who files a ‘qui tam’ lawsuit within the California False Claims Act
Protecting your civil rights in the workplace
If you are aware of ongoing sexual harassment in your workplace or have been discriminated against for reporting incidents of sexual harassment, you need to contact an attorney with experience in workplace retaliation and sexual harassment litigation.