The California-based Walt Disney Company is one of more than 200 employers that recently submitted a letter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to extend protections provided by the Civil Rights Act to LGBT and transgender workers. Title VII of the landmark 1964 law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but it does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity. Courts in New York, Illinois and Ohio have recently ruled to extend these protections. The nation's highest court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the issue on Oct. 8.
Women in California should be aware that while women are filing more harassment claims than ever before in the #MeToo era, they are also facing substantial retaliation. Even though there have been issues with retaliation, there have also been many major success stories as a result of the #MeToo movement, including several high-profile cases involving celebrities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released numbers showing that complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace rose 13.6% in 2018. These numbers are evidence that more people than ever before are reporting harassment despite obstacles meant to dissuade them.
California and federal law generally makes it illegal to create a hostile workplace for an employee. In some cases, rumors that are spread about a person could make a workplace hostile or otherwise constitute sexual harassment. For instance, if an executive had a romantic relationship with an employee, it may be seen as the impetus for that employee's upward trajectory within the organization. However, employment decisions should not be made on anything other than merit.
Many women in California face significant barriers at work when they choose to breastfeed their babies. Too often, employers respond with hostility to requests for temporary reassignments or daily breaks to pump breast milk. University researchers who studied data collected across a decade found that two-thirds of workplace discrimination cases involving breastfeeding mothers resulted in job loss.
The #MeToo movement struck a cord for many Californians and caused them to think about their own actions and behaviors. As more women have begun speaking out about workplace harassment, employers and fellow employees are wondering how they should act and what they can do to handle certain situations.
According to data from American Family Survey, women are generally more likely to consider certain acts to be sexual harassment. These acts include asking someone to go to lunch, making sexual jokes or asking for sexual favors. California residents may also have a different point of view about sexual harassment depending on their age and level of education. The survey itself consisted of 3,000 adults that roughly emulated the makeup of the country as a whole.