October 9, 2019
A new lawsuit filed by WBS against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation highlights how the state is failing miserably to implement new laws involving workplace sexual harassment. Several California state agencies have failed to provide sexual harassment training for all their supervisors as required by state law, and the number of people experiencing harassment in the workplace keeps climbing.
A female employee who worked as a government program analyst in the division of Correctional Healthcare Services in Elk Grove claimed she experienced ongoing sexual harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation from her direct supervisor. She claims she felt like she couldn’t report the misconduct due to the lack of system in the male-dominated bureaucracy. After her supervisor left the job, she alleges in the lawsuit, that his replacement began engaging in inappropriate behavior with the employee, including touching and kissing her and making unwanted sexual advances. After the incident, she reported the misconduct to her union representative, who did nothing to help her. Because the agency didn’t have a system to report the abuse, the employee was forced to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After reporting the misconduct, she suffered retaliation and bullying from her co-workers.
This case underscores the mounting challenges that victims of sexual harassment face as state agencies grapple with training supervisors. It shows how woefully inadequate and futile the process is for implementing safeguards to prevent abusive behavior in the workplace. A recent investigation found that nearly 60% of agencies did not provide sexual harassment training, up from 25% in 2016 and 32% in 2017. The investigation also found that larger agencies, like the Department of Corrections, failed to train hundreds of supervisors while smaller agencies never bothered to train any personnel. According to the EEOC, another way to help fight the issue is by having organizations cultivate a culture of non-harassment, where employers have to set an example of model behavior and hold those accountable for preventing and responding to reports of harassment.
At the height of the #MeToo movement, California lawmakers enacted a requirement that all employers with five or more employees would need to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees by January 1, 2020. However, in response to the negative response from the business community, Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed SB 778 into effect, extending the deadline for employers to provide the newly required sexual harassment prevention training to January 1, 2021.
If you are experiencing harassment at work, it may be overwhelming and stressful, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone and that you have options when coming forward. Finding the right resources will help you better identify sexual harassment, advocate for yourself and others, and determine the next steps you should take.