Hostile Work Environment

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my name is Branigan Robertson and I'm an

employment lawyer this video is the

ultimate guide to hostile work

environment and harassment law I'm about

to explain workplace harassment without

all the legal jargon so if you want to

know if you have a case for harassment

and what it might be worth then keep

watching before we jump in I have a few

preliminary items to cover first this

video will cover the following topics

the legal definition of a hostile work

environment examples of common

harassment cases what to do if you're

still employed you quit or you were

fired the statutes of limitations which

is the deadline that you have in which

to file your case and at the end of the

video we'll cover how much money your

case might be worth second I use the

terms hostile work environment and

harassment interchangeably I do this

because 99% of the harassment cases we

see fall within the hostile work

environment umbrella in the eyes of the

law these usually mean the same thing

third I will not be covering sexual

harassment in this video while all the

principles certainly apply I made a

detailed video called understanding

sexual harassment that I would recommend

if that is the situation you are facing

and fourth in this video I primarily

discuss California law because that is

where I have a license to practice law

however this video is meant for everyone

across America if you are not in

California this video will help you

identify critical questions that you

should ask a lawyer in your state if you

are in California and you need a

consultation here's my contact

information if you think I've earned

your phone call all right let's get


in California the main anti harassment

law is California Government Code

section 1 - 9 4 0 subsection J if you're

not in California Title 7 is the federal

anti her ass

law that applies to everyone across

America here's what the California law

says yes I'm actually going to read the

law to you it is an unlawful Employment

Practice for an employer because of a

protected characteristic which we'll

cover here in a second to harass an

employee it becomes unlawful if

supervisors knew or should have known of

the harassing conduct and failed to take

appropriate corrective action subsection

K goes on to say that it is unlawful for

an employer to fail to take all

reasonable steps to prevent harassment

from occurring but that's not the end of

the story the law also requires that the

harassment be unwelcome which means you

didn't want it to happen

I might seem obvious but it's actually

sometimes very confusing in cases the

harassment also must be so severe or

pervasive that a reasonable person in

the victims shoes would have considered

it an abusive working environment so to

summarize it is illegal for an employer

to harass anyone because they have a

protected characteristic again we'll

cover those in just a second before we

get to the protected classes I want to

point out a few very important things

look I only read two small parts of one

two nine four zero there's a lot more to

this body of law that I don't have time

to get into in this short video but if

you want to know more about this area of

law go to my hostile work environment

page on my website I'll leave a link

below my website dives deep into the law

this California law applies to all

employers who have at least one or more

employees the federal Title 7 law

applies to employers with 15 or more

employees so if you work for a small

company that is below 15 employees and

you're not in California you not you

might not be able to pursue your case at

least not under Title 7 ok so what are

these mysterious protected

characteristics in California because

harassment isn't just sexual harassment

harassment can be based on any one of

these things so real quickly race

religion color

national origin ancestry physical

disability mental disability medical

condition genetic information marital

status sex which also includes sexual

harassment pregnancy and related medical

medical conditions gender gender

identity gender expression age if you're

over the age of 40 sexual orientation

military status and veteran status this

means that if somebody is harassing you

because you have one of these

characteristics you may be a victim of

unlawful harassment now these are the

California protected categories the

federal title seven only protects race

color religion sex which includes

pregnancy national origin age disability

and genetic information I think each one

of these categories has a very specific

legal definition so if you want to know

if the harassment that you are facing

falls into one of these categories you

need to call a lawyer it's very

important before we move on let me talk

you through a common-looking example

let's pretend you're female and you've

been working a job for a few years with

positive performance reviews suddenly

you get a new supervisor and he makes it

very clear that he believes that if

women choose to work they shouldn't get

pregnant he makes all sorts of

derogatory comments towards working

women who are pregnant and have small

children saying that they're not

committed they look sloppy and they're

somehow betraying their family he

actually makes fun of women in the same

company in other departments who are

pregnant saying that he feels sorry for

their managers and it just so happens

that a few months later you become

pregnant as soon as he finds out he

starts excluding you from phone calls

micromanaging your tasks writing you up

for petty things and just making your

life miserable now he doesn't say

anything about your pregnancy directly

to your face but you already know that

he hates it suddenly you get put on a

performance improvement plan with

impossible goals to meet and then two

months later when you don't meet those

goals he fires you

in this situation if your lawyer can

convince a jury that the real reason for

your termination and the hostile work

environment before that is your

pregnancy then you'll probably win your

case obviously in this example you can

easily swap out the protected

characteristic for disability race

religion age etc and the principles

would still apply and if you are paying

close attention to the example you

probably noticed that your boss never

came out and said that he was firing you

because you got pregnant it's extremely

rare in today's world to find that good

of direct evidence in harassment cases

that the company fired you for your

protected characteristic rather it's

your lawyers job to prove that the real

reason for your termination was your

protected characteristic in this case

that would be your pregnancy the

termination lie that you didn't meet the

performance improvement plan is called a

pretext and I've made an entire video on

pretext I highly recommend that you

watch that video once this one is done

I'll put a link below

wellokay Brannigan what should I do if

I'm currently experiencing a hostile

work environment

generally my advice changes depending on

whether the person I'm speaking with was

fired if they quit or if they're still

employed let's look at all three of

those situations if you're still

employed unless extraordinary

circumstances apply I generally don't

recommend hiring legal counsel and

blasting your company with a nasty

letter or a lawsuit and I'll explain why

in just a second

generally I recommend that employees

send a polite respectful and helpful

written complaint to the appropriate

authority at your company I made a

detailed video on how to complain

properly at work so if you are being

harassed right now at work I highly

recommend that you watch that video as

soon as this one is over I'll put a link


generally lawyers like me tell people to

call us after they get fired that is the

best time to hire a lawyer and take

legal action

and I know that's not very helpful for

the folks who are still employed which

I'm guessing is the majority of you

watching this video and I'm also

assuming that a lot of the people who

are watching this want to put a stop to

the harassment and save their job

because they don't want to lose their

job it's much better to have a good job

than a good lawsuit so why do you we ask

people to call us after they get fired

well there's two main reasons for this

first the tools that the law has given

employment lawyers like me are largely

ineffective at stopping hostile work

environments usually when a lawyer like

me inserts myself into the middle of an

ongoing employment relationship we just

make everything worse because it paints

a big target on your back and the

company from that point forward will

want you to fail lawyers like me are far

more effective at pursuing justice after

the fact and teaching the company a very

painful lesson second this concerns

attorneys fees most employees simply

don't have enough money to pay lawyers

like me out of pocket that's why we

usually work on a contingency fee we

only get paid if we recover money for

you first due to the amount of time and

money it takes a lawyer like me to

properly pursue a harassment case the

case simply must be worth a significant

amount and unfortunately that usually

means our clients have been fired now

there's always exceptions to this so if

extraordinary circumstances apply to you

my office would be happy to provide you

with a consultation well okay what if

you quit your job

after getting fed up with a hostile work

environment these cases are pretty tough

California law says that unless your

resignation qualifies as a constructive

termination you cannot collect your lost

wages this dramatically hurts the value

of your kit of your case now I've taken

cases or my clients quit in the past but

in those situations the harassment was

truly extraordinary so if you quit your

job doing extra due to extraordinary

harassment call my office to see if your

resignation make

is a constructive termination well what

exactly is a constructive termination

unfortunately I don't have time to get

into it in this video so if you quit and

you want to know either call my office

for a consultation or go to my website

as I have lots of information on that

subject there when you hear lawyers

talking about hostile work environments

you often hear us talk about things

called the EEOC or the DF eh what are

these these are government agencies that

try to enforce workplace anti harassment

laws the Equal Employment Opportunity

Commission or EEOC is a federal agency

so it applies to everyone in the United

States whereas the Department of Fair

Employment and housing the DF eh is a

California agency so it applies only to

California employees for purposes of

this video these two agencies do two

main things number one they actually

pursue cases on behalf of employees much

like a private lawyer like me would do

and second they are a gatekeeper before

you can pursue your case in court

even with a private lawyer you need to

get a right to sue letter from one of

these agencies in order to exhaust your

administrative remedies now if you have

a good case and you hire a private

lawyer like me I will acquire the right

to sue letter for you before we pursue

your case in court having a lawyer get

you right to sue letter is a smart move

because people screw up the right to sue

letter all the time generally if you can

find a good lawyer to take your case you

should pursue the case with the lawyer

these government agencies are simply

overwhelmed with claims moreover you

rarely hear about the EEOC or the DF eh

getting a large settlement or verdict on

behalf an employee but if you can't find

a lawyer to take your case these

agencies are a great option in all areas

of the law we have deadlines meaning you

have to do something before the deadline

comes if you don't your case goes

goodbye in California these deadlines

are called statutes of limitations so

you need to file your hostile work

environment claim with the df' eh

within one year of the last act of

harassment after you get your

right-to-sue letter you have one year in

which to file your case in court however

I recommend that you contact a lawyer

right after severe harassment or a

termination has taken place this is

because certain situations have

complicated statues they overlap and

some of them are requiring you to take

action as quickly as six months so don't


contact a lawyer ASAP outside of

California in general you need to file a

charge with the EEOC within 180 days and

from the last act of harassment once you

receive your right-to-sue letter you

must file your lawsuit within 90 days in

court but again do not wait this long if

you are the victim of serious harassment

contact a lawyer the next day don't wait

months or years because likely you'll

lose your chance entirely next we are

briefly going to cover how much

harassment lawsuits can be worth but

before I do please know I made a

detailed video on this exact subject so

if you're really curious about case

value go watch that video because I

cover this stuff extensively alright you

can recover for different types of

damages lost wages pain and suffering

punitive damages and attorneys fees

let's talk about lost wages first lost

wages are the lost salary benefits

commissions hourly wages bonuses that

you're no longer earning because you

were terminated for example if you were

making $45,000 a year and then you were

harassed and fired

you're not making $45,000 a year anymore

but you can only recover these lost

wages which are also known as economic

damages if you are terminated

unless extraordinary circumstances exist

the law doesn't let you recover these

types of damages if you voluntarily quit

now if you're still in pull employed

second pain and suffering pain and

suffering damages are for the emotional

pain humiliation and mental suffering

that you experienced due to the hostile


and these damages are very real in

harassment cases they can get extremely

large and you can't fake them you're

gonna be evaluated by experts in front

of a jury so the amount of emotional

distress damages that you will receive

is decided by the jury and please

realize two different juries can hear

the exact same case and award two

different amounts but usually in severe

cases the emotional distress damages are

significantly larger than your lost

wages third punitive damages everybody's

heard about punitive damages these are

the damages meant to punish the company

for acting with malice oppression or

fraud these are rare and you have to

have a really good case to win these

fourth attorneys fees in harassment

cases you can recover attorney fees on

top of the other forms of damages if you

go all the way to trial and you win

now this directly benefits you because

the company could be on the hook for

your attorneys fees which in some in

some cases can be several times larger

than your damages so this increases the

settlement value of your case and since

the majority of cases settle this is a

good thing for the employee all of this

damage stuff is to say that some cases

settle for millions of dollars but most

settle for a lot less than that

every case is drastically different so

to get a realistic idea of what your

case might be worth unfortunately you're

gonna have to contact a lawyer I hope

you found this video to be informative

and helpful if you are in California and

you need a lawyer right now here's my

contact information my office handles a

lot of harassment cases and I would be

honored to evaluate your situation free

of charge

finally if this video helped you in some

small way please consider giving it a

thumbs up on youtube and subscribe to my

channel if you know somebody who is

currently experiencing a hostile work

environment please share this video with

them they will thank you for that is all

I have for you

I hope you have a fantastic day