There are many people in California who are facing a difficult decision: Endure sexual abuse on the job or report the behavior. Understandably, this decision can seem like a no-win situation. No person should be mistreated while they are at work but the fear of getting fired for reporting the harassment can also be very powerful. However, it is very important for these victims to remember that sexual harassment at work is unlawful, as is firing an employee for reporting or complaining about sexual harassment or discrimination.
Employment laws in California prohibit employers for firing workers under some specific conditions. If a person has been fired because they have reported abuse or unsafe behavior or have filed a complaint related to sexual harassment, he or she could be eligible to take legal action against a company for wrongful termination. That is what one San Francisco woman is doing after she was fired from her job at a church.
The woman’s lawsuit states that while she was employed as an assistant at a California church, the president of the church board of trustees repeatedly harassed and sexually abused her. She claims that he took advantage of her vulnerable situation as an unskilled, single mother. The man reportedly engaged in sexual conduct in the church with the woman and would email her explicit and unwanted photos of himself.
Eventually, the woman had had enough. She says that she emailed the man telling him to stop and stated that she wanted no part of a physical relationship with him. Just a couple of weeks later, the woman was fired.
The woman says that she was fired because she would no longer be a victim of sexual harassment on the job. Not surprisingly, the church has stated that she was fired for reasons unrelated to the alleged sexual abuse. It is not uncommon for an employer to counter a wrongful termination lawsuit with accusations that a victim had been fired for his or her own actions in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the unlawful behavior.
However, with the help of an attorney, an employee who was wrongfully terminated can challenge these baseless allegations by employers and work to prove that a termination was unlawful.
Source: KGO, “Woman claims she was fired by church after abuse,” Vic Lee, Nov. 22, 2013