Despite state and federal laws designed to ensure safe working environments and address harassment in the workplace, it is possible that some people in California will have to endure continuing to work with their harassers. In a study that examined 60 arbitration cases where individuals who were accused of harassing behavior challenged the decisions of the employer, the discipline originally ordered was not upheld in 48% of cases. Most of the time, the discipline originally ordered was termination.
This means that the victim of harassment could have been forced to work with a harasser who had been fired and then brought back on. Nearly 28% of those who were accused of harassment and whose original punishment was overturned were fully reinstated. Forty-one percent had termination amended to suspension, and 24% were reinstated to their positions but without back pay.
The study was published by the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal. In the report, it said that employers may be able to avoid liability without firing the perpetrator of the harassment, so in some cases, the harasser remains working with the target of the harassment. The study examined arbitration awards that were reported from 2008 to 2018. The sample was made up primarily of union work environments with blue-collar jobs, according to the authors.
Another way that harassment victims can end up working with their harassers is for the employer to fail to address the harassment. A different study found that only 27% of female employees surveyed said their claims of sexual harassment in the workplace were taken seriously. An attorney with experience practicing employment law may help harassment victims by interviewing witnesses and conducting depositions to build a case for trial. An attorney might be able to negotiate an out-of-court settlement or draft and file a complaint alleging sexual harassment in cases that cannot be settled.