Workplace Harassment and BPWNC History Explained at January Meeting
By Susan Rogers
BPW members who were lucky enough to attend our January meeting heard expert speakers M. Catherine Jones, a local law and labor attorney, and Janice Knight, a senior human resources professional, discuss the current issue of sexual (and other) harassment in the workplace.
The definition of workplace harassment was provided, and we learned one of the advantages of being an employee in the state of California: the State has defined several additional ”protected classes” of people who may not be discriminated against. While federal law makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), disability, age, citizenship status and genetic information (whew!), California state law also prohibits discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, medical condition, AIDS/HIV, political activities or affiliations, military or veteran status, and status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking.
Personally, I think that list makes it easy to see why small business owners have a very large, difficult and potentially expensive burden staying legal, but that discussion is for a different article than this one.
The biggest surprise for me was learning that retaliation claims are far more common than actual harassment claims. This is because many harassment claims do not rise to the level where they need to be reported to the EEOC or other official agencies – they are settled (or dealt with) inside the company. But afterwards, the person who made the complaint is then retaliated against, such as not receiving a deserved promotion or pay raise, being sidelined to a less important role, being unexpectedly transferred or laid off, etc. This results in a claim of retaliation.
During the business portion of the meeting, Gail Parle read a list of “gems” from the history of our club, naming many of the activities we’ve undertaken over the years that are now long forgotten (or heretofore unknown to newer members). Our calendars of Notable Women in Nevada County, cookbooks, Individual Development classes, marching in the Constitution Day Parade and more are part of our rich history here. Gail will be retiring as club historian, and if you might be interested in picking up where she leaves off, please talk to a board member or Gail so we can answer any questions you might have.