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Low-wage workers are at higher risk of sexual harassment

Hollywood has taken the spotlight when it comes to sexual harassment cases. But such pervasive abuse can occur in almost any occupation.

That’s especially the case for workers in low-wage industries like foodservice, agriculture and hospitality. That’s because many have significantly less bargaining power in their positions. In some cases, workers may fear retaliation for standing up to their harassers.

Suffering from disadvantages

While public figures like Matt Lauer, Al Franken and Russel Simmons were all reprimanded, their status may have played a significant role. But employers in low-wage industries may choose to remain idle if sexual harassment doesn’t result in a PR crisis.

Biased mistreatment can also be a substantial problem for more impoverished female workers. Aside from gender bias, some women may face prejudice at work based on their race, national origin and other characteristics.

How low-wage workers can combat sexual harassment

Workplace harassment is defined as any form of sex discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In California, harassment can stem from a perpetrator’s sexual desire, gender bias or discriminatory workplace practices. Here’s how low-wage workers can report their mistreatment:

  • File a complaint with state employment agency: Workers who wish to file their complaint can send it to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Victims can do so by mail, over the phone or online.
  • Allow time for an investigation: If the agency finds one’s case to be valid, the agency will likely notify the accused party and proceed with an investigation. Depending on the response from the alleged harasser, the state may approve the case for mediation or a lawsuit.

Low-wage workers deserve fair representation

Even though California has established robust sexual harassment policies, many workers are still suffering at the hands of the manager and other co-workers. While high-profile industries have made sexual harassment a major talking point, there is still a long fight ahead for equal workplace treatment.