By now, a lot of people have heard about the several sexual harassment claims filed against Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the hot yoga practice and owner of a global yoga empire. Bikram turned his system of yoga into an empire, with his name attached to over 700 yoga schools in over 200 countries. According to several women who accused Bikram of sexual harassment, no one dared speak up against Bikram. Sarah Baughn, one of his accusers even claimed that many people in the yoga community tried to ignore the growing criticism against Bikram, who was an icon to yogis and celebrities like George Clooney, Madonna, and Jennifer Aniston.
We may not have a definite answer as to why sexual harassment continues to occur at work, but we do know that both state and federal laws are on your side and protect employees from sexual harassment at work. Workplace sexual harassment can be defined as an unwelcome sexual advance or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with an employee's performance of his or her job duties, creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
If a California employee wishes to file a discrimination lawsuit against an employer, she/he must first file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and obtain what's called a "right to sue" letter. This process is also known as "administrative exhaustion". The systems are now highly automated and charges can be filed online. The EEOC permits you to mail in a letter containing the following information:
Before Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo hashtag gave way to a rising tide of sexual harassment victims coming forward with their stories, the "me too" phrase was coined in a legal case called Pantoja v. Anton. In Pantoja v. Anton, the stories of other victims of sexual harassment by the same harasser were excluded from evidence by the trial court, which found them irrelevant. Fortunately, the Court of Appeal reversed in a significant legal ruling.
As someone who fights on behalf of employees whose civil rights have been violated, it's important for me to be well versed in human resources. This way I know when a human resources professional has failed to do his or her job. I joined the largest professional human resources membership association in the United States, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), for this very purpose. (Yes, to spy on the enemy.) One area where human resource professionals need to step it up is to acknowledge when an employee has been wronged, rather than just supporting management and denying the problem.