Indianapolis Employment Law Blog

Social media may help to spur sexual harassment claims

It is impossible to count all of the ways that social media has changed how we interact and communicate in the modern day. This evolution of the internet has had a massive impact on all areas of American culture.

One thing that it is now being linked to is the growing trend of sexual harassment claims in the workplace. It may help to spur those claims, either by giving employees an outlet for their complaints or by giving the perpetrators another way to harass their victims. After all, messages and pictures sent on social media could constitute harassment in many cases.

Recognizing subtle forms of workplace discrimination

When many employees think of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, they think of blatant, obvious comments, actions or behaviors. However, workplace discrimination or harassment does not always take the form of an obviously inappropriate action.

According to a 2018 study, 64 percent of women across the country endured “microaggressions” in the workplace, or gender-based subtle discriminatory actions. Subtle forms of discrimination can be very damaging but more difficult to recognize. Additionally, it can be challenging to know what, if anything, to do about it.

Why does discrimination even exist?

You know what discrimination is when you see it. It's a worker getting fired because of their age. It's a promotion going to a man over a more-qualified woman simply because of her gender. It's a company giving all of the less desirable jobs to workers of a certain ethnicity.

But why does it happen? No matter what it looks like -- (those are merely three examples out of many) -- why do people engage in this type of behavior? Why is it something that workers have to worry about?

Sexual harassment is common in the medical community

The unfortunate reality, which has become more clear in recent years, is that workplace sexual harassment seems to be common in almost every single industry. If you thought there was a stereotypical industry that contained most harassment cases or that there were "safe" industries where that sort of thing did not happen, you're probably wrong. It can and does happen anywhere.

To really underscore this point, recent reports show just how common harassment is in the medical community. About four percent of male doctors and medical professionals claimed they had faced harassment in just the last three years. It's even higher for female medical workers, coming in right around 10 percent. Again, that's just in the last few years, so the percentages are likely higher if you consider harassment over the course of an entire career.

How discrimination can impact your mental health

Do you feel like you face discrimination on a daily basis at work? Maybe you keep getting passed over for promotions that you deserve because of your race. Maybe you hear snide comments made about you by coworkers of the opposite gender. Maybe you don't get paid as much because of your age.

Or, perhaps you don't even have a job yet because of the discrimination you face. Whenever you turn in an application or a resume, they say they'll call you back and they never do. You watch as less-qualified workers take the jobs that you want. It feels like you will never have the career that you always dreamed of.

That emoji in a text message could impact a harassment case

Text messages are often used as evidence in sexual harassment cases. A lot of harassment happens virtually these days, whether that means sending pictures or written messages.

But there's one other component to consider: The emoji. This small symbol, meant to quickly express an emotion, could play a huge role in a case.

Wrongful termination: Should you negotiate a severance package?

If you have reason to believe you are the victim of a wrongful termination, the first thing you should do is review your employee handbook and employment contract. This will give you a clear idea of the processes and procedures your employer must follow in the event of a termination.

When reviewing your contract, pay close attention to any mention of a severance package. If your contract requires your employer to pay severance as a result of your termination, discuss the details of collecting this with the HR department.

Indiana lawmaker working to close sexual harassment loopholes

An Indiana state representative who says that she was the victim of sexual harassment has introduced four bills aimed at holding state officials and lawmakers accountable for such behavior. Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster is one of the women who has accused Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill of inappropriate behavior. Another one of his accusers works in the Indiana Senate.

One of the bills would make lewd touching a felony instead of a misdemeanor if it involves things like drugging a victim, threatening or using deadly force or if the assailant is a state lawmaker or other office holder.

Avoid social media until your case is resolved

Social media has changed the way we communicate and view the world, and for many people, it's our main source of information. We share and post about everything-our stories, complaints, triumphs and tragedies. We follow the daily happenings of our friends and get the latest news updates.

For a lot of us, it has become second nature to use social media. And because it's an everyday part of our lives, often nothing is off limits. However, sharing on social media might also mean unintentionally communicating information that you might otherwise avoid sharing with the public, especially if you're involved in a court case.

Losing your job while on Family And Medical Leave Act leave

As an employee, if you qualify for Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) there may come a time when you want to take advantage of these benefits. For example, this is common when caring for a sick spouse or after having a child.

While it's your right to request FMLA leave, many people opt against doing so because they're afraid of losing their jobs.

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