Two measures intended to protect California’s migrant workers from exploitation – including sexual harassment – have cleared the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer Houman Fakhimi hopes that these measures will be given careful consideration by our legislators.

The first measure, Senate Bill 516, is labeled as an act relating to human trafficking. It builds upon existing law under Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, which holds that any person who deprives another of personal liberty with the intent to obtain forced labor or servitude is guilty of human trafficking, and should face a prison sentence and a fine of up to $500,000.

This new measure would prohibit employers in California from hiring foreign workers that are brought to this country by labor contractors who aren’t registered with the state. Labor contractors that are registered are subject to scrutiny by the state’s Labor Commission, which seeks to determine whether contractors are violating worker rights.

Additionally, S.B. 516 would be barred from certain practices, such as charging recruitment fees to workers, which is a commonplace gouging tactic that is often employed by human traffickers.

Meanwhile, the other measure, Senate Bill 666, addresses employment retaliation, specifically by employers of foreign workers who complain about unsafe or unfair working conditions.

It’s common for many immigrant workers to be treated poorly and subjected to working conditions that we would never deem acceptable for American workers. However, immigrant workers are often caught in a difficult position because employers simply threaten to turn the workers over to immigration officials if they file a formal complaint.

With this bill, the immigrant workers would be given some leverage, which would involve fines of up to $10,000 for a violation.

If the legislation is passed, it would help to assist individuals like “Angela,” who came to the U.S from east Asia, hoping to make a better life for herself. However, the labor contractor who helped her to secure a visa then turned around and told her that she owed $12,000 and that she would have to work for a decade to pay off that debt.

Her days stretched on for 18 hours at a time at a nursing home, where she was forced to sleep in the hallway and given only scraps of food to eat. When she tried to escape, she was threatened with deportation.

Another huge problem for foreign workers, is sexual harassment and sexual violence. It’s rampant, particularly in the agricultural industry. However, few victims report it because they fear severe retribution.

Other workers are frequently exposed to dangerous conditions. Many work long hours in intense heat with few breaks and little water. One foreign worker, a 17-year-old pregnant female, recently collapsed and died from heat exhaustion one afternoon while working in a California vineyard.

To top it off, the wages that are paid are unlivable.

Targeting the employers who perpetuate these kinds of conditions will ultimately make California a safer, more humane place to work.
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Riverside Sexual Harassment Attorney Houman Fakhimi has learned that a Los Angeles city councilman and city controller hopeful, has announced his intention to audit the police department’s risk management division in order to unearth an answer as to why so many officers are embroiled in litigation.
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A good number of those cases involve claims of sexual harassment, many of which were substantiated. As we recently reported in our Rancho Cucamonga Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog, two of those cases brought recently by lesbian officers resulted in a $1 million settlement.

But that’s actually a small portion of the overall total. Councilman Dennis Zine says that the city has spent nearly $50 million on legal settlements in the past few years. Zine says many of these cases were avoidable, if only commanders had been more efficient in terms of policing their own ranks. Zine himself is a former Los Angeles Police Department officer.

While we admire Zine’s tenacity in rooting out what is clearly a serious problem within the LAPD, it’s interesting that in announcing his resolve, he makes no mention of a sexual harassment claim that was made against him back in 1997.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Zine was a sergeant at the time and he and another female officer were on a business trip to Canada. She was invited to attend a police competition with Zine as his guest in Canada. She believed the two to be platonic friends. She later alleged Zine had made inappropriate sexual advances toward her during that trip.

Zine would later defend himself by saying that not only were the claims exaggerated, but that the two had actually been dating.

The department conducted an internal investigation of the alleged incident, and ended up finding no proof of wrongdoing. Of course, proof may be difficult to come by when it’s the word of a subordinate against a superior. What’s more, the Los Angeles Police Department doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to handling these sorts of situations – as Zine himself is alleging.

It’s also worth noting that a disciplinary board reviewed that internal investigation and said that while it may not have been able to find him guilty of any wrongdoing, he was given a verbal lashing for conduct that was indicative of “unbelievably poor judgment.”

The officer who had initially made the allegation then filed a civil action against the department. We know that the city paid about $60,000 to defend against that claim, but Zine eventually reached an undisclosed personal settlement with the accuser.

Today, the councilman says his memory of the incident, the lawsuit, the details of the settlement – all fuzzy, conveniently. He says the important thing is that his conduct didn’t occur at work and it didn’t cost the city millions of dollars, like some other claims.

It’s worth noting that whether or not inappropriate conduct between a superior and a subordinate actually happens at work doesn’t matter. And a lower claim payout doesn’t necessarily mean the allegations were any less legitimate.
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A woman who used to work as a school counselor in New Mexico has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit alleging that after she ended a consensual sexual relationship with her female boss, she suffered sexual harassment, retaliation and defamation.

Our Rancho Cucamonga sexual harassment attorneys know that many people in this situation shy away from litigation, thinking that they must somehow be responsible for it because they had previously consented to a sexual relationship.
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The truth of the matter is that no one agrees to be sexually harassed. No one has the right to threaten you with job loss or other adverse career-related consequences because you won’t engage in sexual activity.

Many companies have internal policies against consensual sexual or romantic relationships between colleagues – especially those where there is an inherently unequal professional gap between the two parties.

Such relationships may be ill-advised, but they don’t necessarily break the law – unless one of the individuals feels in some way coerced or pressured into the relationship. Likewise, if the relationship ends and one party ends up suffering retaliation as a result, that too crosses the legal line.

In this case, the principal and the counselor engaged in a mutually consensual relationship during a work-related trip in early 2011. The relationship spanned about seven months, at which time the counselor decided to end it.

Following that decision, the counselor says the principal became hostile – culminating with the counselor being placed on administrative leave. The counselor says this was at least in part due to the fact that she had ended the relationship.

The school would not comment on the reasons for her being placed on administrative leave, though the superintendent was alleged to have told her it was due to the fact that a complaint was made against her regarding her expressed lack of confidence in the administration.

That was after the counselor, along with two other teachers, contacted police about inappropriate conduct on behalf of a social studies teacher, as reported by students. While police investigated the claims, the counselor says the school never took any action against the teacher. The superintended was said to be upset that the teachers went straight to the police – despite the fact that teachers are required by law to report potential crimes against minors and students to police.

No arrest was made because, while the teacher’s conduct was inappropriate, it wasn’t illegal.

The counselor says her relationship with her bosses deteriorated from there, and she was not only placed on leave but later transferred to another school.

She has filed the suit seeking not only general damages, but also loss of earnings, attorneys fees and other costs.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates that it is illegal for an employer to fire, harass, demote or otherwise retaliate against someone for either filing a discrimination complaint or because they complained to superiors about workplace discrimination or because they participated in a formal investigation.

If you have questions concerning adverse employment action taken against you as a form of sexual harassment or retaliation, please contact us today.
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A federal discrimination lawsuit filed against the Hooters restaurant chain alleges that the company forced a waitress out after brain surgery left her with a shorn head and an unsightly scar.
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Our Fullerton employment discrimination attorneys know that this certainly is far from the first time that Hooters – and establishments like it – have been embroiled in this kind of litigation.

On one hand, you have a business model that relies heavily on the appearance of its employees. Yet on the other hand, you have to balance that with the rights of workers.

Such a model doesn’t excuse discrimination any more than it would excuse sexual harassment (as evidenced by a $275,000 sexual harassment case the chain lost last summer in Kentucky, where a 24-year-old waitress had been the victim a laundry list of unwanted sexual advances demeaning behaviors and odd recrimination from her managers).

As some legal scholars have pointed out, a lot of cases such as the one before us now are settled before they ever go to trial, which means it is difficult to measure the success of the company’s argument that they are not only selling food, they are in fact selling an atmosphere of sexuality.

But this woman, now a nurse, may have a strong claim on the basis of the Americans With Disabilities Act. This is the law that forbids employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability, which can be defined as:
–An actual mental or physical impairment;
–A history of an impairment;
–A perception of an impairment, based on appearance.

This woman’s situation could potentially fall into all three categories. As a spokesperson with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pointed out, a company can not shield itself from a discrimination claim by simply citing customer preference, so long as the plaintiff has the ability to perform the job’s essential functions.

According to court documents, here’s what happened:

The plaintiff began working at the restaurant back in 2005. She had no issues, and by all accounts was a good employee.

Then last summer, doctors found a large mass in her brain. Specialists determined that she had to undergo immediate brain surgery, an intensive procedure in which a part of her skull had to be removed in order to extract the mass from her head.

The surgery went well, and she suffered no long-term effects. Her boss visited her while she was still in the hospital, and reportedly told her that as soon as she was physically able to do so, she could return to work. He also told her that she could wear jewelry or a chemo cap to detract from the bald patch and scar.

However, another supervisor disagreed. He told her that if she wanted to return to work, she would need to wear a wig. The problem was, wearing it was actually an impediment to her healing, not to mention the fact that she found it painful.

Due to her refusal to wear the wig, her supervisors slashed her hours significantly – to the point where she had no choice but to quit. This tactic, her lawyers argue, is a violation of state law.

Discrimination based on disability is just one form. It’s also illegal to deny employment or take adverse action against an employee on the basis of race, skin color, religion, gender, national origin or pregnancy. Additionally, California law specifically protects against sexual orientation discrimination.
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Two lesbian Los Angeles Police Department officers – one retired – will receive a $1.25 million payout following allegations of severe sexual harassment by a 25-year-veteran sergeant.
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Newport Beach Sexual Harassment Lawyer Houman Fakhimi has learned that part of what made this case so solid was the fact that not only did you have two plaintiffs with similar accounts against the same individual, there were numerous other police officers who had not filed suit who were prepared to testify against the sergeant.

According to court documents, the harassment against the two women dragged on for a year and occurred on numerous occasions. During that time, the women were reportedly subjected to a barrage of lewd comments and sexually-charged gestures that specifically referenced their sexual orientation.

It’s worth noting that while no amount of sexual harassment is ok for anyone to endure, these were not to women who could be considered thin-skinned.

For example, the now-retired officer spent years as a closeted gay woman in the U.S. Navy, enduring years of sexual harassment. As her lawyer indicated in describing this situation, “it took a lot” for her to finally say, enough is enough.

How do you know when you’ve reached that point?

In order to answer that question, we must first explore how sexual harassment is defined. It’s essentially a form of sexual discrimination. It is characterized by visual verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature, unwelcome, severe or pervasive and affects your working conditions or establishes a hostile working environment.

Conduct isn’t considered sexual harassment if it’s welcome. This is why it’s usually a good idea to clearly communicate your discomfort with the person’s actions, either in writing or verbally, adding that it needs to stop.

In order to pursue litigation, a single incident probably will not be enough to warrant a claim, unless it is severe, such as rape or attempted rape. In those cases, criminal charges would likely also be appropriate.

Otherwise, a single, unwanted request for a date or something of that nature might be inappropriate and it may offend you. However, if it ends there and/or after you have made it clear you want it to stop, then it may not be considered sexual harassment in the legal context.

Some of the questions you may want to kick around as you explore the possibility of filing a lawsuit:

–How long did the harassment go on?
–How many times did these incidents occur?
–Were other people also sexually harassed?
–Would anyone else be able to back your claims?

To be clear, if you answered no to the last two questions, it does not mean you don’t have a case. It just means the case might be wrought with greater challenges, which is all the more reason to hire a legal team with extensive experience.

In the case involving the two homosexual police officers, the police department conducted its own internal investigation, though the results of that were not released publicly. We do know that the sergeant in question resigned shortly after the conclusion of that report.

What is especially troubling to us, aside from the fact that someone who was trusted to uphold the law was so blatant in breaking it, is that it appears the agency acted to protect him. The department reportedly failed to take any official action on the women’s complaints until after they had filed a lawsuit.
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Yoga is taught as a way to help one build strength and find a centering peace.

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However, San Bernadino Sexual Harassment Lawyer Houman Fakhimi has learned it was anything but for a young, aspiring yoga instructor who was being trained at the Bikram Yoga facility, where the founder had trained numerous A-list Hollywood celebrities.

The 67-year-old founder is accused of making repeated and aggressive sexual advances at the younger instructor, who was 20 when she first began training at his center, where she worked for four years.

Not only did he sexually harass her, she says, he repeatedly and aggressively groped her. In one instance, in retaliation for her rejections, he reportedly pushed her leg so hard during an assist with a difficult pose that he caused her hamstring to tear. He also allegedly humiliated her in front of other students.

She said she knew of many other women who were struggling with some of the same aggressive behavior. But she claims they too were afraid to say anything, for fear that all they had worked for would be discarded.

It’s unsurprising that she and other young women would have been afraid to speak out, given not only the instructor’s position at the center, but also his many high-profile connections and rave reviews. It was he who held the power to ultimately grant her certification.

Sexual harassers know how to manipulate their victims. They know the power they hold, and they use it to their advantage in any way they can.

The victim in this case says the harassment began just five days into her first teacher training course.

In the middle of class, she says, he approached her and told her they had known each other in a past life. He asked if they should “make this a relationship,” adding that he had never felt this way about anyone else before and that their connection was “amazing.” The young woman says she was frozen with fear by the comments, but managed to sputter out that she had a boyfriend. The instructor said it was not an issue, as he had a wife, who he said was “mean” to him.

That was the end of that conversation – but far from the end of the harassment.

Sometime later, in that same class, the victim says he accosted her in class. He pushed her down toward the floor, pulled her leg and arm apart and pressed himself into her body, while also whispering sexually explicit things in her ear. She was not only frightened, but utterly humiliated.

After that, she says, she complained to the head teacher, who then confronted the founding instructor.

Thereafter, according to the victim, he began to get aggressive in his retaliation. This was when the torn hamstring incident happened. He also at one point publicly declared his “passion” for her. She also began to notice that the founder had taken up a number of strange rituals. Those included having numerous female yoga instructors-in-training brush his hair during classes.

In another incident, the victim says she asked the founding instructor to assess her chances of winning an especially difficult competition. He reportedly responded by grabbing her leg, forcing her down and making sexual demands, telling her he needed someone to love him and have sex with him so that he “wouldn’t die.”

She was able to escape. But after that, she says, he and his wife reportedly blocked her from teaching classes, attending certain advanced seminars and engaging in other similar activities.

Although the setting of the business may differ from most corporate offices, there is no mistaking that, based on her account, what occurred here was cut-and-dry sexual harassment and retaliation.
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Venture capitalist firm CMEA is being sued by three women claiming not only sexual harassment, but retaliation and failure to prevent harassment.
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Chino Sexual Harassment Attorney
Houman Fakhimi understands that the three former executive assistants recently filed a 17-page complaint alleging that the former president and COP of the partner conducted himself in ways that were both racially and sexually inappropriate. The case is Dawn-Shemain Weeks, et al. v. CMEA Development Co. LLC.

In fact, this is not the first time such allegations have been lobbed against a larger venture capitalist/tech industry firm, which numerous media reports have noted warrants a closer look at the overall culture of these firms.

For example, in February, the COO of Square resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment, though a lawsuit was never filed. He reportedly denied those allegations and was then hired by another large venture capital firm.

And last year, in another high-profile case, a female junior partner sued Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers alleging that she had suffered gender discrimination and retaliation. That case is still ongoing.

This case was reportedly much more than a single isolated incident, as the firm is attempting to suggest. Among the allegations by all three women, the administrator in question reportedly called one of the female employees a “dirty bird.” He also is alleged to have routinely watched pornography on his work computer and he pestered one of the women about her pubic hair grooming habits.

The women say that the administrative team at CMEA were well aware of this man’s propensity for inappropriate behavior. In fact, all three say they were warned by other higher-ups to stay away from him, as he was “a predator.” This directive insinuates that it is the victim’s responsibility to steer clear of the aggressor, as opposed to the aggressor’s responsibility to maintain an an appropriate and professional relationship. This is simply not the way the law works.

The women say they all three filed a formal complaint with the firm back in April of last year. The administrators appeared to initially take the claim seriously, by hiring an independent human resources firm to investigate the claims. That investigation reportedly resulted in the corroboration of the female employees’ account, and as a result, the administrator was ultimately bought out and dismissed.

However, after that, the female workers’ overtime pay was slashed by more than a quarter, while their workloads increased by nearly 50 percent – a clear indication of retaliation. One of the partners reportedly complained that the women’s complaints had cost the company a great deal of money.

The women say they were ultimately forced to quit, as their pay was no longer adequate.

CMEA denies that the pay cuts were the result of any retaliatory action, but rather stemming from efficiency and economic concerns.

This is a common cop-out given by companies who are trying to avoid admitting when they have wronged an employee who has filed a legitimate complaint. Given in this case that the change just happened to involve the three women who had filed the complaint, the firm’s claim here is tenuous, at best.

No matter the circumstances, a skilled sexual harassment attorney is key to any successful claim.
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The plaintiff in a Southern California sexual harassment claim says the treatment she endured at the hands of her boss was so severe, it literally made her vomit.
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After she reported it, she says, she was fired.

Irvine Sexual Harassment Attorney
Houman Fakhimi knows this tends to be the status quo for harassers and the companies for which they work. In environments that harbor that kind of behavior, there is a tendency to try to simply make the victim and the allegations go away, rather than doing the right thing and addressing it head-on.

That’s why it’s also not surprising at all that this is the same company accused of firing two whistleblowers who came forward to report mismanagement of about $1 million in taxpayer funds.

The sexual harassment case involves a woman who previously worked as the secretary for the head of a Medi-Cal Care Commission, overseen by authorities in Ventura County.

She said that at first, her boss was professional, but soon began to take an apparent interest in her career advancement. It wasn’t long though before the questions he began asking of her struck more of a personal tone. They were regarding her appearance, her romantic relationships and her daily bathing rituals.

This alone made her uncomfortable, but those questions were soon accompanied by long, inappropriate stares, particularly at her legs. He routinely began to make comments about her clothing, showering her with compliments and urging her to wear dresses more often.

She didn’t address the issue right away, she says, because she feared losing her job. For this same reason, she said, she participated in his banter disparaging other employees, even though she said it made her uncomfortable.

His behavior toward her began to worsen, she says. He would brush up against her, tough her knees, comment about his desire to role play in a sexual way with her. He told her that she should refer to him as “Sir” or “Boss.” One day when she asked how he wanted his coffee, he responded, “blonde, sweet and strong,” which was a clear reference to her.

This continued when the employee would attempt to change the subject or remind him that she was happily married. She soon found herself avoiding any situations in which she would have to be alone with him. He soon began sending her sexually suggestive e-mails and text messages, asking her to send photographs of herself to him. At one point, he gave her a flash drive containing pornographic movie clips. He later tried to grill her on which ones she preferred.

On one occasion, he asked her to come to lunch to celebrate his birthday – but to tell no one else about it. They went to a nearby book store with a cafe. While there, he reportedly came up behind her, pulled her hair and said crass things to her. When she broke free and ran out the door, he reportedly chased her and began to grope her.

On another occasion, while alone in the elevator, he reportedly spanked her.

This was the incident, she said, that caused her to become physically ill. She said she confided in two HR managers about what was happening, yet nothing was done.

Later, when she filed a formal complaint, one of those HR managers asked to meet with her privately outside the office. At that meeting, the manager reportedly said she could “see why this is exciting” to the employee.

She was subsequently fired.

No one should ever have to endure treatment like this.
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A superior court judge in Los Angeles has dismissed the case of a man who sued his former boss, the previous L.A. schools superintendent, for sexual harassment after finding that the case wasn’t filed in a timely manner. hourglass.jpg

Fontana Sexual Harassment Attorney Houman Fakhimi can’t stress enough the importance of contacting an attorney as soon as possible in these cases – even when you aren’t sure whether you intend to file a lawsuit.

In California, sexual harassment victims may have up to a year to file an administrative complaint regarding the incident with the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, under California Gov. Code Section 12960.

However, sexual harassment victims have just six months from the time of the incident to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which protects the federal right to sue if a complaint isn’t filed with the state DEFH. After that, the individual has between six months and one year from the date of that letter (depending on with which agency the complainant filed) to file a lawsuit. If that administrative complaint isn’t filed soon enough, you won’t be allowed to move forward with your case.

That’s why it is so critical that you meet with an attorney if you are even mulling the possibility of legal action. Failing to do this can result in you missing your opportunity to seek justice.

In this case, the judge took no specific issue with the merit of the claim filed by the former school employee, but instead ruled it simply wasn’t filed in the allotted six-month time frame allowable.

The employee reported that in the summer of 2010, the superintendent invited the male employee to his home where the two engaged in a sex act. The superintendent would later say the actions were consensual, while the employee said that over the course of two days, the superintendent pressured him with unwanted sexual advances and he felt trapped, worried he would lose his job if he did not comply.

Subsequently, the employee told two of his supervisors, who then reportedly failed to take any action for a number of weeks. The officials would later say the employee begged them not to do anything about it. Later, an attorney for the school district reportedly pressured the employee to drop the matter.

However, the intention to file a harassment claim wasn’t filed until the spring of last year – roughly two years after the alleged incident occurred.

Initially the board of education had approved a $200,000 settlement and lifetime health benefits for the employee if he agreed to vacate his post. However, the deal was leaked by officials in the district before it was final, causing the negotiations to break down.

That prompted the case to return to court, where the judge sided with the school’s request to have the case dismissed.

The employee complainant has said he intends to appeal the decision.

If a sexual harassment situation has gone on for an extended period of time, usually we will look to set that statute of limitations from the date of the most recent incident.

No matter what your situation, contact an attorney to learn more about your legal options.
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Many women who have worked to gain access to the video game industry in California and elsewhere are reportedly describing it as “frat boy culture,” rife with sexual harassment, discrimination and sometimes even outright sexual assault. nintendocontroller.jpg

Westminster Sexual Harassment Lawyer Houman Fakhimi knows that this is by no means the only industry to generate this type of reputation, but it has gained attention in recent years, as it has expanded exponentially. It has for years maintained its status as a multi-billion dollar industry, but it’s continuing to grow with the increase of mobile gaming options, with companies headquartered from right here in Orange County all the way to Boston, Mass.

It’s long been a criticism that female characters in video games are hyper-sexualized. However, we heard little from actual women who worked within the industry – which was likely in large part due to the fact that there were so few. Those who were there feared potentially fewer opportunities if they spoke out.

But now, many are coming forward to say they have been often subjected not only to outright discrimination through unequal treatment, but also harassment and hostile working environments.

For an obvious illustration of this, one need look no further than the biggest professional industry convention held last year in San Francisco, where one firm hired topless models to help them network. Other companies hosted parties for professionals – with S&M themes.

It is therefore no great surprise that females account for only about 10 percent of all video game designers and just 3 percent of programmers. Compare this to the general field of technology and graphic design, where women account for about 60 percent of graphic designers and about a quarter of all programmers. What’s more, female programmers are earning an annual salary of approximately $10,000 less than men who are doing the exact same jobs, according to a recent Gamer Developer magazine survey. Female designers make on average $12,000 less.

Still, this was generally unspoken common knowledge, until this past fall, when a number of women in the industry took to Twitter to generate a larger conversation about feeling unwelcome, overlooked and at times (particularly at conventions) even unsafe. Some female designers revealed they had been taunted, propositioned – and even groped.

Some have even gone so far as to say there is a feeling that the industry as a whole is “openly hostile toward women.”

This is, of course, unacceptable. There may be a perception that because the primary target audience of the product is male that a “boys’ club” attitude should be more accepted.

The law would not agree. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act holds employers responsible to prevent and stop on-the-job sexual harassment. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act bars sexual harassment in the workplace. The state law also covers protections for contract workers, as well as direct employees.

It’s worth noting that the majority of large gaming conferences do have sexual harassment policies, with a number of them even outright prohibiting the use of topless or scantily-clad models for use as essential props.

So while some would say improvements have been made over the last few years, it would appear there is still a long way to go.
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