Remember, if you are an employee in California, there are both state and federal laws protecting you from harassment at work.
Forms of harassment can include an employer allowing for or promoting a hostile work environment. In a hostile work environment, an employer can be held liable if it is proven that it allows for unwanted behaviors, including advances, physical contact, remarks and photographs, to occur within a workplace.
We bring this up because recently we read a disturbing story about a San Francisco firefighter who claims that his coworkers and managers harassed and discriminated against him after finding out that he tested positive for HIV.
According to the Associated Press, Stephen Kloster, 40, has filed a claim with the city over harassment. If the city denies that Kloster was harassed and dismisses his claim, he may proceed with a lawsuit. In his claim, Kloster says that he lost 100 pounds and became ill five years after joining the San Francisco Fire Department. He says that in 2007, he discovered that he had HIV, and he was able to return to work after regaining control over his poor health.
“[My co-workers] wouldn’t allow me to cook, they’d ostracize me,” Kloster said of his co-workers, according to the AP. “They’d make jokes, they’d say I was gay, that my girlfriend was a man.”
Kloster claims that he is not sure how he contracted HIV, saying he may have been exposed to the virus while he was working on ambulance duty. He was allegedly splashed with blood while treating a patient on a call at one point. In his claim, Kloster said that he has been disciplined after confronting people who were harassing him over his diagnosis.
Fighting Discrimination and Harassment at Work
Again, most forms of harassment and discrimination at work are illegal. In some instances of disability harassment, there are special protections in place for workers under federal and state laws. If you experience a hostile work environment, it may be in your best interest to speak to a labor attorney. He or she can help you move forward with a claim.
As the case above shows, sometimes there is more to moving forward with a harassment case than simply filing a lawsuit. In some situations, you may have to work with state or government agencies on filing a claim prior to a lawsuit. Connect with us on Facebook or on our website for further information about your potential options.
Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys