Survey: harassment and discrimination common for women in tech industry

Recent reports and lawsuits indicate that women commonly face harassment and discrimination in the tech industry.

Although public awareness of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination has increased in recent years, these problems are still pervasive in Bay Area workplaces. Although many businesses in this area tout themselves to be employers with progressive attitudes, recent reports reveal that many of them have a long way to go when it comes to treating their employees respectfully and equally based on their gender.

A pervasive issue

Recent news reports have indicated the predominantly male tech industry is particularly awash with complaints of sexual harassment and gender discrimination from its female employees. Some of the incidents reported are listed as isolated incidents. However, in other incidents, the victims blame the problem on a company culture that condones these inappropriate and illegal behaviors.

According to a survey recently published in Fortune, the problem of sexual harassment and discrimination is not limited to employees of tech companies. The survey asked around 100 female tech company founders about their personal experiences in their careers. The results of the survey were not encouraging. About 67 percent of the founders said that they had experienced gender-based discrimination at some point in their careers. Furthermore, 35 percent reported that they had been sexually harassed.

Recent lawsuits reflect the trend

The extent of this problem has also been reflected in recent high-profile lawsuits. In one recent lawsuit, a former employee of Zillow sued the real estate tech company for sexual harassment. The employee alleged that while employed at the company, she was regularly subjected to sexually explicit email and text messages from other employees. She claims that management was complacent with the behavior and compared the company culture to an "adult frat house."

Additionally, in a lawsuit settled late last year, the vice-president of marketing for Tinder, a dating app, claimed that a cofounder of the company had sexually harassed her. She also claimed the company engaged in gender discrimination, as she was stripped of her title as cofounder strictly because of her status as a woman.

Legal protections

California employees are protected against sexual harassment and gender discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Under the act, any of the following inappropriate behaviors by a co-worker or manager may form the basis of a claim:

• Unwanted touching or inappropriate physical contact

• Treating women differently than men in the workplace

• Sexual jokes or lewd comments

• Making unwanted sexual advances

• Promoting males unfairly ahead of similarly qualified females

• Leering or making vulgar gestures

• Implement policies that unfairly affect male and female employees differently

• Openly displaying sexual materials (e.g. explicit magazines or pornography on computer screens)

• Requesting sexual favors in return for promotions or other forms of advancement

• Discriminating against pregnant employees

Employees experiencing prohibited behaviors are entitled to file a complaint with the proper state agency. If the agency finds grounds for the complaint, the employee may receive permission to file a lawsuit against the employer to seek relief, such as monetary damages, reinstatement or other appropriate relief. Under the law, victims exercising their right to file a complaint are protected from employment retaliation, such as demotions, reductions in salary or terminations.

Get legal help

If you are experiencing sexual harassment or gender discrimination in your workplace, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. If addressed early, your employer may adequately address the problem without the need to file a formal complaint. However, if this is not the case, an attorney can assist you throughout the complaint process and work to give you the greatest chance of a successful recovery.