Accountants all over the country are required by law to receive a state administered license in order to practice accounting. The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) provides Certified Public Accounting licenses to individuals who pass the CPA Exam and to those who can uphold the public protection mission of the CBA. Accountants have the responsibility to deal with client’s personal details, they handle account information, they audit financial transactions documents, and they collect and analyze financial information. Their profession makes them vulnerable to lawsuits resulting from mishandling information to making simple mistakes that can cost thousands of dollars.
As a certified accountant, you are required to abide by the laws and regulations under the California Accountancy Act. This means you are required to comply with federal and state accounting requirements that involve keeping up with accounting legislation. Failing to comply with the regulations enforced by the CBA can result in the suspension or revocation of an accounting license.
The California Board of Accountancy provides that a disciplinary action is warranted when licensed accountants:
- Fail to comply with federal and state law: accountants cannot be convicted of a criminal act. Accountants are required to uphold the rules relating to the practice of public accountancy.
- Forge Financial Documents
- Evade Tax Obligations
- Fail to Respond to Board Questions
- Breach of Accountant Responsibilities
- Repeat Acts of Negligence
- Practice Without an Active License
- Commit Bank Fraud
With the rise of sexual harassment allegations in the office space, it is crucial that an accountant maintains integrity in the workplace. Sexual harassment and other sexually related crimes can result in the suspension or revocation of an accounting license. If you are in the state of California, you are required to abide by the sexual harassment laws which will be discussed in more detail in the section below.
If you are an Accountant and accused of sexual harassment, it is important to understand the laws that pertain to workplace sexual harassment. Not all acts that may be considered offensive are sexual harassment. False accusations occur more often than one may think which is why if someone is accusing you of sexual harassment, your best move would be to contact a sexual harassment attorney.
To speak with a Sexual Harassment Attorney to help defend your Accounting CPA License, you may contact us at 800-905-1856. The following section will discuss sexual harassment in the accounting office workplace. Additionally, it will highlight some of the ways to challenge sexual harassment accusations if you were in fact an accountant not acting with the intent to satisfy a sexual pleasure or with intentions to cause offense.
Sexual Harassment and the EEOC
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administers claims made by employees against their employers on the basis of discrimination. According to the EEOC, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee based on their age, color, disability, gender identity, national origin, pregnancy, sex, sexual orientation, race or religion. Additionally, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee that has filed a discrimination claim against an employer.
The EEOC explains that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that is based on a person’s sex. Sexual harassment can come in the form of unsolicited sexual advances, asking for sexual favors, requesting sexual favors in exchange for better treatment in the workplace, or physical unsolicited touching.
In sexual harassment claims, the victim and the harasser can be either man or women. This means that sexual harassment is not only men to women, but it can also be men to men, woman to men, or woman to woman. Additionally, the law extends to individuals of the LGBTQ community.
Under the federal discrimination laws, it is not unlawful to make sexual comments, to tease a co-worker, or ask someone out on a date. However, it is unlawful to engage in acts that create a hostile or unwelcoming environment. For instance, if you repeatedly ask a co-worker out on a date and you have been let down multiple times, it may create a hostile working environment for that person. The federal law provides that it is harassment when the act is continuous or severe enough to create an unwelcoming environment in the workplace.
When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, the federal law explains that employers must take the appropriate steps to address the situation. If the harassment continues the employer is required to take care of the situation by letting, go of the harasser and providing a report. However, if the employer does not apprehend the harasser or fails to act, then the employer may be held responsible in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
What Acts Are Sexual Harassment?
Sexual acts such as those mentioned below are not unlawful if they are welcomed by the other party, no matter how gross the conduct may be. If the sexual advancement or crude humor was welcomed, then the other party may not raise sexual harassment allegations or file a claim to the EEOC. Claims that are filed to the EEOC are thoroughly investigated to ensure that all sides are fairly represented under the law.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing provides that the following unwelcomed acts are considered unlawful in a workplace.
- Displaying sexual materials in the workplace
- Engaging in sexual gestures or making sexual noises with the intent to annoy or offend
- Making physical contact including rubbing a person’s body part, intentionally rubbing up against them, hugging, or pinching
- Sharing unwelcomed sexual jokes or sex stories
- Staring at a person over a period of time or checking out a person every time he or she walks by
- Sending unwelcome letters, text, emails, or notes that are sexual in nature
- Sending a coworker unwelcomed sexual images or videos including gifs, memes, or pornography
- Sexual comments directed towards a person’s body or general appearance
- Questioning a person about their sexual past interactions or about a person’s sexual orientation
Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace, at a work-related event, or while carrying out a work-related duty outside of the workspace. Acts that intimidate, humiliate, or offender a coworker, supervisor, or other agents of the workplace that are sexual in nature can count as sexual harassment. The individual that raises a claim to the department of human resources or to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not have to be the person that the act is directed to. For instance, an employee that is around sexual comments or witnesses sexual acts in the workplace that cause a discomfort or offense may raise these claims to the EEOC or to human resources.
What Acts Are Not Sexual Harassment?
Individuals that are accused of sexual harassment should know that there is a fine line between what is considered harassment and what is not considered harassment. First and foremost, harassment, as mentioned earlier, is a repeated or severe act that has caused discomfort, humiliation, intimidation, or offense. Isolated acts are usually not considered harassment. Harassment is repeated acts that create a hostile or an uncomfortable working environment. In most cases, if you made someone feel uncomfortable once and never did it again or you stopped after being told that your actions are causing discomfort, then your action may not be enough to constitute a sexual harassment lawsuit.
The following are acts that are not considered sexual harassment in the workplace. Keep in mind that the acts mentioned above are also not considered sexual harassment if the acts were welcomed by the other party. Other forms of non-sexual harassment include:
- Making fun a person’s skin color, age, or religion
- Making racial slurs or using nicknames to demean another person
- Making offensive remarks about a person based on a person’s age, color, disability, gender identity, national origin, pregnancy, sex, sexual orientation, race or religion
- Sharing offensive or inappropriate material in the workplace including images or videos
This type of non-sexual harassment in the workplace is also considered a form of discrimination that can be addressed by the EEOC. If you are an employer, you are required to educate your employees on the laws that guide different types of harassment in the workplace. As an employer, you are required to take the appropriate steps to address the problem.
How Sexual Harassment Claims Are Filed
To file a sexual harassment claim one must first gather the details of your situation and present them to your company (usually the human rights department). You may also want to have the names of individuals that can testify on your behalf during the investigation procedure. Additionally, if the problem is unresolved, you may contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to conduct an investigation.
How to Defend Against a Sexual Harassment Claim
If your actions have ever made someone feel uncomfortable it is best to apologize and explain that it will never ever happen again. It’s better to clear up the act or the misconception at an early stage than to wait until the situation worsens and you lose your job. What’s worse is if you are fired for sexual harassment it may affect your applicability to future jobs. Nobody wants to hire someone with a sexual harassment work history. Be sure that if you committed an act that is considered sexual harassment that you work with the person and heal the wounds you may have caused.
On another note, if you are an accountant that is falsely accused, whose actions were not enough to be considered sexual harassment, or if you did not intend to cause discomfort, there is a number of things you can do to challenge the allegations. A sexual harassment allegation can result in the loss of your accounting practices in California, to learn more about the ways you can defend your case, you may want to speak with an attorney.
Hire an Attorney
- If you have been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, you must not take the allegations lightly. When a sexual harassment claim is made, you will be notified by a human resource representative. After learning of the allegations, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal law attorney to discuss your situation. You should let your attorney know all the details regarding the relationship with the person making the allegations and the details of the allegations. Coming straightforward with your attorney will allow them to fully understand your situation. You may want to include information pertaining to acts that you think could have led to the claims and information given to you by your human resources representative. The more your attorney knows the better prepared he or she will be to address your situation.
- In most cases, if you are innocent the truth will usually come through after the human resource department or the EEOC conducts a thorough investigation. However, if you feel there are things that need to be addressed on your behalf, you may hire an attorney. An attorney will come with a price, but it is much better to pay an attorney than to lose your job based on false or ill-supported allegations.
Cooperate to the fullest extent with the investigators
- The investigators will not always provide a perfect investigation, there is always room for error. If you have been falsely accused of sexual harassment, your best bet is to cooperate with the investigators and provide all the information they request. By showing you have nothing to hide and by providing supporting evidence of your claims, the truth will come through. For instance, if your claims state that a sexual act occurred on a certain date, you may have evidence proving that you were at a different place at the time of the allegations. By providing proof from your side, you may be able to prove your innocence. Another thing you can do is make a list of coworkers or other bystanders that can help support your claims. At the end of the day, you want your side of the picture to be well represented.
Your actions were not sexually motivated
- Say you’re a class clown and your humor has carried out to your later years. You will find that not all people like your jokes, additionally some people will take offense at anything you say. Jokesters sometimes face allegations based on an isolated instance. In some cases, you may have made a joke that went too far, but was it really your intention to cause discomfort? If you did not mean to cause discomfort and the joke or slur was not directed at any person around you, you may face charges if you have been told to stop or you have repeated this act enough times. However, if this was an isolated incident and you did not cause great discomfort in the workplace then it may not be considered sexual harassment.
- On another note, if you are a person that communicates through touch. Say you poke someone to get their attention or you pat someone on the back to show affection, your actions may be misinterpreted. However, if you have been asked to stop by an employee or coworker and you continue to touch others after knowing it causes discomfort then you may be charged with sexual harassment. On the other hand, if you pat someone on the back and they bring this up to HR then it will not constitute as sexual harassment. The act must be severe enough to cause intimidation, offense, or great discomfort.
You’re accused by someone you gave you consent
- As mentioned above, no matter how gross the conduct may be, if you have been given consent by an employee to engage in crude humor or you have been given consent to pinch someone buttocks, then you may not be charged with sexual harassment. However, if you continue after you have been asked to stop, meaning that the actions are no longer welcomed that’s, then you may be charged for sexual harassment. In most cases, if you are given consent to engage in such actions, then you cannot be charged with sexual harassment. Under the law, the actions must be unwelcomed in order to be considered harassment.
Someone had a change of heart
- If you are engaging in sexual intercourse or acts with a coworker and they no longer feel the same way, they cannot accuse you of sexual harassment for actions that occurred while you had consent. In other words, once they are over you, they cannot claim that the previous acts were unsolicited if, in fact, they gave you consent. False sexual allegations can be challenged if you have proved that you did engage in acts while having consent. You can prove your side by providing text messages, emails, letters, notes, witnesses, that can show you had consent before engaging in sexual acts.
You took the correct steps to address the situation
- As an employer, you need to act quickly whenever a sexual allegation is brought to your HR department. Upon receiving notice of a sexual allegation, it is your duty to launch an investigation, in some cases you may remove the employee from the workplace during the investigation, or you may provide sexual harassment training in your workplace. Employers are often held responsible for acts committed by an employee or another person in the workplace. If you took the correct measures to deal with the problem, then you may not be liable for the allegations.
Contacting a Sexual Harassment Attorney Near Me
Accountants and CPAs who are charged with sexual harassment allegations should understand that an investigation will usually find whether you are guilty or not. If you are found guilty, you will be required to pay fines for your conduct. What’s worse is that after you pay your fines and serve a jail sentence, the California Board of Accountancy will take away your ability to practice accounting in your state. This is true especially if you have been convicted of a sex crime such as sexual assault or battery. After a sexual assault or battery conviction, you may be required to register as a sex offender and you may never have the ability to reinstate your accounting license.
If you are falsely accused, there are ways in which to challenge some of the findings of an investigation. To speak with a local Sexual Harassment Lawyer with regards to defending your CPA license, you may contact us at 800-905-1856.