Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination and is illegal. Title VII applies to all employers with at least 15 employees, including those employees that work in federal, state or local governments.
Sexual harassment includes any type of unwelcome sexual advances such as a request for sexual favors, or any type of physical and/or verbal behavior that is sexual in nature and the victim’s employment is affected because they rejected or submitted to this type of conduct. Additionally, if sexual harassment interfered with the victim’s work performance or created a hostile work environment.
If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment in Florida, you may have legal remedies available to you. You should contact the sexual harassment attorneys at the Pensacola law firm of Stevenson Klotz for a free consultation.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Illegal harassment in your place of employment can fall into one of two categories: quid pro quo (this for that) or hostile work environment harassment.
In a quid pro quo, harassment happens when the harassing behavior results in a change in your employment status or benefits. In other words, if you submitting to the sexual advances becomes a condition of your employment or leads to you being demoted, fired, or given a lack of promotion opportunities then that is a quid pro quo.
In a hostile work environment situation, the conduct toward you is so pervasive or severe that it makes you feel like you are suffering from intimidation, abuse, or hostility, then that falls under this category.
What is Considered to Be Sexual Harassment?
In Florida and elsewhere, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, a demand for sexual favors, or other bodily or oral conduct that contains a sexual connotation and would be considered sexual harassment when:
- Your employment is affected
- Your workflow is unjustly interrupted
- An antagonistic, offensive and/or taunting work environment is created.
In a hostile work environment, sexual harassment could include:
- Staring or gawking at you in a sexually suggestive manner
- Making rude comments in reference to your body parts, clothing, etc.
- Contact such as patting, pinching, or rubbing up against you intentionally.
- Sending you notes, emails, etc. that contain sexual connotations.
Is My Employer Liable for the Harassment?
Your employer may be held liable for the harassment by your supervisor that ends up with you suffering negative employment actions such as being fired, failure to promote, and loss of wages. If your supervisor’s harassment ends up with you working in a hostile work environment, your employer may be able to avoid liability if:
- They can prove that they tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior
- You unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by your employer.
Additionally, your employer may be liable for harassment by regular employees or non-employees over who they have control such as customers and/or independent contractors who are on your employer’s premises if they knew or should have known about the harassment and didn’t take prompt and appropriate action to stop it.
How Do I Prove Sexual Harassment in Florida?
In many cases, your testimony may not be enough to prove what happened. Therefore, it is vital that you keep extremely detailed records related to the harassment. You will want to include in your notes:
- What happened
- When it occurred
- Who was involved in the harassment?
- Any witnesses
- How you reacted initially when the harassment occurred.
Is There A Way to Deal With Sexual Harassment in Florida?
If you believe you are the victim of harassment, you may want to take the following steps in an attempt to stop and/or resolve the problem. They include:
- Tell the person to stop. Let them know that their actions are inappropriate and violate the code of conduct
- Keep a detailed record of off events regarding the harassment
- If the behavior doesn’t stop, tell your supervisor and begin the process of filing a grievance as outlined in your employer’s handbook.
If the behavior doesn’t stop after you’ve confronted the person who is harassing you, you should make a complaint to your superiors. By doing this, it gives your employer the opportunity to do their own investigation and solidifies your complaint.
If your employer doesn’t take any action and the conduct persists, you may have to file a lawsuit that you suffered harassment and your employer may be held liable. You should report harassment to your employer in this order:
- Human resource manager and/or union
- Anti-Discrimination Board
The sexual harassment attorneys at the Pensacola, Florida law firm of Stevenson Klotz have the necessary experience to investigate, prepare, and litigate your sexual harassment case. We are proud of our record of being compassionate advocates for our clients.