Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

American families and individuals support themselves, obtain health coverage and achieve a sense of dignity and accomplishment from working. Unlike our private lives, we do not get to pick who we work with. As a result, in the United States, people at work are not allowed to interfere with our jobs or our ability to earn a living. There are Community Security Rules that protect all of us, including you, your families and children.

Thus sexual harassment is illegal under the Federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and under Florida law, Chapter 760.10 et seq., Sexual harassment is any kind of unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Any kind of conduct of a sexual nature that creates discomfort could be sexual harassment if it is disturbing and simply will not stop.

Sexual harassment may come in many forms. The following are some examples of sexual harassment:

  • A supervisor implies that the employee must sleep with him to keep a job.

  • An employee makes demeaning sexual comments about female customers to coworkers.

  • An office manager is disgusted by officers of a company who tell sexually explicit jokes.

  • A co-worker at a pinches and fondles a coworker against her will.

  • Male co-workers belittle her and refer to her by sexist or demeaning terms.

  • Several employees post sexually explicit jokes on an office intranet bulletin board.

  • An employee sends emails to coworkers that contain sexually explicit language and jokes.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, manager, or coworker.

Under the Law, there are a number of protections and steps that companies are required to take to prevent and stop sexual harassment in the workplace. Companies must institute a clear sexual harassment policy. In the employee handbook, a policy must:

  • define sexual harassment

  • state in no uncertain terms that it will not be tolerated

  • state that wrongdoers will be disciplined or fired

  • set out a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints

  • state that complaints will be fully investigated, and

  • state that retaliation against anyone who complains about sexual harassment is illegal.

Most importantly, if sexual harassment occurs, these steps must actually be followed and action taken. It is not enough to just say or write in a handbook that someone is protected- that would only be covering one’s behind. Instead meaningful and serious action must be taken to prevent and correct sexual harassment.

Retaliation: Indeed, most companies have a policy against sexual harassment in their Employee Handbook. Indeed, it is easy to just “put a policy in place.” The question is what actual steps are taken to deal with and prevent sexual harassment if it occurs? The next issue is whether the person who complained about sexual harassment was looked down upon or punished for reporting the sexual harassment? If a company punishes or allows punishment of a victim of sexual harassment, that is illegal and a lawsuit for retaliation may be filed.

In conclusion, it is illegal for a company to allow a culture of sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women, including retaliation.  Substantial damages may be awarded for the violation of such Community Security Rules, such as the $1.5 million dollar verdict obtained by The Fraley Firm, P.A. for a client who sued in a sexual harassment/retaliation lawsuit filed and won against a corporate executive and company.