Americans support their families, secure their future and achieve a sense of dignity through their work. In our country no one is permitted to manipulate our jobs or careers. But it is a reality of the workplace that a few people have power over the majority of workers. These few often have the power to fire at will and end careers.
Therefore, the law prohibits people in power, whether the CEO, an officer, a manager or supervisor from manipulating, directly or indirectly, an employee into sexual relations. Over the years, many more women have entered the workforce making them more susceptible to men who occupy positions of power. In 1986, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, that when a boss coerces a female subordinate into having sex it is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sexual manipulation and coercive promises or threats are forms of sexual harassment, even if sex relations occurred between a superior and a subordinate. This is called quid pro quo sexual harassment. See §1604 11(a)(1) and (2).
Thus, sexual harassment is any kind of conduct in the workplace that makes sex or sexual issues a factor. In any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals who are in inherently unequal positions there is always the issue of power and compliance. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest, exploitation, favoritism, and bias, such relationships undermine the real or perceived integrity of the chain of command. See Toscano v. Dimmo, 570 F.Supp. 1197 (D.Del 1993).
Because the circumstances change, even conduct that may have been previously voluntary, may become unwelcome. Where the parties consented at the outset to a sexual or romantic involvement, the past consent does not remove grounds for a charge based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct. When a relationship ends, there may be bias (even if unintentional) for or against the former partner, or there could be an ongoing impression of such bias; in other words, the effects of a romantic or sexual relationship extend beyond the relationship itself.
For example, when the subordinate employee, usually a female, breaks off the sexual relationship, trouble follows: there may be unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, anger, punishment and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual or threatening nature. When this conduct interferes with the work environment, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, it is illegal under Florida and Federal law. As an example, see the court’s decision in Broderick v. Ruder, 685 F.Supp. 1269 (D.DC 1988).
If you have a question about whether you have a sexual harassment case or if you have been punished for reporting sexual harassment, please feel free to give us a call. We do not charge for consultations and everything you tell us is 100% confidential.
When you challenge inappropriate workplace behavior you are not only asserting your right to work in a workplace free of sexual harassment, but you are protecting us all from harm.