Considering how much of our lives we spend working, the workplace should be a safe environment. However, this is often not the case. There are many ways in which a workplace could be dangerous. There could be dangerous conditions such as unsafe flooring or oft-ignored safety protocols that make the workplace a risk to enter.
But an unfortunately more common experience is that of sexual harassment in the workplace. This is a term that is both incredibly descriptive and troublesomely vague at the same time. In fact, there are actually two different types of workplace sexual harassment that Florida recognizes. We’ll look at both of these below and what you should do if you’re being sexually harassed at work in Florida.
What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?
Of the two kinds of workplace sexual harassment that Florida recognizes, it is the quid pro quo harassment which is the most easy to recognize for what it is. This is a form of harassment that follows a formula: Do a sexual favor for me and I’ll give you something in exchange.
For example, if you are told that the only way to get promoted is to sleep with your boss then this would be quid pro quo harassment. To some people this might not sound like such a bad thing. After all, they are being asked not forced and so the individual being harassed can turn down the advance.
But this attitude misses two important factors of quid pro quo harassment. The first is that it demoralizes and dehumanizes the employee. It is no longer their skills that are responsible for their success but rather their body. The second is that while it is often phrased as if it is a question, the employee that turns down a sexual advance of this nature is often penalized. They are passed over for promotions or given less hours, or any number of retributive actions could be taken against them.
What is Hostile Work Environment Harassment?
This form of sexual harassment can be both harder to spot and harder to prove. Hostile work environment harassment happens when there is pervasive or excessive use of unwanted sexual language, images, physical touching or the like that the reasonable person would consider objectionable.
Now it is important to note the use of this term “reasonable person.” This is why it can be so hard to prove hostile work environment harassment at times. Things like sexually charged jokes might seem perfectly normal to the average person on a jury. This is often distressing to those facing this kind of harassment because they can clearly tell that they are being made to feel unsafe.
How you handle this type of harassment can be difficult to figure out. Some companies will have a system in place in order to address feelings that the workplace is hostile. But others won’t and so you will have to rely on outside assistance.
One of the ways you can make proving this type of harassment easier on yourself is to keep a diary or journal with the comments and actions which you consider to be hostile or harassment. It might be hard to prove that one sexually charged joke is a sign of harassment but when you have a log full of them it is easier to see it for what it is.
What Should I Do if I’m Being Sexually Harassed in the Workplace?
First, instruct the harasser to stop immediately. Next you will lodge a complaint with your supervisor and another complaint with the human resources department if there is one.
Afterward, you will report a complaint to the Florida Commission on Human Relations; just make sure that you do so within a year of the incident in question. You will also want to report a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of the incident.
You may be worried about lodging a complaint with your employer. After all, if the person harassing you is a higher up than you it could be incredibly intimidating. You may think that you will be discharged as an employee, have your hours cut or worse because of the complaint. Good news, according to Chapter 60L-36.004(10) of the Florida Administrative Code “the State of Florida does not tolerate retaliation against anyone who has complained of sexual harassment or who has participated in an investigation of alleged sexual harassment.
If you think you are being retaliated against for your complaint then reach out to the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They will offer help in this matter. If it is found that your employers were retaliating against you for your complaint, then there will be quite the price to be paid by them.
It’s important to note that sexual harassment in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility. If you see another employee being sexually harassed, it is your duty as a moral citizen to speak up about it. The best way to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace is to work together to crush it when and wherever it tries to raise its ugly head.
I’m Being Sexually Harassed in the Workplace, Can I Sue?
If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace then you absolutely could have a very solid case. However, being sexually harassed in the workplace will not be enough to win a case. In order to win a case you will need to be able to prove that it happened and convince the court of the same.
This is possible on your own but it will be significantly easier to work with an experienced attorney. They’ll help you to collect evidence, build your case, decide the most convincing details to focus on and more. A great attorney is hard to beat and they’ll work hard to ensure that you receive justice for your unwarranted harassment.
If you want to bring a claim against your harasser then give Vukelja & dePaula a call at (386) 217-1338 to learn how we can help you get the justice you deserve.