Sexual harassment – a persistent problem in the workplace that affects people across the states, and Florida is no exception – is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state, federal, and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Title VII protects employers against:
- Unwelcome Sexual Harassment Advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
This includes acts that constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Common Occurrences of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man
- The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome
The victim should inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
How Am I Protected?
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment in Florida, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
An employer cannot retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sexual harassment (filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in a proceeding under Title VII ). (Participation means taking part in an employment discrimination proceeding. Participation is protected activity even if the proceeding involved claims that ultimately were found to be invalid).