Federal law protects workers from sexual harassment. It has been codified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as other Florida and federal laws.
The harassment itself
To be clear, the law does not prohibit one-off teasing, off-hand comments and other non-serious conduct. To be illegal, the harassment either must lead to a tangible employment action (demotion, firing, promotion, etc.) or the harassing conduct must be so severe, pervasive or frequent that it creates a hostile work environment.
How the employer gains liability
If the sexual harassment led to a tangible employment action, then the employer is automatically liable.
If not, then the employer can avoid liability. However, it must prove that the employee unreasonably failed to complain to the employer about the harassment. In addition, the employer must prove that it took reasonable care to prevent the sexual harassment. Finally, they must prove that they promptly corrected it when notified.
Tangible employment action
A tangible employment action, or TEA, refers to any significant change in employment status. This includes both hiring and firing, but it also includes demotions, promotions, denied promotions, reassignments to undesirable locations and roles, and more. It could also be significant changes in employment benefits, work assignments, compensation, etc.
What to learn
First, familiarize yourself with your employer’s policies on sexual harassment, including how to report, the investigation process and whether they have proof requirements. Next, when you experience sexual harassment, contact your Florida attorney to understand your options and next steps.
Be sure to gather your evidence and know your potential witnesses and other victims. Finally, report the sexual harassment to your employer.