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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

Co-host claims she was sexually harassed by Bill O'Reilly

Florida residents who have followed the sexual harassment case involving the former CEO of Fox News may be interested to learn that another one was settled during the same time frame. According to a report that was published on Jan. 10, a former co-host of a Fox News weekend show had accused Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment.

The woman claimed in a letter to the owner of 21st Century Fox that she was removed from her show in retaliation for refusing O'Reilly's advances on numerous occasions. The letter stated that he attempted to kiss her and made sexually charged comments to her, and that it sometimes sounded like he was masturbating. On top of this, the current co-president of Fox News allegedly constantly called her and kept asking her to come by his office.

EEOC releases guidance on national origin discrimination

Employers in Florida and across the United States have received updated guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding national origin discrimination. The direction arrived in the form of a questions and answers guide intended to help employers better understand anti-discrimination laws. Businesses get tasked with familiarizing themselves with the updated guidance to ensure that they remain compliant with the anti-discrimination laws that impact national origin discrimination.

National origin discrimination protection is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The protection shields individuals from hiring or employment discrimination based on where they are from in the world, whether that origin is actual or just perceived. An employer that engages in national origin discrimination, or one that silently consents to national origin discrimination faces liability and exposure due to its discriminatory employment practices. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's numbers suggested that national origin discrimination claims increased between 2000 and 2015.

When sexual harassment happens at work

Some employees in Florida may wonder how to handle a sexual harassment situation when a colleague in a senior or client partner position takes advantage of a subordinate. One such scenario occurred in Alaska when an entry-level worker received inappropriate texts from a male team member who was in a high ranking position. The woman did not solicit any attention from the senior team member and was caught by surprise when she starting receiving the messages.

Although the sexual harassment situation was reported to human resources and evaluated, no communication was expressed to indicate that the offender was reprimanded or suspended. The situation continued to escalate when the harassment victim left her job and started working for one of the previous employer's clients. Unfortunately, the new position presented a flash from the victim's past when she was delegated the responsibility of working on a project that required communication with the offender.

Preventing harassment and discrimination in restaurants

People who work in the hospitality industry in Florida know that restaurant culture is often casual and carefree. While camaraderie between coworkers can be a positive thing in a restaurant, some restaurant managers get too comfortable and end up crossing the line. Restaurant workers who feel that they have been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work may choose to file lawsuits.

When a restaurant employee decides to take a harassment or discrimination case to court, their employer could suffer serious reputation damage. Even if a restaurant employee loses their case, news of the complaint could cause a restaurant to lose customers who side with the employee despite the court's ruling. That's why it is always in a restaurant's best interest to take action to prevent harassment and discrimination claims.

Man who was furloughed after asking for FMLA leave may sue

Eligible employees who work for Florida employers that are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act may take approved leave in order to recover from a serious health issue or to care for a family member who is suffering from one. Employers are not allowed to retaliate against workers who request or take leave as demonstrated by a November ruling by a federal district court in Ohio.

.The case involved a manager of a construction company who had complained about a workplace safety violation which the company refused to correct. The company threatened to fire him if he made any additional safety complaints. He had always received excellent performance evaluations.

LGBT workers face uncertain legal landscape on discrimination

People in Florida who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be worried about seeing an erosion of the civil rights they gained in recent years. When Donald Trump takes office as president, he could fulfill his promise to nullify executive orders made by his predecessor. Such actions could include ending the protections granted to LGBT federal workers.

Trump has also expressed support for a Congressional bill known as the First Amendment Defense Act. If passed by Congress and signed by the president, the act would permit businesses and health care organizations to justify discrimination against gay and transgender people because of religious beliefs.

Sexual harassment statistics show the problem's extent

Many women are sexually harassed while they are working on the job in Florida. A report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates that 7.9 percent of the charges filed with the agency in 2015 by Florida claimants were based on sexual harassment, making the state second only behind Texas for the highest percentage of sexual harassment complaints.

The EEOC reports that it received 6,822 complaints about sexual harassment in 2015. Out of those, 17.1 percent were filed by men. The agency reports that many people who face workplace sexual harassment never file complaints because of fears that they will lose their jobs if they do so.

When do rude comments cross the line into harassment?

Most people have experienced a rude coworker in their career. It is difficult to know how to respond to repeated derogatory comments, especially when they say that it is, "just a joke." You don't want to overreact but when the comments keep getting worse then you must draw a line. It's important to know when coworkers step over that line from joking into harassment.

Harassment comes in many forms

Although sexual harassment is the most often reported, harassment comes in many forms. Someone can harass you based on your race, age, religion and sexual orientation. The law doesn't protect people against rude comments, but it can protect you against a hostile work environment. Know that harassment becomes illegal when:

1. Offensive comments become a common occurance

2. The comments are intimidating, abusive, or hostile

Protections for whistleblowers

As Florida workers probably know, employees who report actions by an employer that are illegal have protection under the law against adverse consequences of so doing. Protections may include not only being fired from the job because of that action but other consequences such as harassment or other ways of retaliation.

For example, under federal law, protections are in place for workers who are fired in retaliation if they report safety or health violations. Many states offer whistleblower protections in addition, but laws may vary depending on the state. Some states require a whistleblower to file claims of adverse actions in a short period of time and may a period as short as 90 days to file a claim. Before filing, it is important to know exactly which employees are protected under a particular state and against whom they may file.

Standing up for what's right shouldn't get you punished at work

Sometimes workers have to report inappropriate or illegal practices in the workplace, and unfortunately their appropriate action can lead to retaliation from their coworkers or superiors. This can include demotion, dismissal, termination or discipline for reporting or thinking about reporting racial or sexual harassment or the harassment of a fellow employee.

What does someone do when they suspect they are or will be retaliated against for reporting inappropriate behavior at work?

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