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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

A fired worker may have a cause of action

In the perfect world, employers and employees would work harmoniously together for their shared interests. In reality, however, there is often conflict between the two, which often leaves the worker with little choice: comply or find another job. One of the reasons Florida employers wield so much power is because most Florida workers are considered at-will, meaning they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. But that power to terminate is not without limits.

To be clear, if a worker is hired under a contractual agreement, either individually or as a member of a group, such as a union, he or she is not considered an at-will worker. For the vast majority of other workers, a termination may be considered wrongful, and thus legally actionable, if the basis for the firing triggers some sort of other important, established legal right. For example, Legal commentators explain that if it can be shown a worker was let go because of discrimination against their race, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability or status in some other recognized protected class, that may be illegal.

How the ADA protects employee rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 makes it illegal for most employers to discriminate against qualified workers who are disabled. Furthermore, it is also illegal for employers to retaliate against a person for taking action to defend their rights under the ADA. Individuals who work for private employers with 15 or more employees can file disability discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Those who work for a government organization can file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

To qualify for protection under the ADA, an employee must have a significant impairment that substantially limits a life activity. For instance, those who have trouble hearing, speaking or writing could be covered by this legislation. Employees may be covered if an employer thinks that a person is disabled whether or not this is the case. If an employer obtains medical information about an employee, it must be kept confidential.

Sexual harassment a pervasive problem in health care

Sexual harassment is a more prevalent problem in some industries than in others. If you make your living working in a doctor’s office, hospital or similar environment, you may be more likely to experience it than you would otherwise. If you work in health care and are also female, you face an even higher risk of experiencing on-the-job sexual harassment, with many female doctors and medical students alike reporting experiencing this type of treatment at some point during their academic or professional career.

Just how widespread is sexual harassment in health care?

What to know about racial discrimination at work

Employers in Florida and throughout the United States ate not allowed to discriminate against workers based on their skin color or ethnicity. They are also not allowed to discriminate based on other attributes such as national origin per the terms of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination can occur whether an employer intended to do so or not. In other words, a policy could violate the terms of the Civil Rights Act even if it was designed to apply to everyone.

Companies cannot refuse to hire someone or make other employment decisions because an individual is married to or associated with a person of another color or race. It is important to note that the law does distinguish between race and color even though they are thought of as interchangeable. If a person decides to file a discrimination complaint, he or she has the burden of proof in the matter.

Employees claim Google is still retaliating against them

Workers in Florida and throughout the country may recall the walkout engineered by Google employees in 2018. Roughly 20,000 people took part in the event protesting the company's treatment of executives who were accused of sexual harassment. Although Google said that it would work to be more supportive of those who reported such issues, employees say that this isn't the case. Employees have also said that they were demoted or otherwise retaliated against after bringing their concerns to HR.

A representative for Google said that it takes courage to report misconduct and that all claims are thoroughly investigated. The representative also said the complaint process was simplified and that the company aims to be more transparent about its policies. However, those who work for Google say that there is still a high level of secrecy as it relates to sexual harassment and other workplace issues.

Identifying sexual cyberharassment

No one should have to endure harassment. Thankfully, there are legal measures in place to aid those who may find themselves in a harassing situation.

In the age of media, cyberharassment is a somewhat common form of sexual harassment parties may have to deal with. Parties should understand a few key aspects of this form of harassment.

Woman files suit after employer retaliates

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, more than 50% of claims filed with the agency in 2018 were related to retaliation by employers. Generally speaking, employers in Florida and around the country are not allowed to retaliate against employees for taking part in a protected activity. For instance, an employee cannot be punished for making a sexual harassment or gender discrimination complaint against a company. In some cases, retaliation can occur even if a company didn't engage in harassment or discrimination.

In one case, a part-owner of a company was taken to court by an employee who alleged that she was the victim of sexual harassment. After arriving late to work, her shifts were cut from five per week to one per week. This was done in spite of the fact that she had permission to be tardy. She was later terminated after making a sexual harassment complaint against the individual who also served as her manager.

Research provides insight into the aftermath of MeToo

A study that was just recently released found that some men in Florida and throughout the country are more hesitant to work with woman. The research was conducted by the University of Houston during 2018, which was the peak of MeToo awareness. Survey participants were also questioned in 2019 after the movement somewhat faded out of the public spotlight. Of men who took part in the survey, 27% said that they don't meet alone with female colleagues.

Furthermore, 19% said that they would think twice about hiring a woman who they thought was physically attractive. However, the study did find that both men and women had a good idea as to what constituted harassment in the workplace. Examples of harassment used in the study included sending sexual jokes to females colleagues or repeatedly asking them out on dates. The study's results may undermine a claim made by some men that they associate less with women at work because they don't want to inadvertently harass someone.

Racial discrimination and a hostile workplace may co-exist

You would think that in our enlightened times, racial prejudice no longer has a foothold in a working environment. Unfortunately, this form of discrimination, like other forms, still exists.

The workplace can be harmonious and enjoyable, but it can also be a breeding ground for discriminatory practices. If you are a victim of racial discrimination, you may already know this.

Sexual harassment in the hospitality industry

As awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace grows, bars in Florida and around the country may also need to examine their practices and make sure they are protecting employees and customers. A July conference in New Orleans included a session on dealing with sexual harassment and violence in the hospitality industry. One of the key points from the panel was that focusing on the role of alcohol was a distraction. Furthermore, hospitality does not mean ignoring bad behavior from customers.

There are several strategies people in the hospitality industry can use to deal with problem customers. One is simply cutting them off. Some bars have specific strategies in place to help customers who are feeling uncomfortable. For example, ordering a certain type of drink can be a sign that the person needs assistance. Others train bartenders to pay closer attention to conversation as well as nonverbal cues to notice when someone may need help. One professional says that bartenders often assume that harassment does not happen in their bars until this type of training make it more apparent.

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