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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

When does a joke at work go too far?

Everyone loves a good joke. However, the joke occasionally goes too far. It is vital for everyone in a workplace to understand when a joke is more than just silly and borders on harassment

Harassment is not always obvious. Reader's Digest went over various subtle signs of workplace harassment, and one of them was lewd jokes. Some people may think they are just being silly when they make a comment that is derogatory toward someone's gender, race or sexual orientation. All employees should know that they do not have to put up with some jokes, especially if they become more degrading as time goes on. 

Dozens of McDonald's employees file sexual harassment complaints

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and courts nationwide are processing complaints and lawsuits from dozens of people who claim that they suffered sexual harassment while working at McDonald's. A Florida woman has joined the group of victims. On top of being the target of unwanted touching from a co-worker, who also aimed sexually explicit comments at her, the woman said that the co-worker asked to pay for sex with her 1-year-old daughter.

Twenty five complaints have been filed against various McDonald's restaurants and corporate offices throughout the country. Some of the plaintiffs were only 16 years old when they endured groping, indecent exposure, requests for sex and lewd comments while working for the fast-food chain.

Sexual harassment occurs at a high rate in the legal profession

Florida women who work in the legal profession probably already know that sexual harassment is common in their field. In a recent survey conducted by the International Bar Association and Acritas, 36.6% of women and 7.4% of men claimed they had experienced sexual harassment while working in the profession. Furthermore, one in two women said that they experienced bullying in the profession while one in three men said they experienced bullying.

The survey determined the most common forms of sexual harassment that were experienced in the profession. For example, the survey found that sexist comments, such as jokes about sex or gender and inappropriate sexual humor, was the most commonly experienced form of sexual harassment at 67.9%. Sexually suggestive comments came in a close second at 66.8%.

What to know about disabilities at work

Roughly 30% of all employees who have a college education have a disability according to the Center for Talent Innovation. However, only 3.2% of workers actually identify themselves as disabled according to a study from the National Organization on Disability. Many Florida workers who are disabled have what is referred to as an invisible disability. This means that an individual looks healthy but could actually be experiencing a migraine or some other ailment.

Some workers have said that they face discrimination as a result of their disability. For instance, they say that their disability makes it appear as if they don't know how to do their jobs or how to do them in a timely manner. When employers don't know the extent of a worker's disability, they are unable to make adjustments. For people who have migraines, a simple adjustment to the lighting at their desk can alleviate their symptoms.

Will Florida raise the minimum wage to $15?

As a minimum wage worker, you are experiencing a slightly higher paycheck this year. With a 21-cent increase, the minimum wage is now $8.46. This is a 2.5% increase thanks to the fact that the state constitution connects the minimum wage to inflation. But while this is probably a welcome bump to your earnings, it is probably not enough. 

There are surging efforts to raise the minimum wage in the Sunshine State to $15. Here is a look at how possible this may be and why getting paid the proper amount is so important.

Harassment claims increase in the #MeToo era

In 2018, the number of workplace discrimination complaints was down 9.3% compared to 2017. However, the number of sexual harassment complaints increased by 13.6% in that same time period. The increase in complaints is partially fueled by a willingness for employees in Florida and elsewhere to speak up in the wake of the #MeToo movement. While many of the complaints have been made by female employees, this is not always the case.

An increasing number of those who have spoken up about harassment at work have faced retaliation from their employers. One woman said that she was fired about a week after making a claim against one of the company's investors. The woman was required to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of receiving her final paycheck.

Record keeping important to build sexual harassment case

A process exists for workers in Florida to address sexual harassment. Victims do not have to accept that nothing can be done about the inappropriate behavior of co-workers or supervisors. To lay the groundwork for a complaint, a person should document the harassing behavior. A simple list with dates and descriptions of what happened could improve a person's ability to provide details when discussing the problem.

Initially, people are advised to directly tell harassers to stop. The offender should be informed in clear terms that the behavior is offensive and unwelcome. At times, this could resolve the problem if the person genuinely did not mean to cause discomfort. If the harasser persists with unwanted sexual advances or lewd comments, then the person could make a formal complaint at work. Many workplaces have formal policies and procedures, and victims should follow them. Typically, someone's immediate supervisor should be made aware of the problem. If that supervisor is the harasser, then the person needs to take the issue to that person's boss. Documentation about the episodes of harassment could be submitted along with the complaint.

Jury awards $11.1 million in sexual harassment lawsuit

Florida employees who have faced sexual harassment in the workplace may be able to file a lawsuit against their employers if their harassment claims are not adequately addressed. This was the case with a former employee of the company Hologram USA, which produces holograms of deceased celebrities.

The woman who brought the claim said that the company owner made her view pornography and put his hands on her legs. She also said that for one colleague's birthday, the owner had a male stripper visit the workplace. The complaint said she was fired when she turned down the owner's advances.

Retaliation over workers' comp claim is illegal

Unless you fall under a specific exception, you have the right to pursue a workers' compensation claim after you get hurt at work. Unfortunately, some employers are hostile to injured workers. Your employer may take your injury or filing of a claim as a threat. If this is the case, your employer may take negative employment action against you

It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for getting a workplace injury or seeking workers' compensation benefits for it. If your employer retaliates against you, you may be able to take legal action. Here are some important things to know about the workplace protections you have under Florida law. 

Harassment complaints increase

During the previous fiscal year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 7,609 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. This was a 13.6 percent increase over the previous year. However, workers in Florida and elsewhere filed 9.3 percent fewer complaints overall during the last fiscal year. The increase in sexual harassment claims is seen as a good thing by some because it means that individuals are feeling more confident about making their voices heard.

Ultimately, they feel as if their employers will actually do something to resolve the issue in a satisfactory manner. It also means that employees have a better sense of what sexual harassment is and how to recognize when it is taking place. This can be attributed to additional training provided by employers throughout the country. However, according to a member of the EEOC, only about 15 to 20 percent of cases are being reported.

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