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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

Lessons from the sexual harassment scandals in Congress

Legislators from Florida are taking action on the recent scandals involving members of Congress and alleged unwanted sexual advances. The resignation of Sen. Al Franken and the planned retirement of Rep. John Conyers has prompted Congress to implement new rules with regard to sexual harassment awareness and training. During a news conference on the same day that Franken went public with his decision to step down from his legislative duties, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that members of Congress will be required to attend training on workplace harassment before every session.

Representative Theodore Deutch from Florida's 19th district has sent a letter to Congress demanding to learn more about the allegations brought against the two aforementioned politicians. At this point, the congressional Office of Compliance has responded that such complaints are handled confidentially; however, Representative Deutch and other lawmakers demand to know more about settlements, reassignments, retaliation and overall handling of complaints filed by victims.

Supreme Court to bring clarity to whistleblower protection

A Supreme Court case could clarify the legal protections for whistleblowers. The ruling could help employees in Florida understand their rights when they believe that they need to report corporate misconduct. The case involves a former employee of a real estate investment trust. He claimed that he was fired after reporting violations of Sarbanes-Oxley securities laws to senior management.

Believing his dismissal to be an act of retaliation, the man filed a lawsuit and cited the Dodd-Frank Act, which establishes protection from retaliation for whistleblowers. His former employer contested his claim on the basis that he never reported the alleged wrongdoing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company has argued that a whistleblower must report to the SEC in order to gain a protected status.

Two big mistakes that employers can make with online job ads

If you are like many job hunters, you turn to apps and websites like LinkedIn as well as industry-specific job boards to find open positions. You may also follow the social media accounts of companies that particularly interest you. Well-known job resources like Monster.com might also be good places for you to search.

As you read job ads and go through the online application process, watch for two things that might indicate an employer that is not as open-minded as you would like. In fact, some job ads practice discrimination, sometimes in a subtle manner. A lawyer can help determine if an ad is discriminatory under Florida law.

Former worker sues Tesla for racial discrimination

Florida readers may be interested to learn that a former Tesla employee has filed a class-action lawsuit against the automaker, claiming that the company's Fremont, California, factory is a "hotbed" for racial discrimination. The lawsuit was filed in Oakland on Nov. 13.

According to media reports, black workers have filed at least two other racial discrimination lawsuits against Tesla in 2017, claiming that the company did nothing after they complained about racial slurs. The latest suit is the first to make claims on behalf of a group of black workers.

Complaining about sexual harassment in Florida

Sex discrimination and harassment at Florida workplaces is illegal. Despite this, the behavior continues to occur, leading the victims to wonder what they can do about it. It is important for victims of workplace sexual harassment to understand how they should complain and what to expect once they do.

Under federal law, employers that have 15 or more employees are prohibited from workplace discrimination based on their protected statuses, including gender. Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex discrimination under federal and state law. Victims of workplace sex discrimination who work for employers with 15 or more employees may file claims, but they must start by complaining within their companies according to the outlined procedures.

Have you faced workplace sexual harassment in a restaurant?

The hospitality and food industries have thrived in Florida due to tourism and population growth. While you may find working in a restaurant to be a fun, challenging and rewarding job, some parts of the job are not as pleasant. This is especially true of sexual harassment at work.

What is harassment?

Are Florida servers and bartenders making minimum wage?

When it comes to your job, making money is usually the most important factor. While it is nice to enjoy your workplace and fraternize with colleagues, your work is still work, and you need fair compensation for it. Serving and bartending are notoriously difficult yet potentially lucrative careers, but both of these positions rely on income paid by patrons in the form of tips.

As any server or bartender will tell you, diners do not always tip. In fact, if business is slow or patrons are stingy, you may not even make minimum wage. There are a few other things you should know about servers and minimum wage if you want to ensure you are making a fair salary. 

Why ignoring sexual harassment is bad for employers

Sexual harassment can take place regardless of what field a Florida resident may work in. Although cases of harassment occur in many different companies, only 30 percent of female victims make complaints according to a representative of the EEOC. A smaller number of victims will file a charge with the EEOC. In some cases, companies that know or suspect that harassment has taken place may ignore it or hesitate to take action.

This may be more likely if the accused was an executive or someone else who is vital to the company's success. However, failing to take action could result in damage to a company's image as well as financial penalties. Typically, a charge made to the EEOC will result in a business being investigated at the very least. If the case has merit, it could cost a company hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

Is age discrimination always illegal?

The federal law ADEA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, strives to prevent age discrimination in employment. It applies for workers 40 and older, as long as their employer has at least 20 workers. So, someone who is 25 may not necessarily have an age discrimination case.

This person would have to look toward state law to see if a case was possible. In Florida, it may be. The FCRA, Florida Civil Rights Act, covers all workers regardless of their age and applies to employers of 15 or more people. Some local laws go even further. Orlando's anti-discrimination policies, for example, apply to businesses with more than 10 employees, as well as businesses that have five or more workers who put in more than 30 hours a week.

How to handle sexual harassment in the current climate

In many workplaces across Florida, the conversation around the office water cooler has recently been focused on the ongoing spat of sexual harassment allegations involving prominent executives and politicians. In most of these situations, unwanted sexual advances, lewd comments and more serious instances of harassment have taken place in workplace environments, and they went unspoken for many years.

A salient point in the current conversation about sexual harassment and hostile work environments is related to the silence kept not just by victims but also by witnesses. A New York Times article about the disgraced Harvey Weinstein, formerly of Miramax Pictures, discussed the delicate issue of silent bystanders. Acclaimed film director Quentin Tarantino has confessed that he knew about the Weinstein case, and he now regrets not having done anything about it, particularly when he was in a position to do so.

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