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Alleged employee crimes could create hostile work environment

Florida should tread carefully when made aware of criminal accusations against an employee, especially when it involves co-workers. Taking a side could inflict a hostile work environment on one or more employees. A federal appeals court has sent a case illustrating this situation back to the trial court that originally heard the matter.

The issue arose when a female employee of a correctional facility accused a co-worker of raping her outside of work. Before this incident, other female co-workers had lodged complaints at work regarding his conduct. The employer never took any disciplinary action against him about those reports but did place him on administrative leave while a criminal investigation was underway for another rape accusation.

During his leave, management issued messages expressing concern for his well-being. One mass email that included one of the alleged victims asked employees to send the accused rapist words of encouragement. Even though she had an active restraining order against the co-worker, the employer refused to bar him from the premises when she was present. Distressed by management’s favorable attitude toward him, sheeventually quit and sued her employer for creating a hostile work environment. Her claims were dismissed at the trial level, but these circumstances prompted the appeals court to decide that the case possessed sufficient merit to be heard by a jury and remanded it back for trial.

Employees in Palm Beach County who are concerned about the indifference of management toward these types of legitimate concerns might have a Boca Raton, Florida, hostile workplace claim. They might want to meet with an employment law attorney to see what remedies they might have.

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