In Florida, misconceptions exist about what constitutes sexual harassment. Many people, from those in service industries to managers, experience workplace harassment but fear reprisal, so they remain quiet.
The law protects employees, punishes offenders and awards damages to victims who have been sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment law is complex and continually evolving. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that sexual harassment couldn’t occur among same-sex persons. While the Supreme Court correctly overturned that ruling, other myths that have been debunked include:
- The harasser must be hurtful or cruel.
- Only opposite genders can sexually harass.
- Companies are not responsible for non-employee harassment.
- Sexual harassment must be sexual.
- Only victims who are employees can file sexual harassment claims.
- You can’t file a claim of sexual harassment unless it’s serious.
What to do if you suspect you’re being sexually harassed at work
Ignoring sexual harassment at work will not make it go away. The law protects you. If you are unsure of how to proceed, you should:
- Consider if your suspicions are reasonable, serious and actual.
- If you feel safe to do, tell the person to stop the behavior.
- Review the company policy for handling harassment.
- Make a verbal report to a supervisor or manager.
- Follow up with a written report to your supervisor/manager and human resources.
Be sure to be detailed with specifics, such as dates, times, occurrences and locations.
What to include in your sexual harassment notification
When dealing with sexual harassment at work, it’s vital to note who was present; the action and response; whether the harasser stopped, restarted, or escalated; and if you were threatened. Your employer should intervene on your behalf. If you’re not being supported, then you can take legal action.
Meeting with an experienced, skilled attorney with expertise in workplace harassment cases is a wise and sensible decision. Sexual harassment at work is demeaning. It affects victims mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. Whether you’re a service worker or CEO, you don’t have to be intimidated by your harasser. You’re not alone, and justice is your right.