If you employ workers in Florida, you need to know about Florida’s workplace harassment laws. As an employer, you need to understand what type of workplace conduct amounts to unlawful harassment.
You also need to know how to protect your company from workplace harassment claims. Finally, you should know when to contact an experienced employment attorney to investigate or resolve harassment complaints.
This knowledge will help you limit inappropriate harassment at work while reducing potential liability for Florida harassment claims.
Unlawful Harassment in Florida
Workplace harassment is a form of employment discrimination. In Florida, most employers must comply with both federal and state employment discrimination laws. To avoid discrimination under federal law, you must comply with numerous laws including:
- Title VII which, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin;
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects persons age 40 or older; and
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which protects individuals with a mental or physical disability.
On the state level, you must avoid workplace discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). The FCRA prohibits Florida employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
Prohibited Harassment Conduct At Work
Two types of workplace harassment can lead to liability: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment in Florida
Quid pro quo means “this for that” in Latin. This type of harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor requests sexual favors from an employee in exchange for a raise, promotion, or other benefit. In other words, the harasser makes employment decisions based on another employee’s agreement to or denial of sexual favors.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment in Florida
Hostile work environment harassment involves unwanted conduct that is severe or recurring and makes it difficult or uncomfortable for another employee to work. Typically a hostile work environment involves repeated incidents.
However, a single incident of inappropriate conduct may give rise to a hostile work environment if it is very severe. For example, a single episode of a sexual assault or a mock lynching at the workplace could create an unlawful hostile work environment.
Less severe incidents that can create a hostile work environment if they occur frequently may include things like:
- Offensive jokes,
- Slurs and name calling,
- Physical threats,
- Mockery and ridicule, or
- Insults and intimidation.
Importantly, general rudeness or petty annoyances do not constitute unlawful workplace harassment in Florida. The offensive conduct must be related to an employee’s sex, race, age, color, or other protected characteristic to be unlawful.
How to Protect Against Workplace Harassment
As a Florida employer, you need to be proactive and take affirmative steps to prevent harassment at work.
Have a Clear Policy
First, you should create a harassment policy that informs employees of inappropriate workplace conduct and its consequences. Your policy should state that you will not tolerate harassment on any grounds. You also should instruct employees on how to report unwelcome harassing conduct.
Provide Appropriate Training
Second, you should train your supervisors, managers, and employees on workplace harassment. Inform them of the types of prohibited workplace conduct.
Teach them how to watch for conduct that could lead to a hostile work environment. Communicate your harassment policy, and allow employees to ask questions.
Third, when an employee reports harassment, address the complaint promptly. You need to conduct an unbiased investigation to determine whether unlawful harassment occurred.
If it happened, you need to take steps to resolve it and make sure it does not happen again. You may have to fire the harasser or take other steps designed to stop similar conduct in the future.
Do Not Retaliate
Finally, do not retaliate against employees who report potentially harassing conduct. You need to allow employees to bring their harassment concerns to you without fear of reprisal or termination. This is key because you can be found liable for unlawful retaliation even when not liable for an underlying harassment claim.
Hire Experienced Employment Lawyers to Combat Workplace Harassment
You need the advice of reputable employment attorneys to ensure that you take all appropriate steps to prevent and address harassment at your workplace.
We can help you create harassment policies, offer training on workplace harassment, and investigate harassment complaints. And if you need to defend against a harassment charge, we will represent and defend your business at the appropriate administrative agency or court. Contact us today to discuss your Florida workplace harassment strategy.