Sexual Harassment / Hostile Work Environment / Women’s Rights
In too many instances, the playing field is still not level. We represent women in cases involving sexual harassment, hostile work environment, pregnancy discrimination, and Equal Pay Act violations. We are committed to leveling the playing field and protecting employee rights in Southwest Florida. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, if your pregnancy has resulted in an adverse employment action, or if you are not receiving equal pay for equal work, please call us now.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is an incredibly harmful and dangerous form of discrimination that persists in the workplace today in seemingly epidemic proportions. We have seen sexual harassment occur in our hospitals, restaurants, grocery stores, public schools, higher education, government, large national retail chains, professional offices, manufacturing firms and everything in between. No one is immune. It can happen anywhere. The consequences are devastating.
Sexual harassment is a subset of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by, among other things, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. These laws apply to employers with more than 15 employees. However, even in smaller workplaces, we have had success obtaining relief for employees victimized by sexual harassment and related deplorable conduct. Sexual harassment can take the form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can come from a supervisor, co-worker, or someone who is a client or customer of the employer. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, isolated incidents, or off hand comments, sexual harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it results in a hostile or offensive working environment, or results in an adverse employment decision (i.e., the victim is terminated, demoted, or reprimanded).
Victims of sexual harassment can suffer from depression, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and feelings of loneliness, isolation and despair. If an adverse employment decision is involved, victims also stand to lose significant income, in addition to their livelihood.
What should I do if I have been sexually harassed at work?
1. Consult an attorney
You should seek the advice of an attorney experienced in handling sexual harassment claims at the earliest possible moment you believe that you may have been subjected to sexual harassment.
2. File an internal report with your employer
If you suspect that you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, after consulting an attorney, the first thing you should do is determine whether the company has a formal policy on how to report sexual harassment.
The employer’s sexual harassment policy will most typically be found in your employee handbook. If at all possible, you should report the sexual harassment internally by following the reporting procedures set forth in your employee handbook. It is important to reduce your complaint to writing, and to send your complaint in a manner where you can obtain and save proof of delivery. E-mail, for example, is often an effective way of conveying a sexual harassment complaint. It is highly unlawful for an employer to retaliate against you for making a report of sexual harassment.
3. File a report with the EEOC or FCHR
If your employer cannot or does not correct the situation, the next step is to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Florida Commission On Human Relations (FCHR). The EEOC and the FCHR are the federal and state agencies, respectively, charged with preliminary responsibility for investigating claims involving unlawful discrimination, including but not limited to sexual harassment.
In Florida, victims of sexual harassment must file a charge of discrimination with either the EEOC within 300 days of the last discriminatory incident or the FCHR within 365 days of the last discriminatory incident. In most cases, timely filing with either agency is the equivalent of filing with both agencies, and is sufficient to preserve all of your rights under federal and state law. Failure to timely file a charge of discrimination will result in the forfeiture of your claim.
Only after the EEOC or the FCHR concludes its investigation, will you have the opportunity to file suit in state or federal court. Generally speaking, upon the conclusion of the EEOC investigation and dismissal of your claim, you will have ninety (90) days to file suit to preserve your rights under federal law, but you will also have four (4) years from the last discriminatory incident to file suit to preserve your rights under state law.
The FCHR works a little differently. If the FCHR finds reasonable cause that the employer violated the law, you will have one (1) year from the reasonable causing finding to file suit under state law. If the FCHR fails to find reasonable cause, and if the FCHR concludes its investigation within 180 days, then you must request an administrative hearing within thirty (30) days to preserve your rights under state law. If the FCHR fails to find reasonable cause, and also fails to conclude its investigation within 180 days, then you have four (4) years from the last discriminatory incident to file suit under state law. Under any scenario, you still have ninety (90) days to pursue your federal claims upon dismissal of the charge from the agency.
4. File a civil lawsuit in state or federal court
When your charge of discrimination is dismissed from the EEOC or the FCHR, you have a limited amount of time to bring a civil action against your employer to enforce your rights in either state or federal court. In a civil lawsuit, you potentially could recover for your emotional suffering, lost income, punitive damages, and your attorneys’ fees and costs. You could also be reinstated to your prior position or receive an award of future lost income.
At Weldon & Rothman, PL, our attorneys handle sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not owe us for attorneys’ fees or court costs unless we make a financial recovery on your case by settlement or judgment. We are available to advise you during the employment relationship, help you write your internal complaint, prepare your EEOC charge of discrimination, assist you during the EEOC process, attend EEOC mediation with you, and file suit on your claim. Our attorneys fully appreciate the courage it takes to come forward with a sexual harassment complaint, and, after your lawsuit is filed, we will fight tooth and nail, day after day, on your behalf to enforce your rights and to hold your employer accountable.
We pride ourselves on our service to and our exclusive focus on Southwest Florida: Naples, Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Bonita Springs, Estero, Marco Island, Immokalee, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, North Port, Bradenton, Collier County, Lee County, Charlotte County, Manatee County, and Sarasota County. We have convenient offices in Naples, Florida, Ft. Myers, Florida, and Sarasota, Florida. We concentrate all of our efforts on serving and advocating for the people of Southwest Florida. This means that your case will be handled by a local employment lawyer who is available to meet with you in person, and who is familiar with the area’s legal community.
We appreciate the trust you have shown in our law firm. Let us help you achieve the justice you deserve. Please call us today for a free consultation.