What Constitutes Unlawful Workplace Harassment?
Many workplaces involve many different kinds of people spending a significant amount of time in close proximity to one another. Some individuals will likely have conflicting points of view, may snap at one another, or may look down on certain employees for a variety of factors. For this reason, it is only to be expected that some disputes or confrontations may exist in a typical workplace. In addition, many bosses may be demeaning or even unfair to their subordinates. While such incidents are unpleasant and can result in hurt feelings or anger, they are not always necessarily against the law and, in many cases, an employee does not have the right to take legal action in regard to the behavior.
Federal and Florida state laws both protect employees from unlawful harassment, however, not every type of mistreatment rises to the level of prohibited behavior. First, for an employee to have rights to legal action for harassment, the harassment must involve a class specifically protected by civil rights laws on either the federal or state level. Protected classes in Florida are protected from harassment based on the following factors:
- National origin;
- AIDS or HIV diagnosis;
- Immigration status;
- Marital status; or
- Genetic information.
Even if a coworker makes a disparaging remark about another individual’s race, sex, or other protected factor, the behavior may still not constitute unlawful harassment. This is because, in order to qualify as unlawful, the harassment generally must create a “hostile work environment.”
A hostile work environment can be created in two main ways:
- By behavior that is pervasive and ongoing; or
- By a severe isolated act.
The determination of whether a particular individual had to endure a hostile work environment is made based on the particular circumstances of each individual case. For example, a crude sexual joke may not qualify as a hostile work environment, but an isolated incident of sexual assault likely would. In order for jokes or other comments to constitute actionable sexual harassment, the jokes would usually have to be repeated enough that a reasonable person would not feel comfortable working in that environment. While sexual harassment is the most commonly discussed type of workplace harassment, claims can also involve harassment based on any other protected factor, such as race or religion. Furthermore, if an employee reports harassment through the proper channels, the employer is prohibited by law from retaliating against them for doing so.
Speak With An Employment Law Attorney In Plantation, Florida Today
Identifying whether mistreatment in the workplace constitutes unlawful harassment can be complex and confusing. For this reason, anyone who believes they may have been the victim of unlawful treatment at work should have their situation evaluated by an experienced employment discrimination and harassment lawyer who understands the relevant laws. At the law office of Florida employment lawyer Robert S. Norell, we have assisted many clients recover after experiencing unlawful workplace harassment. If you would like more information about how we can help you, please call our office at 305-405-9243.