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Miami Employment Law Blog

Proposed law could require lawmakers to pay for sexual harassment

If someone were to tell you that United States taxpayers have paid for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of sexual harassment settlements, the idea would seem ridiculous. The fact is, it's true.

The current law allows for U.S. federal tax dollars to cover the sexual harassment settlements relating to the sexual misconduct of U.S. congresspersons and senators. However, a newly proposed piece of legislation could change this. The new law would require the lawmakers themselves to pay for sexual harassment settlements out of their own pocketbooks.

10 common provisions in employment contracts

Every employment contract will be different, but there are certain common provisions that you'll see again and again. Employees and employers alike should familiarize themselves with the following provisions and what they mean.

Confidentiality agreement: These clauses prevent employees from sharing company trade secrets and other confidential information and intellectual property.

What is the legal definition of sex discrimination?

Sex discrimination refers to the unequal treatment of workers on the basis of their sex. It is widely known that women often have to endure unequal pay for doing the same level of work as their male counterparts. However, what isn't widely known is that women who endure this kind of unequal treatment may be able to pursue a discrimination lawsuit.

Discrimination on the basis of an employee's sex is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This civil rights law protects women and men from any unequal and unfair action against them on the job. For example, an employer cannot pass up a female job applicant in favor of a male applicant on the basis of sex alone. The same goes for the issuance of raises and other employment benefits.

Does your employer owe you overtime pay?

If you work an hour, you should get paid for an hour. If you work forty hours, you should get paid for 40 hours. And if you work more than 40 hours, you should receive overtime pay. Nevertheless, some Florida workers do not receive the wages that their employers owe them. This results in numerous lawsuits every year related to hourly wage laws.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to enforcing wage and overtime laws is the fact that most Florida workers do not know what their legal rights are. Take overtime laws for example. If a Florida employee works for more than 40 hours in one week, the worker must receive his normal wages plus an extra half-wage for every hour worked. However, a lot of employers try to pay their workers less, and some workers never discover that they've been robbed of their pay.

The subtle beginnings of sexual harassment

Most of us know what sexual harassment is on an intellectual level, but it's not as easy to identify it when it happens until it's too late and the situation has gotten out of control. Often, in the initial stages of sexual harassment, an employee will dismiss the behavior, believing that it will stop if he or she just ignores it. However, if you can identify the behavior early, you have a better chance of speaking up and getting it to stop before things get out of control.

Here is what you should look for as a sign of the subtle beginnings of sexual harassment:

Take these steps to protect your rights after a wrongful firing

If you suspect you were terminated from your Florida job, you might want to investigate whether you can file a wrongful termination lawsuit. You'll also want to make some preparations that will support the success of your lawsuit in the event that you decide to pursue it.

Here are some important things to do after a wrongful termination:

  • Don't act negatively against your employer just because you're angry.
  • Find out information about why you were terminated.
  • Read and familiarize yourself with the terms of your employment contract.
  • Determine who was the decision-maker when it came to firing you.
  • Ask to see your personnel file.
  • Document any promises made to you by your employer.
  • Request and/or negotiate your severance package if possible, but don't finalize the agreement until you fully understand how it may affect your legal right to pursue a wrongful termination suit.
  • Don't succumb to intimidation.
  • Return company property and follow the post-employment rules outlined in your employee contract.
  • Confirm your termination and any offer of severance in writing.

How to respond to sexual jokes in the workplace

More people than ever before are steadily becoming aware of the impact of sexual harassment in the workplace. In many cases, this harassment will not necessarily be violent. Many workplaces deal with employees who engage in lewd or sexual jokes, which are still enough to make coworkers uncomfortable. 

Even if the person does not target the sexually explicit joke directly at you, it can still make you feel awkward, which is completely understandable. One way to address any concerns is to confront the individual making the jokes. Perhaps the person was simply unaware of how the jokes made you feel and will stop. If this type of behavior continues, then it is worth it to bring it to the attention of the boss. If either of these steps fills you with anxiety, then here are some steps for making the process go more smoothly. 

Professor says college wrongfully fired him for his beliefs

A college professor from Florida says he was fired because of his controversial beliefs. The professor filed a wrongful termination lawsuit after he was fired regarding his belief that the Newtown massacre was fake. Florida Atlantic University has responded, saying that they did not fire the professor because of conspiracy theories. Instead, they say that they fired him for insubordination.

The professor posted blog articles online to promote his view that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting -- which resulted in 26 deaths -- was a staged event. Florida Atlantic College said that they advised the professor that he could continue spreading his beliefs online, but they asked him to make sure he did not associate himself with FAU.

What's the best response to sexual harassment?

The last month has been such a watershed of sexual harassment allegations in the news that many of us are spinning, wondering which celebrity -- which important political figure -- is going face accusations of sexual misconduct next. While everyone will agree that it's good to stop this kind of behavior and hold those who commit it accountable, some may be wondering about what they should do if they become the victims of sexual harassment moving forward.

Responding to any kind of sexual harassment isn't easy when our society tends to silence this kind of behavior. Many individuals are becoming extra careful now, in the wake of these allegations, not to commit sexual harassment themselves. Even managers, who have not committed sexual harassment, but must take the complaints about sexual harassment, are concerned that if they respond the wrong way they will be viewed as sexual harassers themselves.

Florida state senator accused of sexual harassment

A Florida state senator has been accused of multiple sexual harassment and sexual misconduct violations by six different women. State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater was accused of inappropriately touching multiple women and making demeaning comments regarding their bodies. The man was accused after he put his name into the mix for upcoming Florida governor's race.

All of the man's accusers have chosen to stay anonymous. The choice to remain anonymous is common for women who prefer to report their harassers but not to suffer negative career consequences as a result.

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