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Miami Employment Law Blog

Florida history professor sues university for sexual harassment

A former employee of the University of South Florida's history department has sued the university over claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. The history professor alleges that while she was employed by USF, she was subjected to gender discrimination, sexual harassment and disability discrimination by one of her colleagues.

According to the historian, who filed her lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the department chair at USF Tampa spread untrue rumors about her and sexually harassed her. The department chair also told students about her previously undisclosed medical condition.

Sparkling water magnate accused of sexual harassment

National Beverage Corp. is the famed maker of the popular sparkling water beverage, LaCroix. Recently, the CEO of the company was accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment from more than one employee. According to the CEO, the sexual harassment claims are false.

The sexual harassment instances were filed between 2016 and 2017. In the suits, the victims stated that the LaCroix CEO touched them sexually while they were working for him. The claimants further stated that the sexual touching was unprovoked and unwanted. Last January, the CEO settled one of the suits. The litigants plan to settle the other suit by this September.

3 reasons to report workplace discrimination

Workplace discrimination can be prevalent and takes many different forms. Unfortunately, unless victims of discrimination report the behavior, it usually does not stop. That is why it is critical to speak up if you are a victim of workplace discrimination.

Oftentimes employees choose to remain silent because they fear negative consequences as a result of reporting discrimination. This could take the form of employer retaliation, such as threats of termination or actual termination, or further harassment. However, there are many valid reasons why reporting workplace discrimination is the right choice. Here are three of them.

Is it still retaliation if my employment complaint was invalid?

Some Florida employers will ruthlessly terminate someone's employment after the worker complains about sexual harassment or some other problem at work. Rather than appropriately investigating the matter, the employer will ignore the problem and show the employee the door. Other times, the employer will conduct a detailed investigation to determine what actually occurred and respond accordingly.

The latter scenario is certainly preferred. However, what if the employer determines that sexual harassment didn't occur, and in response, the employer terminates the employee who allegedly made an untruthful complaint? Even worse, what if a judge agrees that no sexual harassment occurred after the employee files a complaint for employment retaliation and wrongful termination? Will the judge reject the claim for retaliation and wrongful termination?

What are my rights as an employee?

As an employee, you have basic rights -- like the right to receive fair compensation, the right to be free of discrimination and the right to your privacy. You also have rights as a job applicant to not be subjected to unlawful discrimination during the hiring process.

There are other important rights you can expect as an employee. These rights are protected under state and federal laws:

What are the early warning signs of sexual harassment?

One of the reasons why sexual harassment gets so far out of hand is that victims dismiss the early warning signs of the behavior as irrelevant. If victims can recognize these early signs and respond to them proactively -- before they get worse -- many difficult circumstances and lawsuits could be avoided.

Whether you're male or female, here are three things every employee should watch out for:

Employers must be careful about hidden discrimination

Employers frequently fire employees because they perform poorly on the job. However, what if the employee's poor performance was because of a disability that the employer could have easily accommodated? Even worse, what if the employee had what's called a "hidden discrimination," so the employer never even realized that the employee needed some special help?

Hidden discrimination is a real problem throughout Florida and the United States. What often happens is an employee with a disability will try to hide the issue from his or her coworkers and superiors for fear for being discriminated against or mistreated. Hidden disabilities might include depression, epilepsy, diabetes, ADD, dyslexia and autism.

Anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals: What are they?

Your sexual orientation is your business; it's not your employer's. At the same time, it's 2018, and you shouldn't have to hide your sexual preference as if it's something to be ashamed of. But many Florida workers continue to hide this aspect of their lives for fear of suffering a negative, discriminatory consequence at their workplaces – and with good reason. Neither federal nor Florida law protects workers from discriminatory practices.

It's hard to believe, but it's true. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual individuals cannot pursue any kind of anti-discrimination protections if they find themselves facing harassment, termination, loss of promotion opportunities, reduced pay and other forms of discrimination at their workplaces.

Have you suffered these types of racial discrimination at work?

Racial inequality has long been an issue in this country. Most of the attention lately has been on interactions between law enforcement and people of color. However, the likelier place for you to experience racism is at work.

What makes it more challenging is that many people do not think they are racist, nor intend to be, but ignorance and humor are no excuse for being offensive. Although you may suffer blatant hostility and persecution from some colleagues, it is more common that you will face these types of racial discrimination instead:

What should I do if I'm being discriminated against at work?

Even in the year 2018, countless American workers go to their jobs every morning knowing that they will face harsh discriminatory behavior and harassment because of their races, their religions, their sexes and their national origin. Unfortunately, many workers stay quiet and put up with this unfair treatment because they're afraid they could lose their jobs if they speak up. However, these workers should know that powerful federal law – backed by the United States Constitution – protect them from this kind of abuse and they can make it stop as soon as they're ready.

If you're being victimized by harassment and discrimination related to your race, national origin, religion, sex, disability status or some other protected reason, here's what you should do:

  • Tell your employer about the discriminatory behavior you've been forced to endure, and tell your employer to make it stop.
  • Ask for written confirmation that your employer has received your complaint and request that your employer performs an immediate investigation into the complaint.
  • File your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your employer doesn't respond to your initial complaints and/or the discriminatory treatment continues.
  • Gather and save as much evidence as possible. You'll want to save anything and everything related to your discrimination. This includes emails, text messages, notes pertaining to incidents and artifacts provided to you that offer proof of the discrimination.
  • Record the names of people who discriminated against you and what they did. Make a note of the time and place the treatment occurred and write down who the witnesses were.
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