Complaining About Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Once an employer has notice of sexually harassing behavior in the workplace, the employer is obligated to take prompt and effective remedial action to stop the harassment from reoccurring. Often times, an employer receives notice of sexually harassing behavior in the workplace in the form of a complaint from the sexual harassment victim. As notice of the sexually harassing behavior frequently comes from a complaint by the sexual harassment victim, an issue that sometimes arises in the litigation context is what type of information must be reported to the employer in order for the complaint to constitute a sexual harassment complaint. In the litigation context, employers frequently deny that an employee’s complaint about the harasser was in fact a sexual harassment complaint. Although they may admit that the employee complained about the harasser, employers will nonetheless often contend that the complaint was about something other than sexual harassment.
When complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important that a sexual harassment victim provide the employer with enough information about the sexual behavior so that the employer can reasonably be expected to know the employee is complaining about sexual harassment. When complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace, a sexual harassment victim should provide the employer with some specific examples of the sexual behavior, such as she is being subjected to sexual remarks, sexual propositions, sexual innuendo, or touching by the harasser. Although there is no legal requirement that an employee use the specific term “sexual harassment” in order to sufficiently notify the employer about sexual harassment in the workplace, a sexual harassment victim should notify the employer that she considers the behavior sexual harassment. A sexual harassment victim should also notify the employer that the sexual behavior is unwanted and she wants the sexual behavior to stop.
It is also important for a sexual harassment victim to make it clear that she is making a sexual harassment complaint because employees who make a sexual harassment complaint are protected against retaliation. Florida and federal law prohibit employers from subjecting employees to an adverse employment action, such as reduction in pay or hours, demotion, denial of promotion, and termination, in retaliation for having complained about sexual harassment in the workplace. When an employer is able to show that the complaint was not in fact a sexual harassment complaint, the legal protection afforded to an employee against retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment is not triggered.
We suggest that a victim of sexual harassment consult with an experienced employment law attorney before making an internal complaint of sexual harassment to the employer. An experienced employment law attorney will be able to provide you with guidance and assistance in protecting your legal rights and safeguarding your interests.
We have extensive experience representing employees who have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or have questions regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, please contact our office for a free consultation.