Does A Harasser’s Exposure Of Himself Create A Sexually Hostile Work Environment?
For more than twenty years, our Citrus County sexual harassment lawyers have fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims. Having litigated sexual harassment cases for decades, our Inverness, Florida sexual harassment attorneys know that a common employment law myth is sexual harassment victims must be subjected to a barrage of sexually harassing behavior in order to bring a sexual harassment lawsuit. Because of this employment law myth, sexual harassment victims who are subjected to a single incident of severe sexual harassment often mistakenly believe they do not have a legal basis for bringing a sexual harassment lawsuit. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys explain how the decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Chavez v. Sky Florida Services, LLC, Case No. 21:19-cv-23439 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 19, 2022) demonstrates that a single incident of severe sexual harassment can create a sexually hostile work environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes sexual harassment an unlawful employment practice. To violate Title VII, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment. To establish a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, therefore, a sexual harassment victim is not required to establish that the harassment was severe and pervasive. Rather, a sexual harassment victim need only show that the harassment was severe or pervasive. Courts generally consider unwanted physical touching of intimate body parts to constitute severe sexual harassment. For a single incident of sexual harassment to create a hostile work environment, courts generally rule that the incident must be extraordinarily severe. Courts generally consider ongoing or persistent harassment to constitute pervasive sexual harassment. However, courts consistently emphasize that there is no threshold magic number of harassing incidents that as a matter of law create a hostile work environment.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In Chavez, a woman named Chavez brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer, Sky Florida Services, LLC (Sky Florida) pursuant to Title VII. Chavez claims that Sky Florida required her to work in a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.
During the course of her employment, Chavez alleges that she was subjected to unwanted sexually harassing behavior from two employees. One employee, JR, allegedly touched her genitals when she was on a ladder, and later sent her a text message describing a sexual act with her. In the text message, JR also told Chavez that he surreptitiously videotaped her while she was at home. Chavez immediately showed the text message to the office manager. Although Sky Florida initially terminated JR after the text message, JR returned to work at Sky Florida less than two weeks later.
Chavez claims that the other employee, JA, exposed his erect penis to her while they were driving in a company car. When she arrived back at Sky Florida’s warehouse following the incident, Chavez lodged a complaint with a supervisor. According to Chavez, the supervisor told her that JA had serious problems or may have smoked marijuana that day. Chavez further claims that the supervisor told her that next time JA exposed himself, she should do the company a favor and engage in an explicit sexual act. Despite the incident, Chavez was required to work another job on the same day with JA. Sky Florida did not discipline or terminate JA for his behavior.
Exposure Creates Hostile Work Environment
Sky Florida filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Chavez’s sexual harassment claim. In denying Sky Florida’s motion for dismissal, the trial court ruled that JA’s alleged exposing himself in front of Chavez was sufficiently severe to create a sexually hostile work environment. In other words, the trial court found that a single incident of exposure was extraordinarily severe and sufficient, standing alone, to alter the conditions of Chavez’s employment and create a sexually hostile work environment. The trial court also determined a reasonable jury could find that Sky Florida failed to take appropriate corrective action after Chavez reported the harassment based on the evidence that a supervisor told Chavez that she should do the company a favor by engaging in a sexual act with JA.
Free Consultation For Harassment Victims
One of the most important decisions sexual harassment victims must make is which employment law attorneys to consult with regarding their rights under federal employment discrimination law. As part of our dedication to helping sexual harassment victims, an experienced employment law attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment law attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.
Citrus County Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our sexual harassment attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of sexual harassment victims. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace or have questions about your protection from sexual harassment under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our sexual harassment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.