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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Does Treatment With A Therapist Show That Sexual Harassment Is Unwanted?

Documents about Workplace harassment in a court.

For more than twenty years, our sexual harassment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida have fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims. Through their decades of experience handling sexual harassment cases, our sexual harassment attorneys in Inverness, Florida know that the most common defense asserted by employers to sexual harassment claims is that the harasser’s sexual behavior was not unwanted by the victim. To support this argument, employers routinely allege that the sexual harassment victim flirted with the harasser, played along with the harasser, or maintained a friendship with the harasser. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida employment attorneys explain how the decision in Miro v. City of Bridgeport Case No. 3:20-cv-0346 (D. Conn. March 17, 2023) illustrates that when a sexual harassment victim treats with a therapist because of the sexual harassment, the treatment generally is sufficient to establish that the sexual harassment was unwanted by the sexual harassment victim.

Sexual Harassment Must Be Unwanted

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects employees from workplace sexual harassment. In order to prove a claim for sexual harassment under Title VII, a sexual harassment victim must show that the harasser’s sexual conduct was unwanted. In Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 903-05 (11th Cir. 1982), the court defined the term “unwanted” to mean that “the employee did not solicit or incite [the conduct], and in the sense that the employee regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive.” In applying this definition of “unwanted,” courts generally require that the sexual harassment victim indicate by her conduct that the harasser’s sexual behavior was unwanted. Courts have determined that a sexual harassment victim can indicate that the sexual harasser’s sexual behavior was unwanted through a broad array of behavior, including complaining about the behavior, telling the sexual harasser to stop the behavior, telling the sexual harasser the behavior is offensive or inappropriate, and physically resisting the behavior.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

In Miroa woman named Miro brought a sexual harassment claim against her former employer, City of Bridgeport (the City), pursuant to Title VII. Miro claims that she was required to work in a sexually hostile environment in violation of Title VII.

In June 2016, Miro was hired by the City as temporary acting Youth Program Manager. According to her supervisor, Ricci, the City’s plan was to bring Miro “on eventually as a full-time employee.” Miro claims that as early as within a week of her employment and continuing through her employment, Ricci subjected her to unwanted sexually harassing behavior. According to Miro, Ricci’s unwanted sexual harassment included an “offer of oral sex,” blowing her a kiss, asking her to accompany him on a vacation to Florida so they could spend time alone, and sexually inappropriate comments about her body, hair, skin, and buttocks. On one occasion, according to Miro, Rici “felt” her leg and commented on her “soft skin” inquiring if she “shaved twice a day.”

Miro alleges that Ricci’s purported sexual conduct “humiliated, degraded, embarrassed, and offended” her. Miro asserts that she sought “treatment with a therapist and obtained medication to treat her psychological condition caused by the sexual harassment at work.”

Miro contends that her rejection of Ricci’s alleged sexual advances was the reason she was denied permanent placement as Youth Program Manager. Miro further contends that she “had to submit to constant sexual misconduct directed at her” by Ricci in order to remain in her position as temporary acting Youth Program Manager. Ultimately, Ricci argues, Ricci withheld the “job she was promised” with “the hope” that she “would acquiesce” to his alleged sexual advances.

In September 2017, the City ended Miro’s employment as temporary acting Youth Program Manager. After her employment ended, Miro contacted the Mayor of the City regarding the job that she was promised, which included “medical insurance as a full-time employee.” In her communications with the Mayor, Miro indicated that she had ben subjected to hostile work environment sexual harassment for which she has “abundant proof in the form of text and e-mail messages.”

Therapy Reflects Unwanted Sexual Harassment

The City filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Miro’s sexual harassment claim. In moving for dismissal, the City argued that Miro could not establish that Ricci’s alleged sexual harassment was unwanted. Instead, according to the City, Ricci’s alleged sexual conduct was “part of an ongoing friendship that Miro had encouraged” and that Miro “played along.” The trial court denied the City’s motion for dismissal and ruled that a reasonable jury could conclude that Ricci’s alleged sexual harassment was unwanted by Miro.

In support of its conclusion, the trial court pointed to the medical treatment Ricci claims she received because of Ricci’s alleged sexual behavior. The trial court observed that based on the alleged sexual behavior by Ricci, Miro contends that she “felt depressed, humiliated, degraded, and sought out professional help with a therapist and was also referred to an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse for prescription medicine to treat depression caused by the actions of Ricci.” The trial court further explained that even if it assumed that Miro “played along,” the U.S. Supreme Court has “made clear that an [employee’s] ‘voluntariness’ is not a defense to a Title VII claim.” Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the trial court observed, “the fact that sex-related conduct was ‘voluntary,’ in the sense that the complainant was not forced to participate against her will, is not a defense to a sexual harassment suit brought under Title VII.”

Free Consultation For Harassment Victims

After experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, one of the most critical decisions sexual harassment victims must make is which sexual harassment attorneys to consult with regarding their rights and remedies under federal employment discrimination law. As part of our commitment to fighting for the rights of sexual harassment victims, an experienced sexual harassment attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for sexual harassment victims, and you will not have to pay to speak with our sexual harassment lawyers 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 represented sexual harassment victims for more than twenty years. If you have been required to work in a sexually hostile environment 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.

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