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Florida Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Victim Fired For Complaining About Hostile Environment EEOC Claims

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In a press release issued on July 21, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Shelley’s Septic Tank, Inc. (Shelley’s Tank). On July 21, 2020, the EEOC filed the case, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Shelley’s Septic Tank, Inc.,Case No. 6:20-cv-01285, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after initially trying to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through its conciliation process. Conciliation efforts proving futile, the EEOC moved forward with attempting to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through litigation.

The EEOC has brought the same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of Shelley’s Tank, Richard Colon (Colon). Under Title VII, employees are protected from sexual harassment which is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile work environment. In forbidding sexual harassment, Title VII also makes same-sex sexual harassment an unlawful employment practice. Same-sex sexual harassment occurs when both the harasser and the victim are of the same sex. Title VII further protects employees from retaliation when they complain about perceived same-sex sexual harassment in the workplace.

The EEOC claims that Colon was subjected to hostile work environment sexual harassment by the male owner of Shelley’s Tank and unlawfully fired in retaliation for complaining about the sexual hostile work environment. In this article, our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation against Shelley’s Tank.

Employee Claims Sexual Harassment

Shelley’s Tank is a septic tank cleaning company owned and operated by a man named Shelley (Shelley). In February 2017, Colon was hired by Shelley’s Tank as a truck driver. Throughout his employment, according to the EEOC, Colon was subjected to unwanted sexually harassing behavior by Shelley. Shelley’s unwelcome verbal conduct of a sexual nature towards Colon included sexual propositions, calling him pretty, and referring to him as pretty. Shelley’s unwelcome physical conduct of a sexual nature towards Colon included stroking his arms, blowing him kisses, and touching his buttocks.

Colon repeatedly objected to Shelley’s sexual behavior, telling Shelley “not to do that” to him and that he “better stop.” Despite Colon’s protests, Shelley’s harassment continued. On April 30, 2018, Shelley allegedly grabbed Colon’s buttocks. Because Shelley’s Tank did not have a sexual harassment policy or a human resources department, Colon made a complaint to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on May 4, 2018 regarding the offensive sexual behavior. That same day, two sheriff’s deputies interviewed Shelley regarding the sexual harassment allegations. During the interview, Shelley repeatedly indicated that he planned to take action against whoever made the report. On May 8, 2018, Shelley fired Colon.

Fighting For Victims’ Rights

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal employment laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In enforcing the federal employment laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual harassment, including same-sex sexual harassment. In a press release issued by the EEOC on July 21, 2020 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami, Florida District Office, Robert E. Weisberg, explained that “both men and women are protected from sexual harassment under Title VII” and that “sexual harassment will not be tolerated by the EEOC regardless of the sex of the victim or harasser.” In commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office, Evangeline Hawthorne, stated that “protecting victims’ rights to oppose discrimination by reporting inappropriate conduct in the workplace is paramount to the EEOC’s mission.”

Consult With Ocala, FL Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have dedicated their practice to fighting on behalf of sexual harassment victims. If you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about your rights as a victim of sexual harassment, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment lawyers. 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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