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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.

Must Sexual Harassment Victims Make A “Formal” Complaint To Be Protected From Retaliation?

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Having fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims for more than twenty years, our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that employers routinely argue that sexual harassment victims are not protected from retaliation unless they make a “formal” sexual harassment complaint. In advancing this disingenuous and flawed argument, employers never come up with a definition of what constitutes a “formal” sexual harassment complaint—other than to summarily declare that the sexual harassment complaint at issue was not a “formal” sexual harassment complaint. In essentially adopting the position that they know what a “formal” sexual harassment complaint looks like when they see one and the sexual harassment complaint at issue was not one, employers then contend that any retaliation the sexual harassment victim experienced was not unlawful retaliation because the sexual harassment victim never made a “formal” sexual harassment complaint. In this article, our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Scott v. YSB Services, Inc., 2024 WL 1330043 (S.D. N.Y. March. 28, 2024) demonstrates that sexual harassment victims are not required to make a “formal” sexual harassment complaint to be protected from retaliation under employment discrimination law.

Retaliation Protection For Sexual Harassment Victims

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Under long standing law, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination forbidden by Title VII. 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 protect sexual harassment victims, Title VII also contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for complaining about perceived sexual harassment in the workplace.

Retaliation Lawsuit

In Scott, a woman named Scott brought a retaliation lawsuit against her former employer, YSB Services, Inc. (“YSB”), pursuant to Title VII. Scott alleges that YSB retaliated against her in violation of Title VII by firing her because she complained about sexual harassment.

In 2017, Scott began working at YSB as a kitchen assistant. In May 2021, YSB hired a man named Samuels who became Scott’s supervisor. Scott alleges, that from the beginning of his employment, Samules subjected her to hostile work environment sexual harassment. Scott claims that Samules subjected her to verbal sexual harassment, including characterizing her behavior as “sexy” and remarking about “keeping it sexy.” Scott further claims that Samuels subjected her to physical harassment, including touching her breasts and buttocks. Samuels, according to Scott, also “created opportunities to be alone” with her, and once isolated, offered her “money in exchange for sexual relations.”

Scott alleges that, on June 26, 2021, she informed the owner of YSB of Samuels’ unwanted behavior and explained in a text message that she would be forced to take legal action if the behavior continued. The owner allegedly informed Scott that a Manager named Pope would “deal with these problems.” Scott contends that despite her sexual harassment complaint, Samuels’ unwanted sexually harassing behavior continued unabated. On July 2, 2021, Pope requested and had a meeting with Scott. Scott presumed the purpose of the meeting was to discuss her sexual harassment complaint. According to Scott, Pope allowed Samules to remain within earshot of the meeting. During this meeting, Scott was told her employment was terminated immediately.

“Formal” Complaint Not Required

YSB filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Scott’s retaliation claim. In moving for dismissal, YSB argued that Scott’s retaliation claim failed because she never made a “formal” sexual harassment complaint. In denying YSB’s motion for dismissal and rejecting YSB’s argument, the trial court explained that Title VII “protects employees in the filing of formal charges of discrimination as well as in the making of informal protests of discrimination, including complaints to management.” In other words, the trial court pointed out, Scott was not required to make a “formal” sexual harassment complaint to be protected from retaliation under Title VII.

In denying YSB’s motion for dismissal, the trial court also observed that Scott’s employment was “terminated within one week of her informing the owner of YSB of Samuels’ inappropriate workplace behavior, and his statement to [Scott] that Pope would ‘deal with these problems.’ ” The trial court further noted that Scott alleges that “her employment was terminated at the very meeting that she believed had been scheduled to further discuss the sexual harassment she was experiencing.” The close timing between Scott’s sexual harassment complaint and Scott’s termination, the trial court reasoned, was sufficient to plausibly establish a “causal connection between her complaint and the termination of her employment.”

Marion County Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our sexual harassment attorneys in Marion County, Florida have represented sexual harassment victims for more than two decades. If you have been sexually harassed at work or retaliated against for making a sexual harassment complaint, please contact our office for a free consultation with our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion 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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