I. The Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and violates both Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as well as State discrimination laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces the law.
The EEOC's guidelines define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
II. The Practical Definition of Sexual Harassment
In practical terms, there are two kinds of sexual harassment:
Quid Pro Quo: Where employment decisions or expectations (e.g., hiring decisions, promotions, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations) are based on an employee's willingness to grant or deny sexual favors. Examples of quid pro quo harassment:
Hostile Environment: Where verbal or non-verbal behavior in the workplace: (1) focuses on the sexuality of another person or occurs because of the person's gender, (2) is unwanted or unwelcome and (3) is severe or pervasive enough to affect the person's work environment.
The following are examples of behaviors that can create a hostile environment if they are unwanted or uninvited:
III. Things to Remember When Conducting Internal Investigations
of Sexual Harassment Claims
Select an objective, articulate representative to conduct the investigation.
Quick action often leads to informal claim resolution.
Obtain information directly from the parties.
Discuss each specific element of the complaint with the complainant and the alleged harasser.
Talk to third parties with knowledge of events.
Relief may be proper even before the investigation has ended.
Review investigation findings with Human Relations and take appropriate disciplinary action, if warranted.
Investigation results should be communicated to each party.
Preserve all evidence for possible litigation.
Ensure that the matter has been resolved and that there has been no recurrence of sexual harassment.
IV. What do you think the Courts Ruled on these facts:
A. A supervisor took a woman to cocktails and then a jazz club "to discuss her promotion." He put his hand on her knee several times and once rubbed his hand on her upper thigh. She stopped him each time and protested. Later that night he forcibly kissed her. Another time, he lurched from behind bushes and tried to grab her. She resisted every advance, and she did receive the promotion.
B. The President of the company took off his shoe and rubbed his foot up a woman's leg and continued despite her protests. Later he grabbed her buttocks. He once said he was attracted to her, once said he could not control himself and twice asked her out for dinner or drinks.
The Western Regional Manager daily called his secretary "pretty girl," once suggested she run around naked, once made grunting sounds, and once pantomimed masturbation.
C. The loan supervisor on one occasion leaned against the assistant and repeatedly tried to look down her blouse. He touched her numerous times on the shoulders, made four comments ("what are you wearing under your dress?"), and took her to eat at Hooters.
V. Supervisor liability in Florida
A. Section 768.28 of the Florida
Statutes protects State employees from personal liability under certain
circumstances. Section 768.28(9)(a) of the Florida Statutes provides the
No officer, employee, or agent of the state or of any of its subdivisions shall be held personally liable in tort . . . for any injury or damage suffered as a result of any act, event, or omission of action in the scope of his employment or function, unless such officer, employee, or agent acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety or property . . . .
B. The State will not be liable in tort for the acts or omission of an employee committed outside the scope of his or her employment or committed in bad faith, with malicious purpose, or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property. (Refer to Section 768.28, F.S.)