Both federal and Florida state law make it unlawful to harass someone in your own workplace. Frequently though, the issue is not whether harassment is prohibited or not but how the term “harassment” is defined and identified in practice. If you believe that you have been the victim of workplace harassment, consult with an experienced Florida employment law attorney immediately to determine what course of action is best for you to pursue.
People frequently use the word “harassment” to mean any type of annoying, bothersome, or irritating conduct. The law defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA), all prohibit some type of harassment in the workplace. The Florida Civil Rights Act also makes harassment in the workplace illegal under certain circumstances. In order for workplace harassment to be actionable, the harassment must meet one of the two following criteria:
- Subjecting yourself to the harassment is a condition of continuing your employment with the employer OR
- The harassment is severe enough and pervasive enough that any reasonable person would consider the work environment to be hostile, intimidating, or abusive.
Both federal and state laws also make it illegal to harass an employee because the employer filed a discrimination complaint, testified in an anti-discrimination case, or assisted in the investigation of a discrimination complaint. In other words, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for asserting your right to a discrimination free workplace or helping other employees do so.
Whether or not specific conduct rises to the level of harassment for the purpose of pursing legal action is something that must be analyzed on a case by case basis. Some conduct is to egregious it is clear the conduct meets the legal definition of harassment; however, in other cases the conduct is more subtle.
In most cases, if you feel as though you are being harassed at work, then you probably are. The underlying motive of harassing conduct, after all, is to make the victim feel uncomfortable at best and frightened at worst. Therefore, the best test for harassment in the workplace often begins with how an alleged victim feels while at work. Having an experienced Florida employment law attorney review the details of your situation, however, is the best way to determine if you have the basis for formal legal action.