- Story Highlights:
The 21st century didn’t bring Americans flying cars, but in some other ways, there’s been progress. Social progress is something that continues, but it can still be a struggle. America has had a contentious history that includes slavery in its past, as well as poor treatment of women. Today, these are issues that continue to be addressed, but it is not a fight that is over.
For some people, sexual harassment is one of those reminders that the fight continues, but when it happens, it’s important to remember that sexual harassment is still illegal, and it can be responded to with legal action.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment, in the legal sense, is defined as interactions with an unwanted sexual component. The workplace is a location where sexual harassment may more commonly take place, but it can happen in any location, from a retail store to an amusement park.
It’s important to understand that sexual harassment does not have to be violent, and it does not even necessarily have to be physical. Sexual harassment may involve physical contact, such as unwanted touching, especially on parts of the body specific to one gender or another. However, the harassment may also be entirely verbal, with comments made in a sexual nature or, in some cases, requesting specific sexual favors. A person either offering special treatment or threatening to withhold normal treatment unless granted sexual attention is committing a specific form of harassment known as “quid pro quo,” or “giving something in exchange for something.”
It’s Against The Law
Despite what a harasser may claim, victims of harassment are far from powerless, and they do have resources they can fall back to seek restitution for what’s happened to them. Florida law is very specific about outlawing sexual harassment in this state, especially in the workplace. Depending on how severe the sexual harassment is, it may even go from a strictly civil liability case to actual criminal charges, such as battery or even assault or stalking.
However, to move forward with a case of sexual harassment, it’s important to have a few things ready. A request should be made to the offending party to stop the harassment so that it’s clear the attention and interactions are unwanted. This also makes it easier to go on record in court, saying that an attempt was made to stop the harassment but was ignored.
The other important aspect, and the one that will go a long way towards a successful civil or even criminal case, is documenting incidents and gathering evidence. For example, if an employer sends an inappropriate text message to your phone bargaining for sexual favors, do not delete the message. Preserve it and have it ready to present as part of an investigation. In the same way, if harassment is witnessed by others, or even recorded on a security camera, get witnesses to agree to reinforce your claim, or preserve that security footage evidence. Anything that can act as proof for a jury that needs to make a decision based on available evidence can help your case.
A sexual harassment case is complex, and because of the potentially explosive nature of such legal action, the opposing parties will be aggressive about trying to dismiss such liability, especially if it will have an impact on reputation and business. There will be resistance, but that is often the case when people secure in their power feel legitimately threatened.
This is why it’s important not to navigate this challenge alone. Talk to an attorney with experience in sexual harassment cases. That way you can get the legal counsel you need to stand firm and fight against the harassment.