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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

There are two main categories of sexual harassment that may give an employee grounds for filing a charge of sex discrimination under the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. Those two categories are:

(1) Quid pro quo harassment, in which sexual considerations or favors are demanded in exchange for employment benefits. This is the traditional form of sex discrimination in which a boss demands sexual favors from subordinate or job applicant in exchange for a job, promotion, raise, additional benefits, etc. Of course, it goes without saying that if the employee freely engages in a sexual relationship in exchange for benefits, then no harassment as occurred. If an employee terminates a voluntarily sexual relationship and then suffers a loss of job benefits for having terminated the relationship, there may be a sexual harassment claim.

(2) Hostile Environment harassment means that the working conditions have been altered due to "intimidating, hostile or offensive" conduct by management or other employees. The offensive behavior has to be so pervasive as to unreasonably interfere with an employee's ability to perform his or her job duties. Whether conduct is "offensive" is judged by the particular circumstances of each situation. The test is not whether it is offensive to those committing the acts or whether it is their intent to offend other employees, but whether a "reasonable man or a "reasonable" woman would be so offended by the behavior as to interfere with their ability to work. Of course, in the final analysis it is up to a court to determine whether or not there was a hostile work environment in any given situation.

Harassment based on sex, race, religion, national origin, color, or any protected category under The Civil Rights Act, is a violation of the law and the basis for a lawsuit only if it is so severe or pervasive as to alter the condition of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Workplace conduct is not measured in isolation. Instead, whether an environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive must be judged by looking at all the circumstances, including the (1) frequency of the discriminatory conduct; (2) severity of the conduct, i.e. whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (3) whether it unreasonably interferes with the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties. Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and conditions of employment, and thus not provide the basis of a charge of discrimination or a lawsuit for unlawful harassment in violation of The Civil Rights Act. The courts general hold that, except for extremely egregious conduct, a single incident of harassment will not constitute a violation of the law.

See Clark County School District v. Breeden, Case No. 00-866, U. S. Supreme Court, April 23, 2001.

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