Sexual harassment is disturbing, unlawful, and subject to civil penalties and remedies. But is sexual harassment ever a crime in Florida? Yes, sometimes it is.
There are several harassing behaviors that are worthy of criminal prosecution. And our team of experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Brenton Legal PA can help you recover the relief you deserve after suffering harassment and identify when it is time to call the police.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
Florida law and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaw sexual harassment in work settings. The law defines sexual harassment as unwelcome, sex-based conduct that comes up in one of the following ways:
- An employer or supervisor makes enduring the conduct a requirement for continued employment or receiving work benefits; or
- The conduct is so pervasive or extreme that the harassment victim’s workplace would appear hostile or abusive to a reasonable person.
While there are two primary types of sexual harassment, there are many ways harassment can occur.
Sexual harassment can be verbal, non-verbal, physical, overt, or covert. Common examples of sexual harassment include the following:
- Non-consensual touching,
- Offensive joking,
- Invasions of personal space,
- Making comments that stereotype others based on their gender or sex,
- Insulting others based on their sex or gender,
- Graphic gestures,
- Displays of explicit material,
- Exclusion of others because of their sex or gender,
- Sexually explicit conversations or questioning, and
- Exposure of intimate body parts.
Is sexual harassment in the workplace a crime? It can be. Many of the behaviors listed above can rise to the level of criminal offenses. And at Brenton Legal, we can help you receive all the legal protections you deserve after enduring the misconduct of others in your workplace.
When Sexual Harassment Turns Criminal
So, when is sexual harassment a crime? That depends on the specific facts of the unwelcome, sex-based conduct you have suffered. Let’s look at Florida criminal laws that overlap with harassing behaviors prohibited under federal and state civil anti-discrimination laws.
Sadly, there is still a significant amount of violence in the workplace, including rape and sexual battery. If someone at your work has engaged in a sexual act with you without your consent, they have committed sexual harassment and a sex crime.
Sexual harassment that includes physical touch but does not fit under the definition of sexual battery can still be a crime. An individual who intentionally touches you without your permission can be subject to criminal penalties under Florida’s battery statute.
Is verbal harassment a crime? In some circumstances, yes. Sexual harassment can include name-calling and insults, and it can include requests for sexual favors with a threat of repercussions for noncompliance. If one of these verbal actions includes a credible threat of violence, a harasser has likely committed assault. And if someone from your workplace causes you emotional distress by wilfully or repeatedly using sexually harassing words toward you through email or social media, they could be guilty of criminal cyberstalking.
Following someone or invading their personal space can be sexual harassment. Displaying graphic material in the workplace can be sexual harassment. And exposing private body parts to others can be sexual harassment. These behaviors can also qualify as criminal stalking or violations of Florida’s criminal obscenity laws.
Can You Go to Jail for Sexually Harassing Someone?
Yes. Some individuals who commit sexual harassment could face jail time for their behavior. This depends on the level of the criminal offense and the harasser’s criminal history.
What to Do If You Are Being Sexually Harassed at Work
No matter what type of harassment you experience in a work setting, you should speak to an attorney about it immediately. Your attorney can help you take the multiple steps that are often necessary to maintain a successful harassment claim, such as:
- Notifying your harasser that their behavior is unwelcome;
- Filing an internal harassment complaint with your employer;
- Gathering evidence of the harassment;
- Timely filing a harassment charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, or a lawsuit in civil court;
- Speaking with a forensic nurse or other healthcare professionals when the harassment involves assault or battery; and
- Contacting law enforcement officials when the harassment is criminal.
If you win your civil or administrative complaint, you could be entitled to financial compensation for your losses and emotional distress, as well as injunctive remedies to right the wrongs done to you. And if you prevail in your criminal complaint, you could prevent your harasser from causing further harm to you or others.
Unfortunately, harassment claims are rarely easy to adjudicate. Navigating a harassment complaint can be complex, traumatic, and time-consuming. But one of our skilled advocates at Brenton Legal can take on the complexities of your sexual harassment claim while shielding you from harmful blowback and maximizing your damages and relief. We are here to support you in difficult disputes with your employer.
Speak to Brenton Legal Today
At Brenton Legal, our legal team has decades of combined experience, and we are passionate about protecting and enforcing the rights of mistreated workers across the State of Florida. We offer compassionate and straightforward advice to our clients to help them make the best decisions for their unique needs and circumstances. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, we are here to listen to your story and protect your interests. We are also here to hold your harasser and employer accountable for the harm they have caused you.
When you seek the services of our skilled sexual harassment attorneys, you do not have to worry about payment. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that you do not have to pay us unless we win your case. You can call us at 954-639-4644 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation. We are ready to help you.