Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates 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), and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA).
Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, older age (40 or older), or disability. Harassment is unlawful if:
1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or
2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Some examples of offensive conduct are the following: offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.
Harassment does not only happen when a supervisor engaged in intimidating, hostile or offensive conduct toward a subordinate. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
The victim also does not need to be the person that is being harassed. It can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Unlawful harassment does not necessarily require that the victim has suffered an economic injury such as a pay cut, demotion, or termination.
Compensatory damages pay for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses) and compensate for any emotional harm suffered (such as mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life).
Back pay and front pay may be awarded. Back pay is money for lost wages and benefits up until the date of the resolution of the case. Front pay is money for lost wages and benefits going forward.
Punitive damages may be awarded to punish an employer who has committed an especially malicious or reckless acts.
Finally, the court may award attorney's fees and costs.
Q. How long will a harassment lawsuit take?
A. It is reasonable to expect that a lawsuit for harassment could take at least one year and most likely two. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has six months to review your complaint, and this is a prerequisite to filing suit. Once the EEOC has given you a Right to Sue letter, we can file suit immediately. While taking a lawsuit through to trial can take one to two years, it is also possible to resolve a lawsuit at any stage of the proceedings and many cases are resolved within a year. Frequently lawsuits can be resolved through settlement after there has been an exchange of information by the parties through discovery or after one or more witnesses has been deposed and the parties have an idea of how the case could play out to a jury.
Q. Do I have to pay up front for the attorney's work?
A. No. Contingency agreements offer a way to get representation without having to pay up front. Instead of receiving bills for your attorney's time working on your case, you agree to pay the attorney a percentage of what is recovered in your case, either through settlement or after trial.
Q. I am being harassed at work and cannot take it anymore. If I quit my job, do I still have a case?
A. Yes. A valid harassment claim can be based on constructive discharge, which is when the working conditions have become so intolerable that a reasonable employer would know that the employee would be compelled to resign. The plaintiff must show that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted those working conditions.
Not everyone wants the same resolution once he or she has suffered harassment in the workplace. For that reason, there are several avenues the firm can help you pursue. You may be the victim of harassment, but you want to keep your job. It can be empowering to have an attorney assist you in raising the issue with your employer and getting the harassment to stop. If you have already been fired or have resigned or quit, you may want to get your job back but under fair working conditions, or, you may feel that there is no going back and you must vindicate your rights in court. Whatever your situation, the solution can be tailor-made to suit your needs and goals.