Florida Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Over the past several years, Pollard PLLC has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of employees who were sexually harassed and sexually assaulted at work. In many instances, the Firm is able to resolve these cases via pre-suit mediation without ever filing a lawsuit. The Firm has resolved workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault cases involving the following scenarios:
- Retail employee sexually assaulted and stalked by manager who had previously been fired by the same retail chain for sexually harassing and sexually assaulting another woman.
- Paralegal at a law firm sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by a senior partner. The senior partner had a history of entering the offices of female support staff, standing over their desks, and touching them inappropriately. Multiple reports to the firm’s HR department had been ignored.
- Construction worker who had been sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by multiple colleagues, including her supervisor. The supervisor cornered the employee at a job site, attacked her, and forced her to perform oral sex on him then threated the employee’s job if she did not comply with his demands for sexual favors.
- Executive assistant cornered in her office by her boss who attempted to force himself on her. The employee fought him off and rejected his advances. She was fired the next day.
- Multiple instances of quid-pro-quo sexual harassment where employees were fired, demoted, or not paid bonus compensation due for refusing to engage in sexual relationships with their supervisors or managers.
Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Assault
In these types of cases, it is important to distinguish between sexual harassment and sexual assault. Sexual harassment involves words and obscene gestures. When that behavior crosses the line and includes unwanted or inappropriate physical contact, that behavior becomes sexual assault. The following are examples to illustrate this distinction.
Hypothetical 1: Jane works as an electrician for a construction company. Multiple co-workers make lewd comments and sexual gestures towards her on a regular basis. Male employees routinely comment on how hot she is and what they would do to her sexually. They routinely ask her to send them naked pictures of herself. They routinely proposition her for sexual favors. When she walks past them on a job site, they yell out obscene comments and make obscene, overtly sexual gestures. This is sexual harassment.
Hypothetical 2. Continue with Jane. But now it crosses the line into outright, unequivocal sexual assault. A male colleague corners Jane on a job site at a vacant house, physically attacks her, and attempts to force himself on her. To be clear: This is no longer just a sexual harassment case. It is a sexual assault case.
Hypothetical 3. Michelle works as a paralegal at a large law firm. She just joined the firm 3 months ago. A senior partner at the firm has a long history of being “touchy-feely” and “handsy” with female support staff. Over the years, he has moved from one target to the next. At first, Michelle just regarded the partner as just being friendly and supportive. But that has all changed. In her first few weeks at the firm, the partner would stop by her office to assign her projects and see how she was acclimating to the firm. But over time, these visits to her office have changed. Now, the partner comes into her office, stands over her desk, massages her shoulders, and leans over top of her. This makes Michelle tremendously uncomfortable, but she panics, freezes up, and does not feel confident enough to confront the partner and tell him to stop. Michelle goes to HR and HR tells her that it’s just this partner’s way and that he’s “old school”. The next day, the partner returns to Michelle’s office and is even more aggressive. He does the same routine. But this time, he leans over her even more aggressively, and starts pushing his crotch (complete with erection) into her back and shoulder. How do you classify this? This is unequivocally sexual assault.
Your Rights, Your Options, and Some Harsh Realities
Unfortunately, sexual harassment and sexual assault are very common in the workplace. This is even more true for some industries than for others. But do not assume that any particular industry is immune from these types of problems. For example: Many people assume that law firms would not typically be an environment with a high level of sexual harassment or sexual assault. But that assumption is dead wrong. Law firms are a hotbed of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The problem of workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault is widespread.
Not every situation involving sexual harassment or sexual assault is legally actionable. Just because something is wrong or unfair does not always mean that it presents strong grounds for a legal claim or lawsuit. With respect to sexual harassment, federal employment law generally requires a plaintiff to have suffered some sort of negative or adverse employment action tied to the sexual harassment. If an employee is fired for not sleeping with his or her boss, that is an obvious and actionable case of sexual harassment. But if an employee is sexually harassed by a colleague on a routine basis but that employee isn’t fired, demoted, underpaid, or something in that direction, the claim is much weaker (and possibly even non-existent). Likewise, in workplace sexual assault cases, the company is generally only liable if the company knew that the assailant had a prior history of that sort of behavior.
HR is not your friend. Corporate HR departments are basically an extension of corporate legal departments. Corporate HR departments exist to prevent employees from filing lawsuits against the company and to protect the company’s bottom line. HR departments do not exist to protect employees or advocate for employees. Their loyalty lies with the company and management, not with the employees. Always remember this when you interact with HR. If there is an incident at work, report it to HR but make sure your report is (a) in writing and (b) that you have a copy of whatever complaint or report you submit.
Do not hesitate to contact a lawyer so you can understand your rights. Any time you are dealing with sexual harassment or sexual assault at work, you should consider contacting a lawyer. Likewise, if you have been fired – or even quit – because of such a situation, you should consider contacting a lawyer. Does that mean a lawyer will tell you what you want to hear? No, far from it. In many situations, there is either (a) no good answer or (b) no viable legal claim. But in other situations, there are options and a viable or even strong legal claim may exist.
Most jobs are not worth your physical or psychological wellbeing. The Firm’s founding attorney Jonathan Pollard grew up working class and knows what it means to struggle financially. But he is adamant that people should take ownership of their situations and should not willingly stay in toxic work environments. There are plenty of opportunities out there, either to join a better company or start your own business. There is no reason to stay in a job where you are being sexually harassed, let alone sexually assaulted.
For more information, you can contact Pollard PLLC at 954-332-2380. The Firm does not charge to evaluate a potential sexual harassment or sexual assault case. However, please note that the Firm is incredibly selective about these types of cases.