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SEXUAL HARASSMENT – Jacksonville Lawyers

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In the last several years, many of the most valuable employment discrimination cases have been based on sexual harassment or harassment based on other protected factors such as race, etc. In order for employees to successfully pursue a sexual harassment claim, there are a number of elements that must be proven. In cases of hostile environment harassment, employees must show that the harassment was unwelcome and was based on or motivated by sex, gender, or one of the factors that are protected by the civil rights laws. Employees must also prove that the harassment was sufficiently pervasive or severe such that it affected the terms and conditions of their employment. The factors to be considered include: whether the conduct was extreme; whether the conduct occurs on an isolated or sporadic basis, or whether it occurs on a daily or regular basis; whether the conduct is physically threatening; and whether the conduct resulted in physical contact. Employees may also attempt to prove a claim by showing that the harassment affected tangible aspects of their job (e.g. affected their pay), and/or that the terms of their employment were conditioned upon whether the employee submits to sexual advances or requests for sexual favors (also know as quid pro quo sexual harassment).

If an employee can prove that hostile environment sexual harassment occurred, there must also be a basis to hold the employer liable for the acts of sexual harassment done by an individual supervisor or co-employee. Although the exact standard is different for harassment by co-workers and harassment by supervisors, the question of whether an employer is responsible for the harassment generally depends upon whether the employer has a sexual harassment policy; whether the employee appropriately complained of sexual harassment and/or whether the employer knew about it; and whether the employer took remedial action or acted appropriately to stop the harassment. It should further be noted that employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who make a good faith and reasonable complaint of alleged unlawful harassment.

Conduct that may constitute sexual harassment can include: sexual jokes and innuendo; sexual or gender related insults or epithets; repeated sexual advances or requests for sexual favors; unwelcome touching of a sexual nature, groping, etc.

The matter of whether harassment is sufficiently pervasive or severe, and the matter of whether the employer may be held responsible for the harassment by individual supervisors or co-workers, are fact intensive inquiries that depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Employees who believe that
they may have a claim for unlawful sexual harassment should consult with counsel.